Longshoremen train at 18th annual Ro/Ro Rodeo
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 13:04

200 workers participate in two-day event

by Nicole Rodman

    Each year, the Port of Baltimore handles millions of tons of cargo, much of it roll on/roll off cargo.
    Called “ro/ro” for short, roll on/roll off cargo is any cargo that can be driven off a ship. This includes automobiles as well as farm and construction equipment.
    As the number one port for ro/ro cargo in the nation, the Port of Baltimore goes to great lengths to ensure that its longshoremen are well-versed in how to handle vehicles coming through the port.
    To that end, last Tuesday and Wednesday, the Port of Baltimore held its 18th annual Ro/Ro Rodeo training event at the Dundalk Marine Terminal.
    During the Ro/Ro Rodeo, new longshoremen are provided with hands-on training maneuvering various pieces of ro/ro equipment.
    While workers do not need to know how to use every feature on a piece of ro/ro equipment, they do need to know how to turn the equipment on and off and how to steer it into and out off tight spaces.
    Workers also need to keep up with any changes made to new equipment.
    “Just like automobiles, each year there are changes in each model year of equipment,” Joseph Greco, Maryland Port Administration deputy director of marketing, explained.
    The Ro/Ro Rodeo provides workers with the chance to become familiar with the newest equipment before they have to drive it onto and off of ships.

Approximately 200 workers participated in last week’s event, learning to drive everything from forklifts to tractors.
    “The hardest thing is once you get in the equipment, you want to know how to start it, how to shut it down,” longshoreman Eric Hall explained.
    “We need this, and we learn to drive the equipment so we don’t have any accidents,” he continued.
    Even a minor accident could cost the port — in terms of both revenue and reputation.
    Some of the largest equipment manufacturers — from John Deere to Caterpillar — support the Ro/Ro Rodeo by sending their newest equipment for use in training.
    The manufacturers also send technical representatives to teach the longshoremen how to drive the equipment.
    “They send them in from all over the country,” Greco noted.
    During the event, workers traveled to various stations, practicing skills such as manuevering machinery through tight spaces and lashing an automobile to a ship to minimize movement.
    The Port of Baltimore is currently the only port in the nation to offer this type of training to new longshoremen.