Ship's Master

More than 96% of South Africa’s imports and exports is transported by sea. Well positioned along some of the world’s most important sea trading routes and with access to eight commercial ports, South Africa’s shipping industry is a key contributor to the economy, economic growth and trade development. Efficient and safe operation of shipping vessels is vital to maintaining health and safety of seafaring staff as well as managing impacts on the marine environment.

Ship’s masters control and manage the operation of ships and other marine vessels. They navigate marine vessels through challenging ports and narrow waterways, as well as make voyage plans and consult weather forecasts to ensure the safest journey to a destination. They recruit and supervise ship crew, making sure they abide by all maritime law regulations and safety procedures. They also do regular checks of equipment and inventory and oversee all required maintenance and repairs.

Ship’s masters can work at sea for many days and months at a time, exposed to harsh weather conditions. They mainly work in the control station cabin of large shipping vessels but do regular patrols of the vessel and participate in deck and bridge watch activities.


Ships masters require practical experience in the operation and control of marine vessels under varied conditions and a comprehensive understanding of maritime law and safety regulations, along with:

  • Excellent navigation skills  
  • Geographical understanding of domestic and international waters
  • Strong planning and organisational competence
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills


Control and direct marine vessels during berthing and mooring

Navigate the vessels course, recording route alteration and daily occurrences

Manage and maintain operational expenditure and budgets

Coordinate cargo loading and discharge operations


Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Nautical or Maritime Studies at CPUT and DUT  

Ship’s masters can also benefit from a Certificate in Vessel Commander or Ships Master accredited by the South African Maritime Safety Authority offered at Sea Safety Training Group, South African Maritime School and Transport College and South African Maritime Training Academy.


Shipping companies.

Ferry and charter companies.

Cruise ship companies.

Military and defence force.

Related career paths