Stevedore Kaimahi Taunga Waka

Stevedores operate a variety of heavy machinery to load, unload, tally and stow the cargo of a ship.

Stevedores may do some or all of the following:

  • operate heavy vehicles and machinery, such as straddle carriers, forklifts and ships' cranes, to load and unload cargo from trucks, ships and rail transport services
  • position and secure cargo in the holds of ships using braces
  • carry out safety checks on equipment
  • secure and release mooring lines of ships.

Crane operator

To become a crane operator you need to complete the New Zealand Certificate in Crane Operation (Level 3 and 4) through The Skills Organisation.

The Skills Organisation website – information on a career in cranes

Physical Requirements

Stevedores need to be reasonably fit and healthy. They should have good upper body strength, hearing, eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and balance. They should also be comfortable working at heights.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for stevedores includes:

  • work with heavy machinery and vehicles such as forklifts, truck and trailer units, and track and roller vehicles
  • work in port or freight industries and at heavy plant facilities.

Personal Qualities

Stevedores need to be:

  • adaptable and practical
  • safety conscious
  • reliable
  • able to work well in a team
  • able to follow instructions
  • good communicators.


Stevedores need to have:

  • knowledge of health and safety procedures
  • skill operating heavy machinery such as straddle carriers, forklifts and ships' cranes
  • knowledge of how to handle different types of cargo, particularly containers of dangerous substances
  • knowledge of basic customs and shipping company documents
  • the ability to interpret ship loading plans.



  • work flexibly, due to changing ship schedules most stevedores don't know in advance what hours they will work each day 
  • may work early mornings, weekends and nights
  • spend most of their time working outdoors at ports, and in container terminals and the cargo holds of ships
  • work in most weather conditions and around heavy machinery
  • may have to travel to other ports for work.

Stevedores can earn around $44K-$80K per year.

Pay for stevedores varies depending on skills, experience and the type of work they do.

  • New stevedores starting out as cargo operators usually earn between $44,000 and $80,000 a year.
  • Experienced stevedores who operate heavy machinery or work in supervisory roles usually earn between $80,000 and $130,000.

Source: Port Industry Association, 2018.

Stevedores may progress by moving into supervisory, management, or planning and logistics roles.

Stevedores may specialise in operating:

  • straddle carriers
  • cranes
  • forklifts.

Years Of Training

1 year of training usually required.

To become a qualified stevedore you need to train on the job and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Port Operations – Heavy Machine Operation (Level 3). MITO is the industry training organisation that oversees this certificate.

Stevedores may also be required to hold a Class 2 (heavy vehicle) or higher driver's licence with an F endorsement.

Some employers may require you to pass a medical test.