Port Operative

Port operative Jobs – Young Jobseeker Info

Port operative jobs… did you know?

A port is like a train station for ships where they can come in from the sea to load/unload passengers and precious cargo from afar. The UK has the biggest port industry in Europe, so when you work in a UK port you can be part of something massive!

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of a job where you can breathe the fresh salt air. Maybe you’ve never thought of ports as a place to work before, but if there’s a port in your home town, it can be a big opportunity for employment where you can discover a whole new (sea)side to life!

There are three types of port operatives…

  • Stevedores load and unload cargo from ships and vessels.
  • Marine operatives work on harbour craft used in the port itself, like safety boats or small powered work boats.
  • Passenger operatives help passengers move to and from the boats in the safest and easiest way that gives them the best customer experience. This is called logistics.
  • Industry: Transport and Logistics

    Port operative job trends

    How much money can you make as a port operative?

    £11,000 – £25,000 (UK average)

    Recent labour market information says you can earn on average between £11,000 and £25,000 a year as a port operative in the UK.

    Once you’ve started to become an experienced port operative, your wage can reach £25,000 and eventually you will be able to earn up to £30,000 including overtime.

    What entry qualifications and training do you need for this job?

    School, college and training

    You won’t need any special qualifications from school – or anywhere else – to become a port operative. It doesn’t matter how you did in your GCSEs or their equivalents. What does matter is that you’re willing to get stuck in, turn up on time, and work as a team.

    How old do you have to be before you can start?
    Passenger operative – You’ll need to be 16 or 17 years old to apply because of health and safety reasons.
    Stevedore/marine operative – You’ll normally need to be 18 or over to apply, and you’ll also need to pass a medical check before you get hired, to make sure you can safely do the work.
    Top tips:

    • Can you drive? Employers will be especially pleased if you are able to drive because that means you can help out with a greater range of activities. You may even get a chance to operate cranes, heavy goods vehicles and forklift trucks.
    • Can you speak more than one language? When you apply to be a passenger operative you may have an advantage if you can speak different languages so you can give passengers that extra feeling of being well taken care of.


    There is an apprenticeship in port operations that is currently available, which will shortly include NVQ Level 2 in port operations, with a relevant Technical Certificate at Level 2. If you choose to do a port operations apprenticeship you will be paid at least £95 per week (however this could be more).

    To read more about apprenticeships, please follow this link.

    What experience do you need for port operative jobs?

    Work experience

    Working in a port is a very unusual working environment, it’s outside and operates in all types of weather… literally come rain or shine.

    In the UK, we have 120 commercial ports, making the UK’s port industry the largest in Europe. Therefore, there is most definitely a port you can find to do some shadowing and work experience if it’s something you’d like to follow up on.

    If you’ve already worked on a construction site or in a warehouse you’ll find it could make employers very excited about your CV indeed.

    What skills do you need for port operative jobs?

    Useful skills to highlight in your CV, cover letter and interview include:

    • Resilience
    • Physical fitness (there may be lifting and carrying involved in the work you do)
    • Understanding the importance of health and safety
    • Adapting to the ever-changing weather
    • Teamwork skills
    • Having to handle difficult situations e.g. dealing with rude or frustrated customers as a passenger operative
    • Good timekeeping (which is part of self-management skills) and flexibility when it comes to working hours

    Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

    What do port operative do?

    Stevedores load and unload cargo like food, manufactured goods and raw materials. Your main tasks could include operating cranes, operating forklift trucks, and driving vehicles on and off the ships – which could even include combine harvesters and sometimes army vehicles. 

    Marine operatives tend to get the transport boat from the land to the ship prepared and positioned, and they also fuel the ship. Marine operatives also tie and untie the ships when either arriving or leaving. Sometimes they also steer and operate the ship under supervision. 

    Passenger operatives help passengers move around the ship and port. These passengers could be travelling on a ship, a seagoing passenger ferry or even a cruise ship. Their main jobs include moving passengers’ luggage, helping those with disabilities, making sure barriers are secure, and directing vehicles.

    Useful organisations and links for port operative careers

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