First of all, if you’re considering a career at sea, may we offer you our congratulations and say that we think you’ve made an excellent choice. (Of course, here at Martide, we might be a little biased!) The industry offers some incredibly rewarding jobs - both in terms of personal, and very often financial, satisfaction.
The potential for career growth, whether you’re moving up the career ladder, or sideways to experience new things is amazing too. But one thing you do need behind you, whatever role at sea you choose, is a solid foundation of maritime training.
Of course, personality plays a huge part in deciding whether you are cut out for a career in the maritime industry too. Having a strong work ethic, tenacity and the determination to see a job through are a must. As are the abilities to be punctual and get along with people of different ages, races, and backgrounds. And a healthy dash of courage, diligence and being able to handle whatever life at sea throws you with good humour will go a long way to making you a successful seafarer too!
So if you think you’ve got all your bases covered when it comes to personality traits that mariners should possess, what else do you need to know to embark on a career on the ocean? First of all, you need to decide what you actually want to be. Unlike many industries, the shipping sector is almost mind-boggling varied when it comes to jobs. You don’t just decide to become a seaman: you need to filter it down into, not just job roles, but into areas.
Choices, choices, choices
There are so many options to choose a career from that we highly advise delving right into the world of seafaring jobs. You never know, you might be surprised at what you discover! And while it might be tempting to focus purely on the top paying maritime jobs, you probably need to set your sights a little more realistically. Having said that, if you have your heart set on some day becoming a Master or Chief Engineer, you would do well to base your seafaring education around those goals. And as we said earlier, training is everything when it comes to jobs at sea.
The other great thing about working at a job that involves the ocean is that there is almost quite literally a job to suit everyone. Fascinated by Mother Nature? Why not train to become a Marine Biologist and start unlocking the secrets of the sea bed? Love cooking but hate the idea of being stuck in a town or city that you don’t like? Earn your qualifications to become a Ship’s Cook. Maybe you love the shipping industry and have a deep seated interest in all things maritime but for whatever reason need a land based job. Well you have everything to choose from, from Shipping Broker to Marine Lawyer, to a job in a marina or shipyard. Maritime jobs, and the training or degree courses that prepare you for them, are so diverse that the only problem you might face is knowing which direction to take!
But for now, let’s take a look at some of the maritime jobs you might want to consider. To make this a little easier we’ve broken these jobs down into areas and job types and briefly covered the type of education for seafarers you may need.
Boatyard and marine operations
Boatyard and marine operations cover jobs that are - no surprises - based in a boatyard or marina. You might be working with a privately owned sailing yacht or an internationally bound container vessel and because this is the place where vessels are built, maintained, docked, or stored, the range of marina based jobs is varied. The average boatyard provides a range of services and as an operative, you will generally need to have a decent level of physical fitness. Operations can include launching, high pressure washing, lifting and storing vessels as well as berthing them and moving them on the water.
Boatyard and marine safety is paramount and anyone thinking of pursuing this line of work will need to hold the relevant qualifications. Marine Engineers - people who deal with the maintenance and repair of a ship’s machinery and can be based in boatyards. An education in advanced mathematics, such as trigonometry and calculus, will be good preparation for a career in marine engineering as will a head for problem solving. Working in a boatyard may also mean that, depending on your role, you are also tasked with general maintenance work around the site, for example conducting repairs on the facilities, pontoon systems and storage cradles.
Health and safety
It goes without saying that the importance of health and safety in the maritime industry can’t be underestimated. If an accident happens it can be catastrophic. The cost to a shipping company’s reputation, the financial impact of a vessel being damaged, cargo being lost or impaired, and the consequences to the environment can be grave. And that’s not even taking into account the human cost in terms of injuries, or worse, loss of life, of crew.
Therefore if you’re interested in both shipping and health and safety, training for a career as a Safety Officer, Safety Risk Adviser, Marine Health & Safety Adviser, or Certification & Documentation Engineer might be of interest to you. Documentation Engineers create and maintain documents that are relevant to their line of work. These could be schematics or blueprints and a technical mindset will normally be required. A Marine Health & Safety Adviser’s job description includes ensuring working practices are safe and comply with industry legislation, and developing internal health and safety strategies and improvements. A Safety Risk Adviser will undertake risk assessments, investigate and record incidents or accidents, and ensure equipment is installed correctly. You will need qualifications specific to health and safety and the various disciplines within that.
