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Port management

Port operative

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

Annual Salary

£16,000 to £27,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

43 to 45 a week

You could work: days / nights / weekends; on shifts

Day to day tasks

As a port operative or stevedore you could:

  • load and unload cargo containers, using ship or dockside cranes
  • transfer cargoes to storage areas with trailers or forklift trucks
  • operate conveyors and pumps for bulk cargoes like grain, coal and oil

As a passenger worker, you could:

  • help passengers to get on and off boats and ferries
  • give out travel information, like sailing times or weather conditions
  • check travel documents
  • direct vehicles to and from parking bays aboard vessels

In marine operations, you would:

  • refuel vessels
  • place marker buoys in the harbour
  • navigate craft and operate VHF radio and radar equipment

Working environment

You could work at a port or at a marina.

Your working environment may be physically demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly

You could start by doing a port operative intermediate apprenticeship.

This apprenticeship typically takes 12 months to complete.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
For more information
Direct application

You could apply directly for cargo jobs if you've got experience in warehouse work, operating mobile cranes or using forklift trucks.

You could also work in passenger operations if you have experience in customer service or travel.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

  • Your employer will put you through port safety training.
  • It may be useful to have a full driving licence for cargo roles.
  • pass a medical check
  • have forklift truck driver training for some jobs

More information

Further information

You can find out more about working in ports and harbours from Port Skills and Safety.

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You could be promoted to foreperson or supervisor, and then move on to become a superintendent or operations manager. You could take further training to specialise in engineering to maintain the heavy machinery used in ports.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • the ability to work well with others
  • physical skills like lifting, bending and carrying
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • observation and recording skills
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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