Planning a Maritime Career - An Overview

Planning a Maritime Career – An Overview

“Land is the secure ground of home; the sea is like life, the outside, the unknown.” – Stephen Gardiner, 16th-century English bishop 

The sea has always had a special hold over humanity’s imagination! It is everything we desire, and everything we fear. The sea is the source of enticing mystery, of legends like the mermaid and the Kraken. It is a source for quiet reflection when calm, and a force of nature to struggle desperately against when roused.

This fundamental force of nature influences every aspect of our lives, whether health, energy, transportation or trade. In fact, statistics say that as much as 90% of the world’s trade is carried out through ships. Such a prolific industry, provides a wide variety of careers in the maritime trade world. No matter what your background is- engineering, technical, commercial or industrial- there is probably a maritime career path for you.

But having a maritime career is about more than just your education or experience. It is also about your mindset, your qualities, your values and personality. For instance, are you the kind of person who loves feeling the winds of the ocean on your face, travelling to exotic ports, experiencing different cultures, and enjoying the rewards of high pay? Then you could consider the offshore life of a seafarer.

However, if you prefer solid ground under your feet, and the comfort of home, family and friends then you might want to consider a land-based career in shipping. Each aspect has its own pros and cons, so the decision is entirely yours. Once you’ve decided whether the land or sea is your destiny, you can begin planning your maritime career.

Let’s take a look at the basics of planning such a career. First, what stream of career would you prefer to opt for?

Technical and Engineering Careers

The maritime field offers a number of technical careers both onshore and offshore. Some of the prominent careers are:

  • Naval Architect

A naval architect designs and constructs marine vessels. He/she is a qualified engineer that takes care of the technical aspects of ship design and other marine structures.

  • Marine Engineer

A marine engineer designs the internal systems of the ship like the propulsion system, electronics & refrigeration, navigational systems, etc.

  • Network Systems Analyst

A network systems analyst controls network performance and reports input-output data to identify network and system problems if any.

  • Naval Engineer

A naval engineer ensures appropriate functioning of all mechanical and electrical systems on the ship.

To gain more in-depth knowledge of what technical career paths are available, check out our blog on Technical Careers in the Maritime Industry.

Commercial Careers

The number of managerial and administrative positions in the maritime industry has been increasing at a high rate recently. There are many land-based as well as offshore possibilities for a management or commerce graduate to pursue a maritime career.

  • Shipping Operations Manager

A Shipping Operations Manager is involved in the day-to-day operations of the ship including navigational safety, cargo, maintaining safety standards and procedures, ballast and tank cleaning and inspections.

  • Fleet Shipping Manager

A Fleet Shipping Manager in a Shipping Company is responsible for the operation of the vessels, ensuring that they are operated safely, economically and efficiently maintained to a standard allowing them to fulfil operational requirements.

  • Purchasing Manager

The Purchasing Manager institutes a procurement chain ensuring all goods and services are obtained at the necessary value and is beneficial to the business from the external expenditure.

  • Workshop Manager

The Workshop Manager handles the responsibility of managing the entire gamut of workshop-related activities, supervision of jobs and team members

Other Careers

  • Maritime Journalist

A maritime journalist stays in touch with sources aboard ships and reports news, stories, and other trends in detail.

  • Maritime Lawyer

Maritime law is a set of conventions governing the events and nautical matters occurring on water. A maritime lawyer is one who deals with such laws and other aspects of shipping.

For more such offbeat careers, check out our blog on the 5 Lesser Known Careers in the Maritime Industry.

Once you’re done with that, you must think of what qualifications you require to be eligible for your chosen career.

Entry, Training and Qualifications

Most engineering jobs require an engineering degree in a related field e.g. Marine, Mechanical, Electrical or Computer. Other technical jobs, such as Network Analysts and Architectural Drafters require at least a Diploma or Certificate Courses. These jobs require a very practical, solution-oriented learning and approach for success.

Commercial and managerial careers usually require a Master’s degree in the respective field: Operations, Marketing, Finance, Accounting etc., ideally with some experience. Alternatively, one can also start out in a basic capacity and with experience and dedication, grow into a managerial role.

For other professional profiles such as a Maritime Lawyer, or a Maritime Banker, the person needs to have a competent degree as well as a few years of experience in his/her field, along with a vast knowledge of the regulations, laws and financial conditions in the maritime world respectively. In these cases, the professional must have a complete grasp of the subtleties of the laws and trade regulations of their field and how they relate to the maritime sector.

Necessary Skills and Personal Qualities

There are a number of skills and qualities that one needs to pursue a successful career in this sector. Some of them are:

  • Decision-making Ability
  • Practical Application of Knowledge
  • Coordination of people and resources
  • Drive for knowledge
  • Effective communication

While these qualities are important for both onshore and offshore jobs, there are some other attributes that are crucial for an offshore career at sea. Offshore jobs, whether on the Deckside or the Engine side, require all candidates to be of sound body with no dysfunction in any organs.

Says Cdt. Hrishikesh Deshpande, seafarer at a major shipping line, “The essential truth is, the human body does not belong out on the sea. Hence, every candidate must be physically fit and without any major health problems.” Automation has reduced the physical load on the ship’s crew; however every candidate must be able to do physical work if required, he adds. Also, healthy eyesight and an ability to concentrate for extended periods of time are essential for an offshore job.

Along with a physical aspect, there is also a psychological aspect to a life at sea. “The most important requirement is to be able to withstand long stretches of work and pressure,” Hrishikesh says. “At sea, in a time of crisis, one may have to work for 48, 72 or even more hours at a stretch. There can be no slip-ups, no decrease in performance, and that requires a special kind of tenacity.” On top of that, he or she must also be able to withstand being away from land, from family and friends, for 6 to 8 months at a time.

Career Longevity and Future Prospects

90% of the world’s trade moves by the sea, so there is an ever-increasing trend of job opportunities in the sector. But what about the longevity of career and prospects for future advancement?

Most private shipping and maritime companies are run similar to other corporations. Thus, the longevity of your career is based on the merit of your performance and how well you rise through the ranks in your chosen field. Most offshore jobs are contract-based between the shipping company and the officers, and the pay is quite high commensurate to the risk and the difficulties of a job at sea. Onshore jobs are also quite rewarding, as they can help you gain interesting insights into the maritime world. For land-based jobs, most companies offer a good pay along with an encouraging work atmosphere.

Both onshore and offshore careers also have good future prospects. For example, a marine officer can, after his/her seafaring days are over, take up the position of Ship Manager in a shipping company. Here, their vast experience of the sea can be utilized, managing the staffing, training, operations and efficient transportation of vessels and goods over the oceans.

Similarly, an offshore career such as a Shipbroker, who brokers deals between buyers and sellers, or shipowners and charterers, has great longevity. A combination of tenacity, knowledge of the business and shipping worlds, and a drive to perform in a fast-paced, international environment can lead to great success in such a field.


This is but an overview of all the different kinds of opportunities present in the sector, and how you can plan a career in maritime. Each kind of job comes with its own perks and challenges, whether onshore or offshore. A job in the maritime sector can be tough, but ultimately rewarding in terms of money, job satisfaction and life experience.

Looking to explore a career in the maritime world? Check out our Careers section, or leave us a message at hr@shmgroup.com.

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