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Industry Snapshot Stevedoring and Ports

  • Eight multi-user port authority ports and eight non-port authority ports are located along 12,500 kilometres of the WA coastline, handling over 4,000 international trading vessels plus thousands of interstate, intrastate, fishing and recreational vessels each year.
  • It is planned to merge regional port authorities across the State to increase efficiency, with single port authorities created for the Kimberley (Broome), Pilbara (Port Hedland and Dampier), Mid West (Geraldton) and Southern (Albany, Bunbury and Esperance) regions, while the Fremantle Port Authority will remain stand-alone. The first process for amalgamation commenced in July 2014.
  • The marine cargo handling industry is made up of stevedores who work at ports loading and unloading ships, handling bulk, general and containerised cargo, operating increasing sophisticated machinery and systems and handling hazardous goods.
  • According to the 2011 Census, there are approximately 631 workers employed in stevedoring services in WA and 1,112 in port and water transport terminal operations.
  • The majority of non-bulk cargo is containerised, which requires crane operations (68 per cent of industry revenue). Other specialised cargo, such as motor vehicles, requires conventional stevedoring methods (32 per cent of industry revenue).
  • Since 2000, Western Australia’s exports have increased from $25 billion to an estimated $101 Billion in 2012/13. This extraordinary growth has resulted in WA’s contribution to Australia’s exports rising from 26 per cent to 44 per cent in the past decade. More than half of Australia’s total trade tonnage is handled by WA Ports.
  • The Port Hedland and Dampier Port Authorities were ranked as the top two tonnage ports in Australia in 2012/13 due to demand for iron ore.
  • Previous congestion around Fremantle Port, particularly at Christmas time, has been reduced due to a number of factors. Although the number of container movements has not dropped, the spreading of opening hours has levelled out the peak period and the opening of a new trailer park has also contributed.
  • In 2013, 668,787 TEUs (Twenty foot Equivalent Units or containers) passed through the Port of Fremantle. It is estimated that this figure will become two million in ten years.This will significantly increase the need for drivers with a heavy vehicle licence.
  • Shipping companies moving ore in the North West are struggling to keep up with demand, with activity expected to double in the next two to three years. Key mining commodities form a basis of demand because bulk freight movements are suited to shipping.
  • Approximately 95 per cent of workers in the sector are male, due in a large degree to the physical nature of the work and working conditions.
  • Only 26.5 per cent of the workforce is aged below 25 years, while 63 per cent are aged between 35-54 years.
  • According to the 2011 Census there were approximately 631 workers employed in stevedoring services in WA and 1112 in port and water transport terminal operations.
  • There is a high rate of casualisation amongst stevedores and seafarers who are often employed on a contract basis, particularly on new and large contracts, which can lead to a lack of job security.

Key Issues

  • The ageing workforce is a significant obstacle to maintaining the numbers and skills required, with labour replenishment not keeping up with demand.
  • The poor image of the industry and lack of awareness of opportunities has also been detrimental to attracting new entrants.
  • Stevedores do not require formal qualifications, but are governed by regulations regarding safety, security and operation tickets, which require specific training and can be expensive to obtain. This means that workers do not necessarily have the opportunity to complete full qualifications or obtain transferrable skills.
  • There is a currently a shortage of high level workers to run the industry. Indications are that where once staff was promoted from operational backgrounds, many companies are seeking staff with higher level business skills, which operational staff do not necessarily have.
  • Expected growth in trade volumes means an increased demand for workers, particularly in the offshore oil and gas sector. Competition has attracted qualified workers away from ports not associated with the oil and gas sector and there is evidence of localised skill shortages for marine pilots in some ports, especially those in the south of the State.
  • Although formal qualifications for stevedores are available up to Certificate IV level, there are few providers in the State and the uptake has been minimal.
  • A high rate of casualisation amongst stevedores and seafarers who are often employed on a contract basis has resulted in a lack of job security for many.

Occupations/Skills in demand

Other roles identified by industry as future growth areas include: Harbour Master; Mobile Plant Operator; Port Engineer; Marine Superintendent; Stevedore including Forklift Operator and Crane Driver.

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