Shipping careers come ashore
While Hong Kong relies on a number of professionals at sea to manage maritime movements, taking to the water is by no means the only way to serve in this capacity.
'The idea that all [public sector] maritime jobs involve spending time at sea is a misconception we are working very hard to change,' according to Wong Sai-fat, senior surveyor of ships for the Hong Kong Marine Department.
Using his own area of expertise as an example, Wong explains that job candidates need not have spent any time at sea whatsoever. Instead, they can simply hold a degree in engineering, naval architecture or a qualification related to the surveying of ships.
And what's more, with 30,000 vessels visiting the city each year, there's unlikely to be a shortage of work anytime soon.
In terms of duties, Wong says that the remit of a Marine Department ship surveyor covers a broad range of areas, including maritime safety, pollution prevention, security, seafarers' welfare, and the maintenance of Hong Kong's ship registry. Those selected for the role can expect varied and interesting experiences.
They can also expect to broaden their international perspective, says Wong. 'You learn a lot about the world, about other cultures through the people you meet and the way the global shipping industry works.'
The Marine Department has openings for marine inspectors in harbour patrol, pollution control and vessel-traffic regulation. Candidates must have reliable eyesight, especially the ability to distinguish between white, red and green navigation lights.
The department is also looking for marine inspectors and assistant marine controllers raised in Hong Kong. 'We need more home-grown talent to join the ranks of our maritime professionals and see how rewarding a career in the community can be,' says Wong.
The Marine Department has joined forces with the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council, Maritime Services Training Institute and the Institute of Vocational Education, to launch various career events to raise awareness of the many job opportunities in the industry.
But despite these efforts maritime companies and recruitment professionals constantly complain of a shortage of job candidates capable of taking up shore-based positions in ship management, ship broking, marine insurance, legal services, arbitration and ship finance.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) aims to tackle these concerns through its International Shipping and Transport Logistics programme, which offers a master's degree or post-graduate diploma. Masters applicants should have an honours bachelor's degree in international shipping or relevant disciplines. Non-shipping and logistics students need at least two years' experience in a different industry.
Programme director Wong Hon-shu says course modules cover marine insurance, chartering strategy, liner management, admiralty law, airport and terminal management and Chinese maritime and port law.
'Our multi-disciplinary approach is unique in providing a platform for professionals to increase their knowledge of shipping, transport and logistics all at once,' Wong says. Students can also boost their knowledge of supply chain management and maritime law.
Both courses are well-received but promoting them is a challenge. Wong says those entering the industry will likely be well-rewarded. 'When people see the huge ships coming into Hong Kong, they tend to think of the navigation side of shipping. But there is a range of opportunities in shore-based shipping operations or related businesses,' Wong adds.