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The plus of being a longshoreman is having a flexible work schedule...for the most part. That means I can take time off to enjoy my life.

Friday, May 6, 2011


As a longshoreman one of the first jobs you will encounter is the extra stevedore (aka lashing). It doesn't require any special skills, training or much knowledge at all to perform. That isn't to say that it's necessarily an easy job either. Like all jobs on the waterfront experience makes a world of difference. When I first started I really hated the job. Today I still avoid the job when I can. Really it's a job that will weed out those who can't make it as a longshoreman. As I had the "pleasure" of taking (or really being forced to take it since no other jobs were available) the job countless times, I got better at it. Now, I don't claim to be proficient at lashing, but at least I am decent at it and don't dread it like I used to. Now that I've got you all wanting do the job I guess I explain it.

Be prepared to get dirty. This means dawning coveralls or clothes you wouldn't mind throwing away afterwards. I personally have a pair of coveralls that haven't been washed in years specifically set aside for lashing. Throw on some gloves, a hard hat, and you're steel-toe shoes and you're ready to climb the gangway to the ship. Well almost ready. The only tool you will need (hopefully) is a lashing bar. Really it's just a piece of rebar that's been cut to about a foot and a half long. You're job as a lasher is to hook up the lashing. The lashing locks the shipping containers to the deck of the ship so that as they are rolling about in the Pacific they don't have any containers take a swim. For each container there are a total of four bars (each is about 8 feet tall and maybe 30 pounds) that connect to the top two corners of a container and the bottom two corners of the container stacked on top of the other container. Each bar connects to a turnbuckle (lock that you spin on a threaded screw to lock in place, each weighing about 35 pounds) which connects to the catwalk (raised platform between the stacks of containers on the ship). So basically all you do is connect the bars to the container, connect the turnbuckle to the bar and spin the turnbuckle till it's snug, then use that handy lashing bar we brought up earlier to further tighten the turnbuckle. On the containers closest to the sides of the ship there are two special bars that are about 16 feet high and about 50 pounds that need to be connected. Sounds easy enough. But try doing it with rusty gear, in the rain and cold for ten hours. Then tell me how how you're back, arms and fingers feel. Why pay for a gym member ship when you can get paid to work out? And as you can imagine it's pretty dangerous up there on the ship. Plenty of people get hit by bars that come loose. Slips, trips, and falls also are quite frequent, and I'm petty sure most of these ships aren't up to any safety code. Of course not every shift is quite so difficult and there are guys who love to lash. But they also know the ships that aren't horror stories, have a crew of seasoned veterans teaming up so no one is carrying others, and only take jobs on ships that aren't going have them there working all day long.        

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