What Does a Marine Cargo Inspector Do?

Research what it takes to become a marine cargo inspector. Learn about education and training, job growth, and salary statistics to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Marine Cargo Inspector?

Marine cargo inspectors are responsible for evaluating the cargo that is loaded on and unloaded from sea vessels. Depending on the ship's route, they check that all shipments remain in compliance with national and/or international health and safety regulations in order to guard against problems like the spread of infectious disease. They may also make sure that cargo is properly packaged, so that there will be no damage to the ship or the other cargo if a package opens during the journey.

Take a look at the following table to see how to enter this field.

Degree Required Formal education not always required
Training Required On-the-job training offered by some employers
Key Skills Examine and weigh cargo, issue certificates, offer compliance recommendations, advise crews on safety precautions
Certification Optional certification available from the National Association of Marine Surveyors
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% for all transportation inspectors*
Annual Median Wage (2015) $70,820 for all transportation inspectors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Marine Cargo Inspectors

A marine cargo inspector -- sometimes called a marine surveyor -- may check cargo for private companies or a government agency. You might examine cargo for diseases or regulatory violations. You may inspect a specific type of cargo, such as food or livestock. Marine cargo inspectors also weigh cargo to ensure a vessel is not overloaded.

Additional duties might include keeping records of your findings and issuing certificates if cargo has passed inspection. You might check safety gear and licenses to ensure they're up to date. If you find a violation, you could offer compliance recommendations to a vessel's captain. Some inspectors advise crews on the proper way to handle and store dangerous substances.

Career Qualifications

Formal education is not always required to work as a marine cargo inspector; employers may offer on-the-job training. Although rare, some postsecondary marine surveying programs are available that may prepare you for this kind of work.

If you're interested in working for the Department of Homeland Security, you might consider applying to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol Academy. The academy's Border Patrol Agent program provides training in regulatory compliance, physical stamina and the use of firearms. After completing the academy's program, you could be prepared to work for the CBP as a cargo inspector.

If you'd like to work in a civilian position, you may consider earning certification from the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS). You can earn the NAMS Certified Marine Surveyor designation if you have at least five years of experience in the field (www.namsglobal.org).

What's the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), transportation inspectors held 25,860 jobs in 2015. The BLS also projected average job growth in this field of 1% for the period of 2014-2024. As of May 2015, transportation inspectors earned a median annual salary of $70,820.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in working as an inspector, there are several other job options available. For example, as a flight inspector, you would be responsible for making sure that aircraft systems and equipment comply with government regulations. For this job, you need to have a high school degree and pass a licensure exam. Outside of the transportation industry, you could consider a position as a fire inspector. These professionals evaluate buildings to make sure that they are in line with fire codes. Also, after a fire has occurred, they investigate the event to reduce risks in the future. The minimum education requirement is a high school diploma.

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