Port operatives work with cargo, passengers and marine craft in ports and harbours.

What does a port operative do?

Port operatives work in three main areas: stevedoring, passenger operations and marine operations.

A stevedore works on vessels such as container ships and roll-on/roll-off ferries. Duties would include:

  • loading and unloading cargo or containers, using ship or dockside cranes
  • transferring cargo to storage areas with trailer wagons or forklift trucks
  • operating conveyor equipment and suction pumps for bulk cargo, such as grain, coal and oil
  • maintaining lifting equipment and machinery

A passenger operative at a ferry port or cruise terminal would:

  • help passengers to get on and off the ship
  • load and unload luggage
  • give out travel information, such as sailing times or weather conditions
  • check travel documents
  • direct vehicles to and from their parking bays aboard the vessel

In marine operations, the role would involve working with small craft, ranging from rowing boats to pilot launches. Duties could include:

  • transferring passengers and crew to ships moored offshore
  • refuelling vessels
  • placing marker buoys in the harbour
  • cleaning up after pollution incidents
  • navigating the craft and operating VHF radio and radar equipment (usually under supervision)

In smaller ports or leisure marinas, these three areas may be combined into one job.

What do I need to do to become a port operative?

There are no specific entry requirements to become a port operative, but you would have to pass a medical exam at the interview stage. Employers may expect you to have a driving licence, and colour-normal vision is essential.

To work as a stevedore, previous experience of operating cranes, forklift trucks or driving goods lorries may help when looking for work.

To be a marine operative, you may need sea survival, firefighting and boat handling certificates. Some basic experience with small marine craft and radio communications would be useful. You could contact local marinas about courses, or find training providers on the Royal Yachting Association website.

For passenger operations, you would need good customer service skills and to enjoy working with people. Foreign language skills may also be useful.

You may be able to get into this career after completing an apprenticeship in this field. The range of apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. 

Related skills

  • Communication
  • Physical fitness
  • Teamwork

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

The work can be physically tough, with a lot of lifting, and you may have to work at heights.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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