An overview of the maritime industry for graduates

The maritime industry offers diverse careers for graduates – at GradAustralia we can help you find who's hiring and how to land a graduate job.
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Overview of the maritime industry

As its name suggests, the maritime industry involves shipbuilding and boatbuilding, as well as maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and refits for private, commercial, and government clients. This industry employs 31,000 people nationally and contributes $9 billion to the Australian economy, generating $575 million in exports each year. There is some overlap between the maritime industry, and the marina industry, which employs more than 23,000 people who oversee the berthing, mooring, and storage of boats. With 95% of Australia’s imports arriving by sea, the maritime industry is of significant economic importance. While many maritime industry workers are involved in large-scale public projects (especially for the military), approximately one-third work on civil projects. The industry includes relevant engineering, design, and consulting services, as well as people who work with radio and radar equipment, pumps and pumping machinery, hoists, scaffolding, and within research and development.

What does the maritime industry involve?

The primary activity of those in the maritime manufacturing sector is shipbuilding and boatbuilding, and associated repair services. These are complex operations that involve many sub-specialities and discrete processes, including drydock operation, hull cleaning, shipwrecking, submarine construction, and the manufacturing of canoes, dinghies, jet boats, yachts and powerboats. To achieve its goals, the maritime industry brings together engineers, electricians, motor mechanics, project administrators, draftspeople, technicians, and many other types of professionals.

Other activities in the maritime industry include the operation of cruise lines and recreational vessels, domestic sea freighting, and the provision of support to Australia’s offshore oil and gas industries.

Where do people in this sector work?

There are approximately 2,000 businesses in the Australian maritime manufacturing sector, and 32% of them are found in Queensland, with 28% in NSW, and 18% in Victoria. Major sites of shipbuilding and boatbuilding activity include the Greater Perth, Greater Queensland, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne regions. The day-to-day environment of a maritime manufacturing worker depends on their specific role, and ranges from office work for designers and engineers to dockwork for painters and technicians.

While the defence force is a major employer in this industry, there are also several significant private employers, such as Arctic Steel, Austal, Incat, Rivergate, and Steber International.

Finding a graduate job in the maritime industry

There are a limited number of dedicated academic pathways for students who wish to work in the maritime industry. One can complete a maritime qualification at TAFE, or undergo training at the Australian Maritime College, Australian Maritime & Fishing Academy, or other private education providers.

Alternatively, many jobs in the maritime industry are filled via a direct application by graduates who possess relevant skills. These include mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, technicians, project managers, and administrators. For most of these roles, on-the-job training is provided.

Career prospects in the maritime industry

The Australian maritime industry faces uncertainty in some of its major operations. For example, domestic shipping companies face fierce competition from foreign operators, and the location of major defence shipbuilding activities remains an object of controversy. However, Maritime Industry Australia – a commercial member’s body that represents the interests of maritime workers – believes that legislative changes can protect the industry and increase its GDP contribution by around 50%.

How can I take advantage of my STEM background?

Engineers are highly valued in the maritime industry, and large ships – including cruise liners and freighters – will often have one on board. Outside of such specialist technical roles, you will likely find that your STEM background is beneficial insofar as it demonstrates that you possess a strong attention to detail and the ability to engage patiently with complex problems.

Popular degrees sought by this maritime industry:

Engineering (mechanical, marine, electrical, mining, petroleum), environmental sciences, earth sciences, geography, geoscience, biology.

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