Using the cargo plan, the stevedores select the containers to unload from the ship. Stevedores operate the cranes and hook up the loaded containers. A spreader hangs from the crane. There are four smaller lifting cables that hang from the spreader. Fittings on each corner of the container are locked onto the four smaller cables by the stevedores.
Waiting on the wharf below the crane will be a straddle carrier or forklift. Once in place, the lifting cables will be unlocked from the spreader or the container itself.
The container is driven to a storage area where it will be stacked with others that will be transported to the same location.
Because of the weight of loaded containers they should only be handled with spreaders which are the same size as the top of the container. Empty containers can be lifted by the four lifting wires or by a simple forklift lifting it from the middle of the container's base.
While the ship is being unloaded, the crew may need to pump water into ballast tanks to keep the ship balanced.