Zhuhai Port: Interview with Crane Operator Jiefeng Zhao 赵杰锋 (C100)
Cinematographer: 刘井彬 Jingbin Liu
Duration: 00:13:58; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 28.667; Saturation: 0.090; Lightness: 0.145; Volume: 0.157; Cuts per Minute: 0.143; Words per Minute: 117.695
Zhuhai International Container Terminal, Gaolan
OK, let's start
Ok. I'll ask you a few questions. First, where are you from? Are you local or..?
Yes, I was born here.
You were born here?
Yes, I was born in Doumen District.
How long have you been working in here?
Since I graduated... around 13 years.
13 years? It's really a long time.
I have been working at the docks for about 13 years.
Working at the docks for 13 years? Since you graduated?
At first I worked as an intern in Gree Company for nearly 4 months. And then, I left to work here at the Mid-Autumn Festival of 2003 or 2004.
At the Mid-Autumn Festival? I see. And I wonder what did your family do for a living?
My father worked as an accountant in a farm while my brother is a...something called...Auxiliary Police Constable.
OK, I see. Why did you choose to work here at that time?
When I graduated from sports school, I took part in the 6th Zhuahai Sports Game representing Gree company, in which General Manager Chen was the sports team leader at that time. Later he took us to compete for the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council. During the sports game, he asked us if we want to work at the docks. Considering that it was not a big difference to work somewhere else and that the salary here was higher, I said that I'd like to have a try. So I have been working here after the first "try".
For more than 10 years?
So were you responsible for operating the crane when you first worked here?
No. I operated the loader at first.
The loader, also know as the fork-lift.
Yes, fork-lift is what we usually called.
Did you receive any training before you can operate the crane?
In 2008, 8 of us came to several brother docks in Xiamen and Shanto to learn this.
To learn how to operate the crane?
Yes. Only 8 of us in the first batch.
Only 8 of you?
After that, we have been passing this technique on to other colleagues till now.
So the 8 of you in the first batch are still working?
All of you are still working here?
All of us do.
OK, I see. So, in terms of your daily work... how should I ask... For instance, you'll have to work as there are ships in dock. What if there are no ships in dock tomorrow? Do you sitll need to come to the dock?
We adopt a rotation system. Normally, if you operate a big machine today, you may operate a smaller one the next day. If there are no ships in dock, we still have to wait in the company. When ships come, we'll have to work.
From the perspective of most people. all the operation at the docks have been transferred into automation. It seems that once a program has been configured, things can be automatically done.
What do you feel about operating these automatic machines all the time?
Well, we, including the crane worker and the trailer in the container yard, are just like a chain or assembly line. The container yard is the first point. When containers get into the yard, workers distribute these containers accordingly. So we are like the starter of the chain. When containers are conveyed out of the yard, the rest will be done by other departments. It is, more precisely, semi-automation. We still need workers to operate the machines. Indeed, there are some docks adopting automation system in which they convey all the goods on the tracks. These are more advanced.
So you do know some advanced docks?
Yes. The techique is developing. Normally we adopt a semi-automation system, but we are trying to improve it.
Workers are still needed to operate these machines?
Do you have other feelings to share, since you have worked for 13 years?
Well, things are easier when we are not busy, or we might be very tired. However, we get more pay during the busy time.
So if you work overtime or you are extremely busy, you'll get...
Not exactly. We get more pay for more work done.
Then during the waiting time, you don't get...
No extra pay but the basic salary. We get paid mostly by the extra pay for working.
Or you'll only have the basic salary?
Right. This mechanism is good for raising efficiency.
Well I guess that's all for now.
Do you have other questions?
Do you have something else to share?
Not much. But you still can ask me whatever you want to know. I'll answer you as long as I know it. If you ask something technical, I may not know how to describe it properly. But you still can ask what you want to know.
I have one more question. Does it take a long time to master the skill of attaching the container to the lock so that you can convey them?
Yes. If the machine's performance is good, it is easier to operate it. For example. if I operate the machine now with you standing here, I may have to move it slower and more stably. I can control it according to my mind. If you are not here, I may speed up and work more efficiently. Practice makes perfect. If you practice more, the actions you take may be transferred into habits. For instance, it is natural for you to use chopsticks when you are eating since you have been practicing this skill since you are a child. It is the same here. We learned bit by bit and exchanged what we had learned with other colleagues. Through years of accumulation, these knowledges may become our long-term memory. So we know exactly what to do when we are operating the machine. Normally the machine operated by freshmen shakes back and forth. As long as they practice for certain time, they can also master this skill.
How long does it take to master this skill?
It depends on one's talent. Some workers need a month while some others need only a week. If one is interested in studying the machine, he may have a perception of it. The perception can also be acquired after a long-time practice. It is important to have this perception because the machines you operate may be different everyday (so that you cannot rely on a single method).
Well, to you, the action of sitting in the machine, looking down, cathing the goods, conveying them to a certain place and unloading them may seem...
Did you overcame the fear soon after you started to operate this machine?
Well, before we were allocated to operate the high crane, we shall try to operate the portal crane first. With a height of slightly more 10 meters, the portal crane can test whether a worker is afraid of height. If he pass the test, he can continue to learn how to operate the high crane. To be honest, all of us feared the height at frst. However, after several-days' training, you might get used to the height. Now we feel like it's no more than 6 or 7 meters high, which actually is more than 40 meters high. Once you get used to the height, your eyes will adapt themselves to it.
Our arms and legs got limp standing in the crane.
That's true. But if you climb on the crane one more time, you won't be so fearful anymore, as your body will adapt itself to the environment once you get used to it. It's like a conditional reflex. You may not be so scared at the second time. and you may be able to walk around without any stress at the third time.
Do you have to obey specific safety rules?
We value safety the most. The goods we conveyed is counted by tons, which means once accident happen, the loss will be hundreds of thousands. In this way, we are the ones who have to pay the most attention to the safety issue for that we cannot afford any accident, which lays great burden on us as well as requires us to be concentrated.
Is it nerve-racking to work on the crane although you are sitting there all day?
It is. But sometimes we can adjust ourselves by looking at the surroundings shortly when lifting the goods. If you concentrate on the goods all the time, you will be exhausted soon. So if I have attached a container and locked it on, I can look at other directions for a short break while lifting the container. I can do this only when I don't have to change the position of the container. Sometimes I can stretch my arms outside the window for a while if for sure there won't cause any danger. Also, I can stretch my body when I am waiting for the car. These small actions can help wiping off some tiredness.
Are these what you learn from years of working?
Anyway, you have to exercise a little bit after sitting for a long time, or you'll easily get sciatica. Even office workers need to relax their bodies after sitting for a day.
Do you get occupational disease easily?
The occupational disease we easily get may be related to waist and neck since we look down for a long time. Sometimes we play a joke on this saying that the crane operators are looked down upon because they always look down. Workers at the docks look at all directions. Workers operating xx looks left and right, workers in the container yard look up all the time and workers like us always look down. This is funny.
I can tell that you are strong. Does it has any relations to your job?
As I told you, I graduated from sports school. So I have to train myself everyday. After working at the dock, I exercise less and that is why I get fat.
Well I guess that's all for today.
OK. If you still have anything to ask. you can come tomorrow. Several outstanding workers will be on duty tomorrow.
They are all master-hands.
Thank you for the conversation.