A firefighter’s job in any circumstances is a dangerous and challenging one. Add the unpredictability of the environment on board a ship, the varying weather conditions, and the fact that ships are floating, moving and a lot less stable than buildings and you have a recipe for one very tough job. A container ship encompasses a lot of different environments - galley, deck, hold, mess etc and Marine Firefighters need to undergo specialized training that teaches them various strategies and tactics for containing and extinguishing fires on board a vessel, while dealing with the various hazards and challenges that the ocean poses.
If a career in insurance has always held a certain fascination for you, you might want to think about training to work in a marine insurance department. Marine insurance is a highly specialized area covering the loss or damage of vessels and cargo as well as container terminals and ports. Similar to mainstream insurance, job positions include Marine Underwriter, Marine Claims Manager and Marine Insurance Brokers. To work in this part of the shipping industry, many employers prefer applicants to hold a degree in Maritime Law.
A Marine Surveyor conducts inspections, examinations and/or surveys of vessels with the aim of assessing and monitoring both the ship’s condition and that of its cargo, as well as any damage they may have incurred. A highly niche area, this is one career that demands very particular training and the ability to carry out thorough investigations. You should also have an eye for detail and the capacity to write extremely in-depth reports.
Super-yacht refit and new-building
The world of the super-yacht is undeniably a glamorous one and jobs within this arm of the maritime industry are often highly sought after. If shipbuilding and design are of interest to you, you might like to consider a course in super-yacht refitting and/or new-building. Training usually encompasses both undertaking a super-yacht refit as well instructing you in how to approach a new build project. Of course, knowing how to refit or build a super-yacht is essential but so too are project management skills such as managing client expectations and dealing with changes to orders. An understanding of relevant laws, legislation and documentation will be taught as well as money management.
The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 defines marine pilotage as a “Pilot means any person not belonging to a ship who has the conduct thereof.” In a nutshell a Marine Pilot is a seafarer who has an in-depth knowledge of a particularly hazardous navigational area or port approach. They are experts in maneuvering vessels and apply their specialist geographical knowledge to ensure the safe passage of a ship in the pilotage district. Generally speaking Marine Pilots have previous experience as a Ship’s Officer before becoming a Pilot, which is something to bear in mind if you think this might be the career for you.
Shipbuilding and ship repair
Ships need designing and building - and maintaining and repairing. And that’s where your career as a Shipbuilder or Shipwright comes in. Generally speaking either a degree from completing a maritime shipbuilding program, or undergoing a long apprenticeship is required to become a Shipbuilder / Shipwright. A creative mind as well as an aptitude for physics, mathematics, engineering and construction is also necessary.
Port state control
Training to work in Port State Control covers a number of fields and disciplines. A sound knowledge of maritime legislation and IMO conventions and protocols, plus
standards and compliance, qualification and licensing will often be needed in the role of a Port State Control Officer or Inspector. As will the skills needed to deal with port regulatory and emergency responses, enforcement and compliance, maritime security, and quality assurance. All of these facets will prove critical when it comes to your role in inspecting foreign ships that come into port to certify that the condition of the vessel and its equipment is in compliance with international requirements.
Procedure to get maritime career training
There are dozens more jobs that you can train for when seeking maritime career training. From jobs on board ships such as Bosun, Ordinary Seaman and Motorman to land based careers including Shipping Freight Broker, Marine Environmental Manager or Ship Banker - there really is a career for everyone to at least think about!
One thing for new seafarers to remember is that the quality of your education usually translates into how employable you are. But the training you undertake depends on the field you choose. The good news is there are a wealth of maritime colleges and academies out there offering a vast range of courses for budding seafarers of all ages, interests, skills and backgrounds. Not possible to relocate to train as a seafarer right now? Not to worry as distance learning courses are offered by many maritime institutes of learning.
Training at a nautical academy is vocational and a budding mariner will need to pass seaman courses to then move on to thinking about pursuing higher education in the field. When you’re researching areas within the maritime industry to study, keep in mind that the requirements will vary from role to role so find something that you think will work with your particular skill set and interests.
Whatever career in shipping you pursue, you need to be qualified and certified for the position you are applying for and trained for the tasks you will be expected to perform. This training also need to conform to International Maritime Organisation standards. Don’t forget that if you are ocean bound you must also hold the correct medical certificate before you can be hired to work on a vessel. Additionally, in order to be certified to carry out some duties, some crew members will need to hold a Certificate of Competency (CoC) or Certificate of Equivalent Competency (CEC).
Meanwhile, if you’re qualified and raring to go and want to find your first role at sea, check out Martide’s job listings From Ordinary Seaman to Electrical Engineer - chances are, we have the exact position you’re looking for.