The marine economy offers a wide and diverse range of career opportunities. The occupations within the ocean economy are distributed across all levels: management (including specialist management functions), professionals (including engineers, scientists); associate professionals (e.g. technicians), operatives (riggers, deckhands); sales and elementary occupations, and reflect the diverse educational requirements: Higher (HE) and Further Education and Training (FET); Leaving Certificate; Junior Certificate and no formal qualifications.
The marine economy, both nationally and globally, has a requirement for technicians and general operatives as well as highly skilled technical staff and professionals. The core skills and knowledge of these occupations, e.g. electricians, metal workers and mechanical engineers, are relevant to both land and sea based roles and as such are transferable. The land-based skills can be “marinised” to deal with the challenges of working in an off-shore and/or a marine environment
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Occupations are offered in each of the following areas:
Ireland’s natural resource based seafood industry provides an important source of economic activity, especially in our remote coastal regions. It provides jobs on fishing vessels, fish farms, in processing operations, in distribution and marketing seafood at home and to export markets and in a large number of smaller ancillary companies that provide services to the mainstream industry operators.
Details of the specific occupations in the seafood sector and video interviews with a number of people working in the sector are available on the dedicated CareersPortal page of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the national seafood development agency or you can visit the BIM website.
Shipping and Maritime Transport
There are a wide variety of career opportunities available in the shipping and maritime transport sector both on land and at sea. Occupations include:
- Engine Utility
- Fleet Manager
- Freight Forwarder
- Marine Architect
- Marine Economist
- Marine Engineer
- Marine Finance
- Marine Insurance
- Master Mariner
- Port Security
- Ship Fitter
Marine Manufacturing, Construction and Engineering
Occupations in this sector include:
- Boat and Related Equipment Manufacturing
- Boat and Ship Repair
- Boat Manufacturing
- Marine Industrial Engineering
- Net manufacturing
- Other Marine Manufacturing
- Water Construction
Below is a brief description of one occupation in this sector.
Marine engineering deals with the design, development, production and maintenance of the equipment used at sea and on board sea vessels like boats and ships. A marine engineer is a professional who is responsible for the operation, maintenance and repair of all major mechanical and engineered equipment on board a ship.
Employers of marine engineers include:
- Research and advisory bodies
- International oil and gas organisations, drilling, maintenance and specialist service contractors
- Organisations involved in renewable energy
- Offshore contractors, Engineering design consultancies, Suppliers of materials and equipment
The sub-sectors assessed under this sector are:
- Oil and Gas Exploration and Production
- Marine Renewables – Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal
There are two distinct industries in the energy sector that relate to Ireland’s ocean economy, the offshore oil and gas sector and the offshore renewables sector.
The offshore oil and gas sector is a well-established, global industry. The oil and gas industry relies on a flexible, mobile and international workforce and there are many skilled Irish people working in the sector abroad.
There are three main areas of work in the offshore oil and gas industry:
- Exploration involves conducting surveys and tests to find worthwhile reserves of oil and gas.
- Field development involves deciding how to extract fuel, setting up production facilities and drilling wells.
- Production and maintenance involves operating and maintaining equipment. There are jobs offshore on support vessels, platforms and drilling rigs and on shore at terminals servicing the equipment and constructing new platforms.
Offshore renewables is an emerging sector, which has seen dramatic growth globally over the last ten years. The outlook for the sector is generally positive. Various companies involved in the offshore wind sector have projects at various stages of development.
In both oil & gas and marine renewables there are opportunities in engineering design, planning and project management. Offshore installations need production operatives, welders, electricians, mechanics, storekeepers and cooks. There are also jobs for divers to maintain platforms. Professional occupations in the energy sector include marine energy engineer, drilling, reservoir & petroleum engineers, geoscientists/ geophysicists, hydrographic surveyors, production & facilities engineers, environmental & chemical engineers, structural & mechanical engineers, power systems, turbine monitoring & diagnostic and smart grid engineers, wave scientists, data systems analysts, naval architects, marine surveyors, oceanographers, marine meteorologists, energy economists, master mariners and other deck officers, and engineering officers.
Employers in the energy sector include:
- Research and advisory bodies
- International oil and gas organisations, drilling, maintenance and specialist service contractors
- Organisations involved in renewable energy
- Offshore contractors, engineering design consultancies, suppliers of materials and equipment
Marine Tourism & Recreation
Marine-based tourism and recreation is a large contributor to the Irish ocean economy and has historically been an important sector for the Irish coastal economy.
Due to significant investment in initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way, which has a direct impact on marine tourism along Ireland’s western coast, further improvement in air access and the increased use of focused marketing both in Ireland and abroad, Fáilte Ireland have projected an increase in the number of overseas tourists set to visit Ireland.
