This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Ship's officers navigate and control the safe operation of a ship and supervise and co-ordinate the activities of deck crew.
Ship's officers usually earn
$60K-$130K per year
Source: International Maritime Institute of New Zealand.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Pay for ship's officers varies depending on rank, experience and the type of vessel they work on. However, they usually earn between $60,000 and $130,000 a year.
Source: International Maritime Institute of New Zealand.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
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
- how to navigate and control a ship
- how to read charts and identify hazards
- the logistics of working with cargo, ballast and fuel
- maritime laws and Maritime New Zealand requirements
- safety procedures and methods such as firefighting, 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 often work three months at sea followed by three months' leave, though this depends on the company and ship
- work in all weather conditions
- usually travel to ports around New Zealand or travel internationally to foreign ports.
What's the job really like?
Chris O'Leary - Second Officer
How did you get into the job of ship's officer?
"I trained for seven years. I didn’t plan to be an officer – I started doing a summer job in hospitality on the ship, then a deckhand trainee job came up so I grabbed that.
"I did my AB ticket [Able Seaman Certificate] and stayed there for five years. After that I did one year’s study for my officer’s ticket, then did my sea time."
What does your job involve?
"My main role is loading the ship, making it safe to travel and making sure it’s upright. I help the master with navigation as well as general back up. And the third part is safety – everything always has to be ready for any emergency."
What are some of the challenges?
"In seafaring we do equal time on and off, so I work 12 hours on, then 12 hours off, days or nights. One of the biggest challenges is fatigue, because you do get tired but need to always be 100 percent safety-conscious.
"Time constraints and deadlines can bring a lot of pressure because some things are out of your control but you still need to be on time."
What’s your favourite part of the job?
"Every day, every trip, it looks different out the window. Even though it’s the same route, it’s different and beautiful – I think I have the greatest office in the world."
You can follow a number of routes to become a ship's officer, but all require you to have relevant Maritime New Zealand-approved experience and qualifications.
In general, you must have served time at sea:
- on a vessel that is above a defined size or weight
- working as a cadet or apprentice, or in a position of greater responsibility.
You also need to:
- have approved qualifications in first aid, radar, firefighting and survival
- pass seafarer medical tests
- pass eyesight and colour vision tests
- be able to prove you're a 'fit and proper person' with no criminal convictions
- do a course approved by Maritime New Zealand, and pass written and oral exams.
- Maritime New Zealand website - information about seafarer certification
- Maritime New Zealand website - information about qualifications for people working on ships
NCEA Level 2 English, maths and physics are recommended.
Ship's officers need to be:
- disciplined and responsible
- able to work well independently and as part of a team
- excellent communicators with leadership skills
- well organised
- good at maths.
You need to be someone who is able to work on their own and spend long periods by yourself, particularly for deep-sea foreign work.
Scott Mansbridge - Merchant Navy Deck Officer
Useful experience for ship's officers includes:
- Sea Cadet/Scout training
- deck cadet training with a shipping company
- work as a deckhand
- service in the Navy.
Ship's officers need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and normal colour vision.
Find out more about training
- Maritime New Zealand
- (04) 473 0111 - email@example.com - www.maritimenz.govt.nz
- New Zealand Merchant Service Guild
- (04) 382 9131 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzmsg.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Opportunities to gain the experience required to become a ship's officer are limited. This has resulted in a shortage of people working their way through the ranks to become ship's officers.
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.
Most ship's officers employed by international companies
Many ship's officers work for international shipping companies, though some are employed by New Zealand companies.
- Maritime New Zealand, 'Seafarer Certification', accessed August 2015, (www.maritimenz.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry of Transport, 'Transport and Trade – June 2015', June 2015, (www.transport.govt.nz).
- O'Leary, C, ship's officer, Bluebridge, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2015.
- Walker, K, manager, International Maritime Institute of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Ship's officers can progress through various ranks from third mate to second mate (ship's officer) and chief officer. With further training they can also become a ship's master/captain.
Depending on their position/rank, ship's officers may specialise in roles such as:
- supervising the discharge and loading of cargo
- navigating, controlling and piloting ships.
Last updated 16 March 2017