- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed August 2012, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- International Shipping Federation, 'The International Shipping Industry', accessed August 2009, (www.careers-at-sea.org).
- Maritime New Zealand, 'Seafarer Licensing', accessed August 2009, (www.maritimenz.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Ministry of Transport, 'Sea Change: Transforming Coastal Shipping in New Zealand', May 2008, (www.transport.govt.nz).
Ship's Officer - About the job Alternative titles
Ship's officers navigate and control the safe operation of a ship and supervise and coordinate the activities of deck crew.
Call us on 0800 222 733
Salaries vary depending on rank, experience and the ship being crewed; however, ship's officers usually earn between $60,000 and $130,000 per year.
What you will do
Ship's officers may do some or all of the following:
- navigate and control ships
- take charge of ships when on watch
- arrange repairs, fuel and supplies
- supervise the loading, unloading and storage of cargo
- organise crew activities on deck
- organise ship security.
Skills and knowledge
Depending on their rank, ship's officers need to have:
- knowledge of the requirements of running and supplying a ship
- knowledge of how to navigate and control a ship
- knowledge of how to read charts and identify hazards
- understanding of the logistics of working with cargo, ballast and fuel
- knowledge of maritime laws and Maritime Safety Authority requirements
- knowledge of safety procedures and methods, such as fire-fighting, rescue, and collision prevention.
- usually work shifts and are on call 24 hours a day while at sea. When working for international shipping companies, ship's officers typically work three months at sea followed by three months' leave
- work in all weather conditions
- may travel to ports around New Zealand or travel internationally to foreign ports.
What's the job really like?
Scott Mansbridge - Merchant Navy Deck Officer
What lead you to become a deck officer?
"My family always had an interest in boating and I've been living at sea since I was 13; I did my schooling by correspondence while we sailed around the Pacific Islands.
"I began working on ships commercially at 16 when I was lucky enough to secure a cadetship in Hong Kong. I worked there for five years, rising to the rank of a third mate, before returning to New Zealand and finding work with a shipping company."
What does your role involve?
"The majority of the deck officer's work is solving problems and keeping everything ticking over. The job runs 24 hours a day and obviously the chief officer can't be awake for all that time, so different responsibilities are delegated and that's where my duties come in to play."
"Smooth operation is everything. Smooth equals fast, and when the ship berths you go straight into discharging and then loading. Once you finish loading, the ship sails, so you need to be someone who can apply yourself to the task at hand."
There are a number of routes to becoming a ship's officer, but all require you to have relevant Maritime New Zealand approved experience and qualifications.
In general, you must have served at least a year at sea:
- on a vessel that is above a defined size or weight
- working as a deckhand or in a position of greater responsibility
- while holding an advanced deckhand qualification, local launch operator qualification, or a more advanced qualification.
You also need to:
- have approved qualifications in first aid, radar, firefighting and survival
- pass eyesight and colour vision tests
- do a course approved by Maritime New Zealand, and pass written and oral exams.
- Maritime New Zealand website - information about seafarer licensing
- Maritime New Zealand - information about qualifications for people working on ships, including ship's officers
NCEA Level 2 English, maths and physics are recommended.
Ship's officers need to be :
- disciplined, responsible, adaptable
- able to work well independently and as part of a team
- excellent communicators with leadership skills
- well organised
- good at maths.
Scott Mansbridge - Merchant Navy Deck Officer
Useful experience for ship's officers includes:
- deck cadet training with a shipping company
- work as a deckhand
- service in the navy.
Ship's officers need to be reasonably fit and healthy with good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and normal colour vision.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
year of training usually required
What are the chances of getting a job?
This is because opportunities to gain the requisite experience to become a ship's officer are limited. To become a ship's officer you must work your way up through lower positions such as deckhand, where opportunties are hard to come by because of falling demand. This has resulted in a shortage of people working their way through the ranks to become ship's officers.
As a result, ship's officer appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging qualified ship's officers from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Many ship's officers close to retirement age
A significant number of ship's officers are nearing retirement age, which means demand for ship's officers is likely to increase further in coming years.
Employers of ship's officers
Most ship's officers work for international shipping companies, though some are employed by New Zealand companies.
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Progression and specialisations
Ship's officers can progress through various ranks from third mate to second mate and chief officer. With further training they can also become a ship's master/captain.
They may also progress to administrative or management roles in the maritime industry, such as harbour master or marine manager.
Depending on their position/rank, ship's officers may specialise in different roles, such as supervising the discharge and loading of cargo; engineering inspections or repairs; and/or the navigation, control and pilotage of ships.
How many people are doing this job?
Job vacancies by region
Updated 17 Jul 2013