Hong Kong's Marine Department offers an abundance of possibilities to local youngsters who have the necessary qualifications, experience and training, and are keen to pursue careers as seafarers.
The department is hiring ship surveyors on civil service terms. 'We have had difficulty filling surveyor positions in recent years,' said Patrick Chun Ping-fai, assistant director for multilateral policy at the Marine Department.
'Hong Kong people are not very keen to take up seafaring as a career because they think it does not pay well. Shortage of maritime talent is not unique to Hong Kong, developed countries [all over the world] are facing a similar problem.'
With about 1,400 staff, including 200 in professional grades, the Marine Department has three core areas of responsibility: ensuring Hong Kong's port safety and its effective operation; upholding international maritime safety and management; and purchasing and caring for the government's fleet of vessels including maintenance, repairs and operation.
Within the Marine Department there are 50 ship surveyors who work in the three major disciplines - mechanical, nautical and naval architecture.
'Surveyors of ships in the engineering and ship disciplines need to have a knowledge of a specialised engineering field and be able to work with machines in sea vessels,' Mr Chun said. 'Those in naval architecture are required to have academic training and a working knowledge of shipbuilding and architecture; and those in the nautical discipline need to carry out sea-vessel inspection and audits to ensure ships and their owners comply with measures and regulations in maritime safety, environmental protection and maritime security.
'One of the specific requirements for a surveyor of ships is a degree in a specialised field with certificates of competency in seafaring. We hope that we can recruit at least one candidate for each discipline, and are looking to hire more people as we foresee more vacancies will become available when some colleagues reach retirement age in the next couple of years.'
The positions are open to overseas applicants, but Mr Chun said priority would be given to qualified local candidates, and he hopes that these positions attract qualified maritime professionals from the mainland.
'People with a certain [amount of] years of seafaring experience may consider a shore-based job.
'The role of a surveyor of ships is a good career change for those who have worked with sea vessels and who can also put their maritime safety knowledge to good use.
'A larger pool of applicants will allow us to select those with better potential,' said Mr Chun, who is in charge of hiring ship surveyors. 'We ... would like to groom them for future development.'
In addition to technical knowledge, Mr Chun said that the Marine Department was looking for an exceptional calibre of candidates who would be able to absorb knowledge and advance their careers in the long term.
'During the initial stage, surveyors of ships are mainly involved in dealing with technicalities and, when they move up their ranks, they get exposed to other responsibilities such as management and policy development.'
Among the essential attributes candidates must possess is the ability to stay calm under pressure.
'Soon after the surveyors ease into new roles, they are expected to work independently to deal with ship owners and vessel operators. It is not a job meant for those who are hesitant in making decisions,' he said.
Career prospects are excellent for surveyors, who aspire to be senior surveyors or more senior positions such as principal surveyor and assistant director.
Mr Chun said all ship surveyors, who satisfied departmental requirements, would be asked to take the confirmatory course which covered the areas of responsibility a qualified ship surveyor would be expected to take on.
Completion of the course will mean that the surveyors will be eligible for promotion.
The job of a ship surveyor has its glamour. Seafaring involves international business and senior surveyors and officials will be able to represent Hong Kong regularly at events hosted by overseas organisations, such as the International Maritime Organisation, to discuss ways to raise international maritime safety standards, environmental protection and promote co-operation.