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Rewarding career on the high seas
Published on Friday, 22 Oct 2010

Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world, and a major centre for ship ownership and management companies. But the maritime sector is facing a shortage of labour.

Raymond Chung Siu-man, the Marine Department's general manager for vessel traffic services, says the availability of a wider choice of opportunities has made a sea-going career less attractive.

"Some young people don't want to spend the time away from home, others feel they can earn a better salary in other jobs. Some simply don't realise how being a seafarer can be the start of a rewarding career," he says.

Starting Monday, the government will roll out "Go Maritime, See the World" Maritime Awareness Week, a series of events including career talks  in schools.

Chung says the time spent at sea is a good way to gain qualifications and build character.

Career-wise, holders of a ship captain's licence can apply to become managers of collision control or work in the marine traffic centre. They can also become a marine pilot in charge of guiding vessels to shipping berths.

The Maritime Services Training Institute offers pre-employment and in-service training courses. These include a full-time diploma in maritime studies and junior general purpose rating for Form Five and Form Three graduates, respectively, and courses for deck cadet officers and shore-based maritime-related industries. The government provides a HK$5,000 financial incentive for qualified cadets. To be awarded a master's competency certificate, a seafarer must complete 36 months of  sea-going service as an officer, progressing from third to second, and chief mate.

Not all Marine Department jobs require spending time at sea.

Chan Ming-yau, the Marine Department's general manager for shipping safety, says his department needs skilled people to work on ship surveying, new design, policy and legislation. 

He adds that after spending time at sea, many find competitively paid shore-based employment. Engineers can fill the top slot as chief engineer in charge of shopping malls, hotels and government buildings, while others can go into ship management, ship brokerage, marine insurance, legal services, arbitration and ship finance.