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Radio Officers Jobs - Then & Now

written by: priya18 • edited by: KennethSleight • updated: 6/12/2009

The article describes the history and current status of communication in the marine industry and the job profile of the radio officers that are entrusted with these responsibilities.

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    Radio Officer Employment

    If it had not been the SOS call sent by the radio officer aboard Titanic, there would surely have been no survivors. Radio officers are responsible for operating all the telecommunication equipment and radio sets available on the ship that are being used to remain in communication with the ports and also the neighboring ships. The radio officers have to ascertain that all the international radio communication laws are being followed while the messages are being sent and received.

    Radio Officer at Work 

    A Brief History of Radio Communication in Shipping Industry

    In the old times captains’ of the ships were troubled souls as the vessels were not provided with good electronic infrastructure making marine field duty an extremely difficult task which didn’t find many takers. But come 19th century and number of innovations in the marine industry took the modern shipping industry millions of nautical miles ahead of traditional shipping in just a few decades. The radio electronic system is one such innovation which is equipped in a ship to communicate with the port headquarters, other ships moving along in sea and to assess the climatic conditions. The maritime workers now are safer than before and the voyage is now quite comfortable with minimum nostalgia.

    The earliest radio operators were called wireless operators and first went to sail on merchant ships at the beginning of the 19th century. Ever since radio officers have become a key link in ensuring the safety of the ship, its passengers and crew members. During both the world wars many heroic tales of radio officers were heard who went that extra mile to protect their ship from wreckage. With the introduction of GMDSS (Automated Global Marine Distress and Safety Systems) in 1990 electro technical officers are now being recruited to deal with the modern sophisticated communication equipments.

    Job Profile of Radio Officers in Shipping Industry

    The main responsibility of the radio officers is to maintain the radio room in the ship. Other duties involve:

    • Maintaining radio devices like radiotelegraph and radiotelephone to send and receive messages
    • Monitor the ship’s progress, emergency situations, distress calls and communicate them to headquarters.
    • Run the system generator on, and has to operate switches related to antennas and radars effectively
    • Code and decode messages as per the instructions provided

    Radio officers are always on their toes monitoring every aspects of the shipping voyage. These officers can easily repair damages happening to the radar system. Like every other marine employee they have to stay on ship for maximum part of their work life.

    Qualification Required to Become Radio Officers

    To apply for the post of radio officer you require a university degree and a maritime diploma certificate from any recognized institute. A secondary electrical engineering knowledge is required so that small repairs could be carried out in case of faulty radar systems or signal set breakages. Besides a good knowledge of English is a must for all the radio officer job applicants. If you want to apply for a job you should be physically fit and have to clear the written tests and physical fitness test conducted by the authorities. Once selected all the radio officers undergo a mandatory practical training before being inducted into the ship.

    Job Prospects for Radio Officers

    With the introduction of satellite communication and GMDSS there are not many vacancies that are available for the radio officers on the vessels at present. All the commercial communication is now being handled by the captain of the ship. Duties are being assigned to the deck officers to handle all the security related communication and GMDSS data processing. However few shipping companies are still hiring radio officers for their offshore installations or by cruise liners. With deepening oil crises and countries looking towards sea for oil exploration, there is a hope that new jobs will be created in the coming years.

    With sophisticated marine technology, the rate of distress in marine domain is gradually reduced to ensure a safe career most of the times. So, if you are interested in maritime jobs, if you are brave enough to handle extreme marine tasks, then this is one of the marine career opportunity that can be explored.

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    References

    Image of Radio Offcer taken from Military Sea Lift Command, US Navy.