Ship's Master

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Practical or MechanicalNature or RecreationSkill Level 3Skill Level 4

A ship's master is in charge of all aspects of a ship's operation, while at sea and in port. These workers are responsible for overseeing activities such as the loading and unloading of cargo, repair and maintenance work, the receipt and transmission of information, navigation and all other activities FutureGrowthModerate essential to the safe, efficient and effective running of a ship. They are also responsible for managing a ship's budget and expenditure, as well as preparing voyage plans. A ship's master must also record the daily activities in the ship's log, including the course and any alterations, the ship's position, any repairs and the weather conditions.

Alternative names: Captain, Ship's Captain

Specialisations: Dredge Master, Ferry Master, Hydrofoil Captain, Ship's Pilot, Skipper, Tug Master

Ferry Master
Ferry Master
(Source: Beyond the Wharf)

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A ship's master needs:

  • good communication skills

  • leadership and motivational ability

  • the ability to make decisions under pressure

  • good eyesight with normal colour vision

  • good planning and organisational skills

 

Working Conditions

​Ship's masters serving on larger merchant vessels or deep water fishing boats spend long periods at sea, which are usually followed by equal time ashore. Those serving on smaller, coastal ships, such as ferries, may return to shore each night. While at sea, a ship's master generally works in shifts, sharing time on duty, or watch, with the ship's other officers, however, they must be prepared to deal with emergency situations which may arise at any time. They generally work in all weather conditions, which can include storms and rough seas. Those working on coastal vessels and other ships which return to port each night, may remain in port during severe weather.

Maersk
(Source: Oil and Gas Australia)

Tools and technologies

​Ship's masters usually work in the cabins and control stations of a ship. They use specialised navigation equipment, such as radar, sonar and satellite navigation, to plot a course and determine their precise location, as well as that of any obstacles. Ships use a range of communication technologies, including radio, morse code and other signalling equipment, such as flags. The ship's master will also need to be familiar with medical and emergency equipment, such as flares, fire fighting equipment and lifesaving equipment.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a ship’s master you usually need to complete a qualification in maritime operations.

Several VET qualifications in maritime operations, structured according to the size and class of the vessel, are offered at TAFE Colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Australia.

You can also complete a traineeship. The maritime operations – coxswain traineeship usually takes six months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship.

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

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