Port workers and port unions
Author: ERLER ΜΕΗΜΕΤ YAVUZ
*Professor of 19 Mayis University, Samsun, Turkey
As the sand shoal extended along the whole coastline, it rendered shipping operations often impossible for days, and always very difficult. The engineers had suggested at the time the prolongation of the old breakwater for at least two thirds of a mile. However, the extension of the jetty did not offer secure shelter as much as the old harbor did. The old harbor solely needed to be dredged in order to be put back in operation. The dredging operation did not appear to present difficulties in 1883. The bar was of very fine sand, and so was the outside sand shoal which deepened to 3-4 fathoms. The marsh itself was already between 6 to 9 feet deep with a soft muddy bottom. A safe anchorage, with the capability of uninterrupted communication with the seashore was of great necessity to Samsun, not only for commercial, but also for military purposes.
The cargoes were transferred to the heavy tonnage ships anchored on the roads, by smaller boats and barges, due to the fact that the port authorities in Samsun only gave permission to the small boats and barges to load and unload.So, boatmen and bargemen from the villages surrounding the city of Samsun worked during the summer when the sea conditions were favourable. It is also known that, during the same period, mainly Muslim port workers from the surrounding villages of Erzurum, Sivas, Tokat and Samsun helped in the loading works at the Samsun piers as seasonal workers. However, it is also true that native Greek Christians in the town employed themselves as boat men in the port and made themselves available throughout the year. After the loading of caroges, such as grain, minerals and tobacco within a limited time, these seasonal workers who earned an income either as port workers or as boatmen, could not form a union due to their return to their home towns.Professional boatmen or port workers mediated for conveying the problems of these workers to the authorities. Soldiers from the barracks located at the seaside helped the loading and unloading of military products, mainly copper and lead, to the ships. The port workers of the Samsun quays used wooden sticks to carry the heavy loads. The two tallest stood at the front of the load and the two shortest at the rear and all together lifted the goods until carrying them to the loading place in the quays. These port workers operated in groups, which consisted of either 4, 6 or 8 port workers. They also had a coffee house, where they had their dried bread with onions and drank their coffee. The coffee house owner did not accept any other customers than the port workers of Samsun.
Although merchants were at liberty to make their own arrangements as to the storage, shipping and unloading of goods for local or Anatolian consumption they were subject to the following fixed, though somewhat irregular, charges:
1. The lighterage, payable to a corporation of bargemen, was between 10 paras to 5 piastres per package, depending on size and weight, which represented a little above 1 piastre per 100 kilos.
2. The porterage, from the sea to the customs depot, also monopolized by a corporation, was the same. The cost of porterage was, for cases of candles 10 paras, for loads of iron 15 paras, for bags of flour 30 paras, for barrels of oil 2 piastres, and for bales of merchandise above 500 kilos 5 piastres.
3. The storage of goods below 113 kilos at the customs warehouse, though free for the first week, was 10 paras per day during the second week, 20 paras during the third week, 30 paras during the 4th and the subsequent weeks.
4. Disembarking passengers had to pay the corporation of boatmen a landing fee of 5 piastres if coming from Turkey and double that if coming from Russia.
In 1898, the consul Cortanze makes mention of the port works in Samsun in his report. He indicates that 566 steam ships arrived in the Samsun port in 1897, making note of the building of a proper quay, 180 meters in length. In 1898, a total number of 92 coastal vessels operating as barges (40 tons in capacity) has been reported. However, the owners of the barges refused to make transportations, under some terms decided by their guild.
 Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. II, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.783.
 Baki Sarısakal, Gezginlerin Gözüyle Amisos’tan Samsun’a, Samsun Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür Yayınları, Samsun 2010, p.37.
 Abdurrahman Okuyan, 1772 No’lu Samsun Şeriye Sicil Defteri, 1872-1873, M.A. Thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1998, p.96.
 Abdurrahman Okuyan, 1772 No’lu Samsun Şeriye Sicil Defteri, 1872-1873, M.A. Thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1998, p.261.
 Mehmet Yavuz ERLER, “XIX. Yüzyıl Osmanlı Karadeniz Sahil Kalelerinin Yöre Sosyo-Ekonomik Yapısına Olan Katkıları”, International Committee of Pre-Ottoman and Ottoman Studies (CIEPO), Trabzon 2011, p.777-791.
 Baki Sarısakal, Samsun Belediye Tarihi, Samsun Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür Yayınları, Cem Ofset, 2007 Samsun, p.287-288.
 Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. III, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.1169.
 Baki Sarısakal, Gezginlerin Gözüyle Amisos’tan Samsun’a, Samsun Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür Yayınları, Samsun 2010, p. 45-46.