If you find yourself peering across the water either in San Pedro or Long Beach, you’ll more than likely get an eyeful of incoming cargo ships, giant cranes unloading and loading shipping containers, and the men and women that make it all happen. You may or may not put a lot of thought into what’s in those red and green containers, but they can house anything from vehicles to products that are commonly found on the shelves at your local grocery store.
Armando Ramos, an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Marine Clerk, is one of the people who help make it all happen! As a marine clerk, Armando is responsible for the flow of the cargo within the Port of LA and Long Beach when it enters the terminal. The containers are removed from the ship and placed into the designated import area, referred to as “the hub, so that truck drivers can pick them up for delivery.
On a typical day, Armando spends much time working in the railyard. He works on a flexed schedule, which means that instead of starting at 8 AM, like many working professionals, he has to begin work at 7 AM. In the railyard, he accounts for all inventory within the imports that are destined for truck or train delivery and ensures it is in the proper location to be removed from the yard. Ultimately, these units can be transported all across the country, to hubs such as Chicago.
It’s a big job, but there are only four or five people who do the work, including Armando. As the shift continues, marine clerks will perform different operations, such as a pitch and catch in which one container is moved from one pile to another pile in the yard.
Armando stresses that it is a team-oriented job. The shipping containers are capable of killing individuals if mishandled. It’s a fast-paced environment, and is therefore ideal for individuals who are quick-thinkers and efficient multi-taskers. Armando’s job also requires him to work alongside the same people, so when the team’s communication is strong, they are truly a cohesive unit. Additionally, strong listening and communication skills are important when talking with many of the truck drivers, since many speak languages other than English.
Armando states that the best thing about his industry is that individuals don’t need a four-year degree. However, it’s important to pay attention to the newspaper or social media if you are interested in applying to the Port of LA. Due to its reputation for paying well, and being a long-term job for many once hired, getting into the port is incredibly competitive. Applicants will often put their names in a lottery system for an opportunity to land a career with the Port of LA. However, don’t be discouraged by this method as there are alternative ways to get hired. For example, there are certification programs offered at California Community Colleges that will provide students with the technical skills to be considered competitive applicants.
Armando stresses that mechanical skills are soon going to be in high demand, as the future of the waterfront is going to be increasingly tied to technology and automation. So, consider getting experience and certification in diesel mechanics or a/c refrigeration to make yourself stand apart. As was mentioned, longshoremen are compensated quite well. Armando cites that salary tiers can range from $170,000-$225,000, depending on experience.
To stand out, show up on time, and do what you’re supposed to do. Workers can either be labeled as a “good jacket” or “bad jacket,” which relates to how well they work. It’s a close-knit group and if you’re fortunate enough to work as a marine clerk, you will have a career for life.
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