Ships officer

What they do

Ship's officers serve in positions of authority on seafaring vessels, co-ordinating crew and directing the ship's operations. They liaise with the captain to determine the ship's movements while using radar and satellite to navigate, they supervise the work undertaken by crew members, record the details of the ship's course, position and weather conditions in the logbook, and handle any emergencies that arise on board. Ship’s officers on passenger ships are responsible for the safety of passengers. On cargo ships they are responsible for ensuring the safety of cargo and the ship's structure, as well as for checking the navigation equipment. Ship's officers are required on ships that move in and out the eight major ports and eleven minor ports that operate along the coast of Western Australia.

Working conditions

Ship's officers work on passenger liners and ferries, cargo and freight ships, other ships such as barges, fishing vessels and rescue boats, and special-purpose ships, such as those used for research purposes or as ice-breakers. They are required to work in all weather conditions, which may include rough seas. Whilst their ship is anchored or in port they usually work regular hours, although this may involve early mornings, but when they are at sea they usually work in shifts, which can include working nights, and on weekends and public holidays.

Tools and technologies

Ship's officers often work in the cabins and control stations of ships, and are required to understand and use a variety of navigation and steering controls. They are also in charge of radio, morse lighting, code flags and pyrotechnic equipment, as well as firefighting, life saving, medical and signalling equipment, and must ensure that this equipment is in working order. Officers on cargo ships may also be required to use cargo storage and freight handling equipment such as pallet jacks, cargo scales, lifting equipment and strapping tools.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a ship’s officer, you usually need to gain a qualification in maritime operations.

The Diploma of Maritime Operations (Watchkeeper Deck) is offered at South Metropolitan TAFE in Western Australia.

Alternately, it may be possible to complete a cadetship with a shipping company or other employer, which includes on the job training and study at sea. Cadetships are usually available to those who have completed year 12.


Required registration and licensing

To work as a ship’s officer in Western Australia, you will need to obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).