Harbour Master

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Dilip, 54

What does a harbour master do?

Dilip has the ultimate responsibility for all vessels entering or leaving the Port of Geelong. Licensed by Maritime Safety Victoria and employed by the Victorian Regional Channel Authority, his job is to oversee its daily operations, ensuring ships safely navigate the area, as well as maintaining the delicate environmental balance between the port's commercial enterprises and the local marine life.

How did you become a harbour master?

Because the Harbour Master is like the captain of all ship's captains, you can't just leave school, print up business cards and accept the job. Dilip's journey began in 1969 when he joined a merchant vessel in Goa, India as a cadet, "the lowest form of marine life," he jokes. From there, 10 years of seafaring experience as well as several levels of standardised examinations (offered in Australia by the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania) saw him achieve the rank of Captain.

Although you don't require this rank to ascend to Dilip's position, all current Australian Harbour Masters share this qualification. "The experience it provides is something that you can't get out of books," Dilip states. "I could talk to you for three months but it wouldn't be the same as spending a day on a working ship. It's a fantastic thing for young people to do. Imagine boarding a ship in Melbourne, stopping at Fremantle, then onto Mauritius before traveling through the English Channel on your way to Poland. There's a great sense of adventure."

What does a typical working day involve?

Today, the Port of Geelong is shrouded in fog and Dilip checks up on one of his controllers. A ship is holding for the fog to clear and it is the controller's job to maintain contact with the pilot and advise on the situation. Later in the day Dilip will travel to across the bay to attend a meeting with an environmental group regarding the impact of the shipping on sea grasses. "It's important to keep the dialogue open," he claims, "It allows them to understand the commercial nature of the port, and us to understand the environmental impact."

Are there any tips for getting a job as a Harbour Master?

"You need to have a deep desire to be part of the industry. No wind is favourable when you don't know which direction you're heading," reveals Dilip. Even though a long time will be spent moving up the ranks, those years will be surrounded by like-minded people, enjoying a real sense of camaraderie as well as seeing the sights of the world. "I've made life-long friends from my time on ships, and if I was nineteen now I'd do it all over again."

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

"I honestly don't have any cons," enthuses Dilip. "I live and breathe this job. While I do miss being on a ship sometimes, this way allows me be home with my family every night and still be around the industry that I love. I'd recommend it to anyone."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).