Crane Operators Move Shipping Containers

Life as a crane operator at a busy seaport resembles a video game, the only difference is that you don’t get three lives if you fail. In Halifax, one of the busier ports in Canada, crane operator Terry Smallwood recounts his busy long day loading and unloading ships with the goal to turn ships around as fast as possible. Daniel Maher the ports assistant operations manager said,  “[The ship’s] main purpose is to be transiting to the next port of call, so the shorter we make that time, the [more] efficient we use that time, the better it is for the customer.”

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, more than 90 percent of international trade relies on shipping containers that make the trips across oceans delivering products around the globe. Almost every item sold or consumed has spent time inside a shipping container, further emphasizing the importance of just a simple but effective tool. 

For crane operators like Terry, the day begins with a climb up two flights of stairs and taking a small elevator to his “office”. Sitting 45 meters above the ground with trucks passing below, the day begins like any other. Looking through his glass bottom floor and holding a joystick in each hand the operations seems more like a video game controller than heavy machinery. With a small move of his right hand Terry brings 25-tonne containers from the port onto ships and vice-versa. As quickly as he can load and unload shipping containers there are lines of ships and trucks waiting for their turn. The entire experience is hard to fathom but an inside look into the global scale and impact of shipping containers and their reach. 

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