Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CAREER DEVELOPMENT / APR. 17, 2014
version 5, draft 5

How to Become a Port Operative

If you are looking for a career in the shipping industry whereby you have a varied role and work primarily outdoors, you may be suited to a career as a port operative.

As a port operative, you will need to be a practical person and able to follow safety regulations. You have to be in good physical shape to complete daily job tasks and you will also need good team working skills. 

What Do Port Operatives Do?

Typical activities that port operatives perform include:

  • Loading and unloading cargo and containers
  • Using special cranes
  • Transferring cargo to storage facilities
  • Operating conveyor equipment and suction pumps
  • Maintaining lifting machinery

If you specialise in passenger vessels, you will be required, among other things, to:

  • Assist passengers in getting on and off the ship
  • Load and unload luggage
  • Inform passengers about the travel
  • Check passenger documents

Entry Requirements and Qualifications

Port operatives are not required to have degree level education. You will however need to pass medical assessment at the interview stage. Your employer will expect you to have a colour-normal vision and a driving license is viewed as an asdvantage because, depending on the nature and place of your job, you may need to travel from time to time. 

Some employers can set their own different entry requirements. For stevedore jobs, you may need to have prior experience of operating cranes, forklift trucks or driving goods lorries, while marine operatives may need to take sea survival, fire fighting, and boat handling certificate programmes to improve their employment prospects. 

The Royal Yachting Association website can assist you in finding appropriate certificate programmes and training providers throughout the country. 

For those of you who prepare for a career as a passenger ship operative, taking customer service skills programmes is a good idea. Also, your employer could expect you to speak at least one foreign language to serve international passengers. 

You can consider completing an apprenticeship in your area to kick start your career of a port operative. Apprenticeship opportunities will vary depending on your area of residence and desired specialisation. To search for current apprenticeship opportunities, visit this website

Working port operatives are able to take professional development courses offered by employers. At this stage, a formal industry qualification can also help you to progress to more senior roles. The following are some of the qualifications you may find useful for your career growth:

Hours and Income

As a port operative, you would normally need to work 40 hours a week on a shift system, including weekends. The following are the estimated salary levels for port operatives, according to the National Career Service: 

Port Operative Salaries

 Minimum

 Maximum

New Operatives

No Data

£15,000

Experienced Operatives

£16,000

£25,000

Employers and Career Development

You should look for employment with port authorities, private cargo handling companies and marinas. Experienced port operatives can be promoted to foreperson and supervisor roles, with a future prospect of becoming superintendent or operations manager.

For current port operative vacancies and contact details of cargo handling companies and marinas, visit:

British Ports Association 

Associated British Ports 

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