Stevedoring operations are diverse, and may include:

  • container terminals
  • bulk and general stevedoring facilities where vessels are loaded and unloaded, cargo received and delivered
  • wharves used for stacking and storing.

If you’re a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or other duty holder involved in such operations, or you have management or control of any workplace where stevedoring operations are carried out (eg ship owners, port authorities), the Code provides practical advice on managing health and safety risks arising from your business or undertaking.

You have a primary duty of care to manage risks associated with stevedoring or, if that is not reasonably practicable, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable. You also have specific requirements to manage other likely risks in your industry such as noise, hazardous manual tasks, falls, hazardous chemicals and plant.

General stevedoring activities covered in the Code may include:

  • loading and unloading of vessel cargo (eg containers, cars)
  • loading and unloading of non-containerised cargo transported as individual pieces due to being oversized and/or overweight (eg steel, oil and gas equipment, construction equipment, wind towers)
  • roll on/roll off loading and unloading of cargo via ramps to vessels (eg cars, bulldozers)
  • bulk loading and unloading of products not separately packaged but rather loaded in bulk onto a ship (eg grain, liquids, iron ore, coal)
  • passenger vessels.

See Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice for guidance.

Hazards and control measures


Stevedoring operations should be planned before the cargo arrives to identify potential hazards, assess risks and determine appropriate control measures. This should be done in consultation with relevant parties, which may include workers, the port authority, shipping agents or companies, transport companies and other duty holders in the supply chain.

An emergency plan should be prepared and first aid arrangements should be in place.


Before commencing stevedoring operations a vessel inspection should be carried out to identify potential risks. Access routes and the condition of the work area should be assessed before starting work and then monitored during the loading and discharge process.

The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) include specific requirements for the inspection of plant, including cargo gear and cranes.

Working environment

PCBUs need to consider and assess the diversity of working environments in stevedoring and ensure they are safe (eg workplace layout, entries and exits, lighting, ventilation, exposure to weather extremes).

The Code provides specific information on:

  • gangways
  • housekeeping
  • lighting
  • air quality
  • weather conditions
  • traffic management
  • managing the risk of falls and falling objects
  • noise
  • managing fatigue.


Workers must be provided with specific information, instruction and training to handle cargo safely.

Safe work procedures should be in place for work carried out in loading and unloading. If the procedures do not address the hazards, then a risk assessment should be carried out.

Handling suspended loads is a high risk activity. Complete a risk assessment before lifting loads using plant, including mobile, vessel and gantry cranes, forklifts and other specialised cargo handling equipment.

Wires, ropes, chains and lifting gear should be inspected before handling cargo.

Non-containerised cargo (eg coils, pipes, beams) should be stored or stowed in stable stacks. Cargo can be moved repeatedly during loading, discharging and storage, creating new risks or changing already identified risks. Ongoing risk management is needed to ensure these risks are eliminated or minimised.

Plant and equipment

Stevedoring operations include the use of powered mobile plant (eg mobile cranes, reach stackers, straddle carriers, forklifts).

The work environment must be assessed and be safe for plant to operate and clear of obstructions and risks of falling cargo. PCBUs must also establish safe zones for workers around crane operations and mobile plant.

Lifting equipment (eg spreaders, slings and hooks) used on shore and on board vessels to raise, suspend and lower loads should be well maintained and regularly inspected and tested. Maintenance records for shipboard cranes should be checked and any issues with the lifting equipment corrected before they are used.

See our Plant page for further information.

Further information

Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice

Marine Order 21: Safety of navigation and emergency procedures

Marine Order 32: Cargo handling equipment

Marine Order 42: Cargo stowage and securing

Marine Order 44: Safe containers

Safety and Health in Ports - Code of Practice