Longshoremen, known also known as harbor workers, are employed at ports of call to work on and near on ocean coasts, lakes, estuaries, rivers, seas, bays, ports, docks, straights and canals that allow ocean shipping traffic to reach regional waterways.
Longshoremen lift, move, use forklifts, direct cranes, organize the transition of goods and imports and exports on and off ships onto land.
Longshoremen have a difficult job that requires training, certification, union membership, physical endurance and the mental attention to details and ability to constantly maneuver and watch for dangerous machinery and large containers to prevent injury.
History in the United States
Longshoremen have a long and honored history in the United States and abroad because their jobs are one of the oldest and most necessary to our economy. Longshoremen provide the physical loading and unloading of cargo, maintenance of the ships, equipment, ports and docks, that bring products and take products to and from America’s shores.
The first note of longshoremen in U.S. history goes back to the 1500s when ships brought U.S. settlers desperately needed supplies, food, livestock, munitions, clothing, medical, and construction items to land.
Over time, longshoremen became a necessary job in the ports of America where exploration and expansion from the ports inland were driven by products brought ashore by boat to supply those moving across the country. The residents of the United States over the centuries could not have survived without longshoremen to load and unload cargo and supply the residents with every product not found originally in the Americas.
The closest sea port to Maitland, Florida, and Cocoa Beach, Florida, the location of Garfinkel Schwartz law offices, is Port Canaveral, the port where cruise lines come and go from the state, nearest Orlando International Airport. Also arriving are products from around the world to this very busy deep water port where naval, fuel, imports and exports come and go from the port. Tampa is one of the largest state ports, and third is Jacksonville which brings needed jobs to the area.
Where Are Longshoremen Located?
According to the U.S. Coast Guard website, there are 360 commercial ports and 3,200 cargo and passenger handling facilities in the United States. The five busiest ports in terms of the tonnage that passes through are:
- Los Angeles
- Long Beach
- Newark/New York
The cities are all ocean ports. Along with other busy ocean ports up and down the east and west coasts, from Florida to Maine, along the Gulf Coast and up to Washington state, they handle, collectively, hundreds of millions of tons of cargo coming into and out of the country every year.
Weather and Conditions are Hard on Longshoremen
Longshoreman labor every day at these ports. Unions, which represent longshoreman, also cover ports of call in Canada. Because longshoremen port locations vary, so do the weather conditions under which they work. In Michigan and Ohio, for example, longshoremen might have slow periods in the winter months when the Great Lakes are frozen. Along the Gulf Coast and Southern California, longshoremen work year-round, often in sweltering heat.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway have 134 ports along their shores and those of the waterways that lead into them. The Mississippi River system has 100 ports along the river and its tributaries, according the World Port Systems, a website of the American Association of Port Authorities.
Because of the wide variety of waterways where longshoremen work, the cargo they load and unload can be as different as night and day. At the port of Cleveland, they might unload iron ore going to the steel mills from Minnesota, and load steel going to building sites on the East Coast; in Florida, they might unload food containers from Mexico and load furniture to ship overseas, and in Los Angeles they could unload car parts from Asia and load consumer goods headed back to China. At many ports where cruise ships are coming and going, longshoremen take equipment and luggage on and off the vessels. They method of loading and unloading differs according to what’s being transported.
Longshoremen’s Jobs Change Constantly
Though the job of longshoreman has been in existence for hundreds of years, the industry itself is ever changing. For example, the Panama Canal is undergoing an expansion right now that’s due to be completed in 2015. This will allow for movement of bigger ships carrying more and more cargo. Many ports have been deepening and expanding their harbors to get ready for the change so they can compete with other areas for the business that will come from the new ships.
What does that mean for longshoremen? More pressure to do their jobs quickly and efficiently as they prepare for more cargo to process. The pressure includes the intent to work quickly which can also cause horrific accidents and injuries. Most common are back injuries, crushing injuries to limbs, hands, arms, legs, feet that may be caught, hit or smashed between cargo, by forklifts, in slips or falls.
Longshoremen Face Danger Daily
Longshoremen have incredibly dangerous jobs and don’t always get the medical attention and care that they deserve. The first call that should be made after calling for an ambulance is to an attorney who will be able to make sure that the injured longshoreman is covered by the law incepted to protect him or her: the Longshore Act.
The Longshore Act makes certain that a doctor of the longshoreman’s choosing is providing the best care possible vs. the care that an insurance company suggests. The medical care needed with surgeries, physical therapy, prescriptions, longterm care and treatment is provided for as long as is necessary. The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act also provides the pay, the benefits, the worker’s compensation pay while the injured longshoremen is out of work and off the job recovering.
The pay and medical care, the doctor and the lawyer, all of the lawyer’s payment is covered by the Longshore Act. So while there may be hesitancy to call a lawyer, there should be complete comfort in knowing that even if a lawyer is not needed, the fees are not charged to the longshoremen. The law, the Longshore Act includes the legal fees that are paid by the employer, the insurer and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor.