It started over three centuries ago…
The term ‘Quartiersmann’ was first coined in Hamburg warehouses and is still common currency in this Hanseatic City. The quartermaster’s workplace reveals something of the origins of the name. Because he was continually active in his employer’s warehouse, that was known as his quarters. The profession originated in the 17th century. It was then that quartermasters were first hired for the warehouses of trading companies. On the merchant’s behalf, they undertook the entire handling of imported commodities, ranging from checking and assessing the commodities to processing, storage and onward transport to the customer. They acted independently in groups of four. As a company name, they generally took the name of one quartermaster plus the ending ‘& Consorten’ to represent the other three.
All-round Service for Commodities
Cocoa, rubbers, fruit, tea, coffee, hides, skins, paper, metals, grain, spices, nuts – quartermasters specialize in a host of different commodities. The merchant profits primarily from his quartermasters’ deep knowledge and practical experience of the various commodities. A quartermaster’s work is multi-facetted. Apart from receiving consignments, he is responsible for taking samples for quality control purposes. Prior to appropriate storage, on occasion the quartermaster will refine and process commodities. He also looks after onward transport to the customer, including all the formalities, e.g. Customs clearance. Thanks to the quartermaster’s expert supervision of commodities and the personal advice he offers, the merchant is spared the need to be present throughout handling of them. He can rely on the scrupulous care, expertise and experience of his quartermaster.
Modern port logistics plus tradition
Technical progress has brought a change in the types of jobs required. Today’s quartermaster has meanwhile discarded his uniform and replaced his traditional tools with machines. Spacious storage sheds have replaced earlier warehouse floors. Quartermasters are on-the-ball port logistics specialists, capable of rapidly and efficiently providing an even wider range of services. Many quartermasters nowadays trade as warehousing or logistics companies. In some cases, however, the traditional ending ‘& Cons.’ is still part of the company name. Nor has much change occurred in the size of such firms. Even now, they mostly consist of smaller or medium-sized companies, with traders frequently profiting from direct contact with the owner, short decision-making channels and low administrative costs.
Training: Duties and RequirementsToday people wishing to learn the basics of this traditional profession have themselves trained as port or warehousing logistics clerks, storeman, or forwarding and logistics clerks.
Forwarding and logistics clerkThose opting for this long-established career in the transport and logistics sector may be trained by carriers in the shipping, road haulage or rail industries. The emphasis of the training is on handling imports and export, but also warehousing. The requirement: A school-leaving certificate at secondary level with very good grades.
Port logistics clerkThis is for all those who are happy to accept responsibility but do not wish to spend all day at a desk. The main features of the training are quality checks, planning of work and cargoes, warehouse use of IT and operation of machines. The requirement: A school-leaving certificate at secondary level with very good grades.
Warehousing logistics clerkA career for anybody with a hands-on approach. During training the emphasis is on receiving goods, off-site storage and picking, selecting samples, processing goods in the warehouse and heading small working groups. Requirement: An acceptable lower secondary school-leaving certificate.
StoremanFor pro-active school-leavers interested in handling commodities. During training the emphasis is on accepting/issuing and picking goods. Those who perform well have the opportunity to transfer and train as specialists in warehousing logistics.
Dual course of studies with the emphasis on the transport industryThe larger companies in the sector also offer the opportunity to combine career training and studying. Hamburg offers public and private schemes combining studies for a BA in economics at a recognized university with the emphasis on the transport industry and a traineeship in a company in the port.