Become a Marine Cargo Inspector: Job Description and Requirements

Jan 02, 2019

Learn how to become a marine cargo inspector. Research the job description and the education requirements and find out how to start a career in marine cargo inspection.

Should I Become a Marine Cargo Inspector?

Marine cargo inspectors board vessels to investigate all baggage and freight listed on the ship's manifest. Inspectors may be responsible for checking the condition of the cargo and verifying the cargo's documentation. They may also examine the cargo bay of the ship, fuel compartments, and other equipment to make sure everything operates correctly and safely.

Marine cargo inspectors spend their time inspecting ships in all kinds of weather and in an office, during which they draw up their findings in reports. Some travel may be required to get to ships' locations. Inspectors may be exposed to risks such as dangerous equipment, toxic materials, and loud noises. Protective clothing and gear is necessary. Most inspectors work full-time, generally during normal business hours.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Usually an associate's or bachelor's degree, although some college coursework may be acceptable
Degree Field Marine engineering, naval architecture or related field
Experience 2-4 years of industry experience
Key Skills Ability to read and follow directions, work independently, be organized, manage time and direct others; Familiarity with equipment for lifting and placing freight items, as well as knowledge of ships' systems
Salary (2014) $70,810 (median for all transportation inspectors)

Sources:, O*Net Online, job postings from August 2012, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

Many cargo and freight inspectors, including marine cargo inspectors, have college degrees; however, some college coursework or extensive experience may be sufficient. Training related to marine cargo inspection is available from military institutions, like the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as civilian educational institutions. Membership in the military is not usually required to obtain this training. Since marine cargo inspectors need to have mechanical and structural knowledge of ships, cargo and other equipment, employers may prefer applicants with degrees in marine engineering or other similar technology fields.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Most marine cargo inspector jobs require a few years of related work experience. One possible way to gain this experience could be to obtain a lower-level position with an organization that employs marine cargo inspectors, such as the U.S. Coast Guard. Experience with laws and regulations about navigating and inspecting vessels is likely to be helpful, as is experience creating analyses and evaluations. In some cases, apprentice programs in this field may be offered.

Success Tip:

  • Get in shape. Marine inspection is a physically demanding job, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The job may involve climbing ladders, standing for extended periods and working in confined spaces or high above the ground.

Step 3: Career Advancement

Marine cargo inspectors interested in other aspects of marine technology might consider earning a bachelor's degree in marine engineering, if they haven't already done so. A degree in marine engineering is the most common way to prepare for work as an engineer. In addition, experienced inspectors with managerial skills may seek promotion to supervisory roles.

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