Stevedore
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Basic Information

A stevedore (derived from the Spanish for "person who stuffs") is a person who is employed to load and pack cargo on a ship (or, more rarely, on other forms of transport). The word may also be used (less accurately) to describe general dockworkers and longshoremen, but in strict terms only to those who actually stow the cargo aboard the ship. In some places it even refers to a specialist skilled trade or loading supervisor rather than a general labourer.

This role was extremely significant prior to the introduction of the cargo container, as loads then had to be securely stacked, made fast item by item and made about with dunnage to protect items from one another and keep the lot clear of the bilge. Incompetent stevedores could lead to the loss of a ship as cargo shifted in heavy weather (possibly breaching the hull in extreme cases and certainly upsetting the trim), or at the very least loss or damage to cargo. In the modern era, a stevedore is responsible for making sure that stacks of cargo containers are stable and properly secured and that bulk cargos are properly loaded. In all eras, the stevedore(s) would be expected to work in co-operation with a ship's sailing master and/or supercargo to ensure that the load doesn't adversely alter the the vessel's sailing characteristics and, if being unloaded at more than one port, is stowed in the right order.

Some form of stevedore is likely to be around as long as cargo is loaded onto ships - unless, of course, the process becomes so heavily automated as to remove any human input beyond "put that on there".

Likely to be reasonably strong and fit, with skills including rope use, primitive carpentry1 and a basic, perhaps instinctive, sense of the engineering required to stack safely and securely. Modern operators will also understand the use of freight handling equipment.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Useful people to have around if a ship needs to be loaded or unloaded (indeed, in some places, guild or union priviledges may meant that they are vital).
    • And therefore useful people to subvert if you want a cargo delayed or ruined (stowing a cargo to endanger the ship would normally depend on the ship running into a significant storm before the problem was found and dealt with).
  • Also useful informants as to what has come into or left a given port.
  • May encounter all sorts of amusing critters in the belly of a ship from foreign parts.
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