July 03, 2024

Navigating The High Seas

A Guide to Seafaring Careers


Seafaring: the art and science of navigating the vast oceans, is a time-honoured profession that has captured the imaginations of adventurers and explorers for centuries. From ancient mariners charting unknown waters to modern-day sailors piloting advanced vessels, the allure of the sea beckons those with a spirit of adventure and a love for the maritime world.


Navigation Officer:

A navigation officer, often referred to as a deck officer, is responsible for safely piloting and navigating a ship from one port to another. They are skilled in the use of navigational instruments, charts, and electronic navigation systems to plot courses, avoid hazards, and ensure the safety of the vessel and its crew.

Marine Engineer:

A marine engineer is tasked with the operation, maintenance, and repair of a ship's propulsion systems, machinery, and equipment. They possess expertise in mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic systems, ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of the vessel's engines and related systems.


The galley is the heart of a ship's culinary operations, where meals are prepared and served to the crew. It is managed by skilled culinary professionals who procure ingredients, plan menus, and oversee the preparation and serving of meals to ensure the well-being and hospitality of the crew. Additionally, the Galley team manages inventory and ensures the cleanliness of the ship's areas and laundry.

In the world of maritime cuisine, galley structures are very different, depending on the type of vessel. Passenger carriers, such as grand cruise liners, resemble floating hotels with extensive galleys and kitchen facilities to cater to the diverse needs of their guests. These galleys go beyond just housing kitchen staff; they incorporate an array of service personnel, including bar staff and waiters, ensuring passengers receive top-notch service throughout their voyage. However, for the purposes of this article, the focus is on the galley structures within Merchant Ships. Unlike those on cruise liners, the galleys on Merchant Ships prioritise functionality, practicality and efficiency, primarily serving the crew's needs. While they may not be as lavish or spacious as cruise ships, they play a crucial role in sustaining the crew during long sea journeys.

Phase 1 – Foundation (High School)

Navigation Officer and Marine Engineer

·        Begin by studying foundational Science subjects including Mathematics, English, Physical Sciences, and Geography which is advantageous but not necessarily compulsory.

·        Pass Matric with a Bachelor Pass and achieve a minimum of 50% in Mathematics, English, and Physical Science.


·        Begin by focusing on subjects that provide a strong foundation in culinary skills and hospitality management, such as Home Economics or Consumer Studies.

·        Develop essential skills in mathematics and communications, as they are crucial in culinary and hospitality professions.  These are not compulsory, but advantageous.

Phase 2 – Secondary (Tertiary Education)

Navigation officer and Marine Engineer

·        Choose a career path within the maritime industry at a tertiary institution that offers maritime programs in South Africa.

·        Pursue a qualification in Nautical Studies for a career as a Navigation Officer or a qualification in Marine Engineering for a career as a Marine Engineer.

·        Options include Nelson Mandela University (Marine Engineering), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Marine Engineering and Nautical Studies), and Durban University of Technology (Nautical Studies).


·        Pursue education and training in culinary arts or hospitality management at a reputable tertiary institution.

·        Pursue qualifications such as a diploma or degree in Culinary Arts, Food and Beverage Management, or Hospitality Management.

·        Consider joining cruise lines or maritime catering companies to gain exposure to the unique challenges and opportunities of working in a shipboard environment.

By following this study path and gaining practical experience, aspiring Galley professionals can prepare themselves for a rewarding career in the maritime industry, where they play a vital role in ensuring the well-being and satisfaction of crew members through their culinary expertise and hospitality services.

Phase 3 – Certification and Training

·        After completing studies and graduating, obtain the necessary certifications required by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

·        Options for obtaining STCW certifications include self-financing the certification process or enrolling in the National Seafaring Development Programme offered by SAIMI.

Phase 4 – Onboard a Ship

Navigation officer and Marine Engineer

Deck CadeThird -Officer-Second Officer

Chief Officer-Captain


Steward-Second Cook-Chief Cook

Engine Department

Engine Cadet-Fourth Engineer-Third Engineer

Second Engineer-Chief Engineer- Engine Ratings


The South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) facilitates the skills and knowledge required for the success of the ‘Blue Economy’ and other maritime economic development initiatives such as Operation Phakisa and the African Union’s 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy.

SAIMI is a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder institute that is involved with various aspects of maritime, such as shipping, harbours, manufacturing and construction, sustainability, environment, law and marine tourism.

SAIMI also works closely with industry, academia and educational institutions involved with marine and coastal sciences. The Institute facilitates input from industry to ensure that the necessary job-related skills and training are offered.

About the author

Issued by SAIMI


More Articles

July 19, 2024

WSU Researchers Equipped with Deep Water Survival Skills