Occupations in the tourism industry are available at the following levels:
- Operative Grades – bar staff, waiting staff, cleaners, drivers, retailers, general operatives
- Administration – hr staff, general administrators, receptionists
- Skilled Trades – sailing and wind surfing instructors, diving instructors canoeing/sea kayaking instructors, angling instructors, adventure sports instructors, lifeguards, boat builders, tour operators/guides, maintenance technicians, marine engine maintenance, electricians, chefs
- Associate Professional & Technical – engineering technicians and it technicians
- Professionals – marketing and public relations staff, translators, environmental managers
- Management – managers - adventure centres and marine parks, hotel and catering managers
Marine Research, Science & Technology
Marine research is carried out by the State, across Irish Higher Education Institutions and in a number of indigenous SME’s and FDI companies.
This sector includes a broad range of disciplines including science, engineering, technology, business, and humanities.
Examples of such occupations in this sector include the following:
Marine biologists study animal, plant and microscopic life in oceans. An estimated 80% of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface. Plants and animals act as indicators of the effect of human activities on the planet, such as pollution and climate change. Marine biologists play a vital role in studying these effects.
Employers of marine biologists include:
- The State such as the Marine Institute, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency
- Research teams across the Higher Education Institutes (Universities and Institutes of Technology)
- Environmental charities and non-governmental organisations
- Commercial sectors (SMEs and FDI)
- Government-run regulatory bodies
Food Safety is vital for maintaining the levels of production and quality in the fish industry. All fish and shellfish that are available for human consumption must pass rigorous health and safety checks before they reach the market (and in some cases even before they are harvested) to ensure they do not pose a risk when consumed or pose a risk of cross contamination in to other food products. All food that is made available must comply with the legal requirements as set down by both the EU and National legislation.
Laboratory analysts and chemists investigate all kinds of issues and problems relating to food safety within fish and shellfish.
Employers in this field include:
- Research and advisory bodies (such as the Marine Institute or Bord Iascaigh Mhara)
- Higher Education Institutes research teams
- Commercial sector (seafood)
- Government-run regulatory bodies (such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland; Bord Bia; Teagasc)
Oceanography is a scientific discipline concerned with all aspects of the world's oceans and seas, including their physical and chemical properties, origin and geology, and life forms.
Oceanography combines many different scientific disciplines. Oceanographers can specialise in the following areas:
- Physical oceanography is the study of the temperature, density and salt content of the oceans, as well as tides, currents, waves and ocean circulation
- Chemical oceanography focuses on the chemical composition and properties of seawater and marine sediments, and the behaviour of pollutants
- Geological oceanography is concerned with the seabed, its composition, structure and formation
- Biological oceanography is the study of the many life forms that live in the sea
Employers of oceanographers / marine meteorologists include:
- Research teams at in Higher Education Institutions
- Across the State e.g. Marine Institute
- National meteorological services, such as Met Éireann
- Companies in the water industry and energy supply companies
- Marine survey and consulting companies
- Ocean instrumentation manufacturers
- Environmental Consultancies
A person who surveys oceans is called a hydrographic surveyor. The hydrographer is involved with every aspect of ocean data from measuring currents, tides and waves, observing the ocean environment, mapping the ocean floor and exploring for the minerals that lie far beneath. Some of the activities hydrographers are involved in are:
- Charting the seas and oceans
- Environmental studies
- Exploring for fossil fuels, such as oil and gas
- Offshore engineering and construction
- Ports, harbours and coastal engineering operations
- Similar work in lakes and inland waterways
- Trans-oceanic telecommunication cables
An academic is someone who holds an advanced degree and works as a researcher at a college or university. Academics generally work within a university, combining research, teaching and administrative duties.
Academia is a competitive profession. Unsurprisingly, there is a strong emphasis on excellent qualifications. Most people entering academia are at the level of lecturer or above, and are now expected to have a doctoral level qualification, such as a PhD, EngD, DPhil, DBA etc.
Many academics spend time outside their home country to gain wider experience and to help establish an international reputation.
The sub-sector assessed under this sector is:
- High-tech marine products and services
The high tech marine products and services sector builds on Ireland’s existing marine information and communication technology (ICT), science and engineering base to develop new knowledge based products and services for global marine markets. It is an emerging sector in Ireland consisting of over 50 SMEs and a number of MNCs with core capabilities in diverse areas such as advanced sensing and communications, data management and informatics, marine robotics and artificial intelligence, materials science and marine engineering. These technologies support activity in a number of marine sectors such as oil and gas, transport and shipping, fisheries and aquaculture, coastal tourism and safety, security and surveillance. They also underpin development in emerging sectors such as marine renewable energy, marine environmental monitoring and resource management.
In recent years Ireland has invested in infrastructure to support the development of this sector into the future. This includes national test and demonstration facilities which recently received a major upgrade with the deployment of a sub-sea ocean observatory in Galway bay. This has further enhanced Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for marine technology research and innovation given its geographic location and extensive ocean resource, along with its existing research infrastructure, datasets and ICT and engineering base. The outlook for high tech marine products and services sector remains positive for the future.
