DECK Cadet, a unique program created by two NSW marine pilots, is helping young aspiring maritime workers to take advantage of an expected shortage of Australian seafarers by 2023.

Deck Cadet’s first female participant Amelia Fitzgerald said a major roadblock to a career in the maritime industry was getting the 18-months of sea time experience required to continue her studies to become a qualified worker.

“Working in maritime was in my blood but actually finding training opportunities that would give me the necessary experience at sea were extremely hard to come by,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“Deck Cadet gave me the start in the industry I needed. Just being able to get on several types of vessels, like the SeaRoad ship, which is a ro-ro ship, the Sycamore, which lands helicopters with the navy, and a rig tender was so valuable.

“In comparison with other cadets who may only see one type of ship, the Deck Cadet program was awesome in kick starting my maritime career,” she said.

Port Authority of NSW’s CEO Captain Philip Holliday said he was delighted by Amelia’s success, in the Port Authority program, which started just under two years ago and has already sponsored six young mariners.

“This is about supporting the next generation of maritime workers and ensuring the industry is future fit, including greater diversity and more women in the maritime workforce,” Captain Holliday said.

According to the 2018 Seafaring Skills Census, Australia has 5646 seafarers working in its maritime industry but over half of this workforce is aged over 46 — and only 8% is under 30.


“Forecasts are predicting a 560-plus shortage of Australian seafarers by 2023, so there are fantastic opportunities for jobs growth in this industry and we are playing a part in building that capacity,” Captain Holliday said.

“The Deck Cadet sponsorship scheme was the brainchild of two of our marine pilots, Michael Kelly and Luke Nye, and in addition to arranging placements on different vessels, the scheme also pays for cadet wages, flights to and from the ships and associated medicals.

“Michael and Luke mentor the cadets throughout and after the program.”

As a result of her placement with Port Authority, Amelia has now been offered a cadetship which sponsors her for the next four years of her at-sea experience and will cover the costs of her remaining studies.

Amelia has the following advice to younger girls and women who want to work in the maritime industry:

“Be open to giving everything a go. Do not be scared to try and do something.

“Take the initiative and really find where you fit in on the ship; because sometimes there’s only so much someone can teach you before you have to step up and take it on yourself.”