Naval Architect

Job description

A naval architect is a professional engineer who is responsible for the design, construction and repair of ships and boats including:

  • Merchant ships – tankers, cargo ships, passenger liners, etc.;
  • Ferries;
  • Warships;
  • Submarines;
  • High-speed craft;
  • Working vessels – fishing boats, rescue boats, etc.;
  • Pleasure craft – yachts, power boats, etc.

They also work on the design and construction of marine installations such as off-shore drilling platforms.

Modern engineering on this scale is a team activity conducted by professional engineers in their respective fields and disciplines. The naval architect integrates their activities and takes ultimate responsibility for the overall project, being careful to ensure that a safe, economic and seaworthy design is produced.

Naval architects must have an understanding of many branches of engineering and must be at the forefront of high technology areas such a computer-aided design.

Typical work activities

Naval architects have a broad range of employment opportunities, both in the UK and worldwide. Activities vary according to the post, but may typically include:

  • Designing ships and boats, and related components and specialist equipment, using complex mathematical and physical models to ensure that the ship’s design is satisfactory technically and that it complies with safety regulations;
  • Planning the whole build process of a vessel, managing everything from concept through to delivery of the final product;
  • Acting as a consultant – providing clients with engineering solutions, technical and commercial guidance, support and project management for concept design studies, new vessel constructions, refits and conversions;
  • Undertaking maritime research in universities and industry;
  • Risk analysis of ships and marine structures, using the regulations of classification societies and intergovernmental organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation,, to assess aspects of design such as strength, stability and lifesaving;
  • Providing onboard safety training for ships crews (for naval architects with seafaring experience).

Operational areas of work within shipping companies include:

  • Taking responsibility for the many phases of ship and equipment procurement;
  • Solving problems affecting the economics of maritime operations.

Naval architects who specialise in construction may take responsibility for the management of a whole shipyard or for sections of it, such as planning, production or the complex operation of fitting out.

Naval architects may also occasionally teach courses in higher education institutions.

Depending on the type of qualifications they hold and on their personal interests, naval architects may become specialists in one field or develop broad experience in several.