Examples of occupations in Marine Technology include the following:
Marine ICT Personnel
The technology sector is growing by the second and changing every day. Here are some of the latest developments in the Marine Information Communication Technology (ICT) Sector regarding software development:
- Gaming technologies are being investigated for the creation of virtual oceans and to act as interactive design tools for marine spatial offshore explorations
- Unmanned, autonomous and remotely operated underwater vehicles are being developed at the Mobile Marine Robotics Research Centre of the University of Limerick
- 3D computer simulations of marine data have been created by the company RealSim
- SmartBay, Ireland’s National Facility for Marine ICT was set up to provide a real world test environment for the development of technology products and services for the global marine sector
- IBM has web portals that display data on environmental conditions
- Intel has developed a wireless communication system to help transmit data from the marine environment in real time.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) Pilot/Technician
ROVs are small submarines which are tethered to the surface by an umbilical cord through which electrical power is passed down to the vehicle. The same umbilical cord also allows telemetry control, video and other sensor data to pass to and from and enables the ROV pilot to ‘fly’ their mini-submarine through a huge – and ever increasing – variety of tasks.
The work you could be involved in:
- Launching and “flying” your vehicle by remote control from the surface of the water to depths of up to 165 metres (some ROVs can dive to 4,000 metres)
- Operating equipment such as cameras and interpreting data, sometimes in poor visibility, from video or sonar displays to calculate and keep track of the position of your vehicle
- Navigating the ROV’s route, avoiding hazards such as moving parts of the ship
- Operating robotic arms (if your vehicle has them), to perform simple tasks such as picking up items from the seabed
- Judging the changing weather conditions, if necessary altering the dive programme at short notice
- Relaying information during the dive, verbally on to videocassette and computer
- Regularly maintaining the ROV and its associated equipment and carrying out repairs on location
- Carrying out technical tasks: for example, rigging and operating small boats and basic electronic and hydraulic construction
- Writing technical reports and ordering spare parts by computer
Most ROV personnel are employed directly by one of the ROV operators or contractors. As well as the oil and gas industries, ROV pilot technicians find work in research institutions, civil engineering, the defence and security industry, environmental sciences and marine archaeology.
Maritime Commerce & Law
Maritime commerce refers to legal services, financial services, insurance and ship surveying. In this sector companies provide services across a range of marine categories, primarily, maritime transportation including ship finance, ship leasing, shipbroking, tourism and leisure, fisheries and aquaculture as well as energy. The majority of these companies are large international firms, who have marine-related divisions.
The general outlook for the marine commerce sector is very positive and Ireland has huge potential to grow this sector in the future.
Ship Finance / Ship Leasing
For example, Ireland’s success as a global hub for financial services and aircraft leasing is easily transferable to achieve further growth in ship finance and ship leasing. Financial services should also continue to grow given that certain financial institutions within the sector are now permitted to lend to the offshore & logistics sectors after several years of restrictions.
Maritime law is a fundamental branch of law that regulates commerce and navigation on the seas, covering a broad spectrum of matters such as the development of legislation, both nationally and internationally; customs and excise regulations; the fishing industry; human rights and employment issues usually relating to the crew; insurance claims and property damage. As the shipping and maritime industry in Ireland grows, the need for maritime law specialists will grow in tandem.
Marine Insurance is also an important area of marine commerce, with companies look for seeking employees with a good level of general education e.g. some have a relevant diploma or degree to start off as a claims executive, while others will have a basic business or maritime degree.
- Marine insurers can provide tailored solutions to such problems as:
- Delay and loss of market
- Marine business interruption
- Piracy Cover
- Stock throughputs
- Terrorism and political exposures
- Trade disruption
- Transit insurance
- War and strikes risks.
A Shipbroker can come from any walk of life, straight out of school or university or ex-seafarers. Experience at sea is not a necessity. Any graduate with a finance, business or economics background that has an interest in international trading and finance would be well advised to consider shipbroking as a career.
Traditional shipbroking centres such as London are now competing with emerging centres as technology allows us to move away from the traditional market locations. New areas such as Ireland, South Africa, India and China are seeing more brokers being set up to service the increasing business. There are also significant markets in such places as Oslo, London, Hamburg, Paris, New York, Houston Vancouver, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Dubai, and New Delhi.
Shipbrokers are important providers of maritime insurance. Brokers are central to the efficient working of the marine insurance market. Like intermediaries in any business sector, brokers face competition from other service providers, as well as from the internet and the increasing opportunities, which it is said to provide for clients to deal directly with underwriters.
Marine Biotechnology and Bioproducts
Marine biotechnology is the use of biological knowledge and analytical and processing techniques to develop new products from marine biological materials. It exploits the diversity of marine organisms in terms of form, structure, physiology and chemistry. The sector also includes seaweed harvesting.
The future potential for the sector lays in higher value added products such as functional ingredients and foods. The transition through the value chain is happening very gradually as the industry in its current state is quite focused on raw materials and products that require minimal processing.
Jobs in this sector can be found at all occupation levels – operative, administration, skilled trades, associate professional & technical, professionals, and management.
For a full list of occupations please see page 53 of A Study of the Current and Future Skills Requirements of the Marine / Maritime Economy to 2020.