• Service
  • Specialisation
    Naval Reserve
  • Location
    ​Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin

About the role

The Maritime Trade Operations (MTO) is a specialist area that is run for the Navy solely by the Naval Reserve within the Royal New Zealand Navy Operations Branch. The MTO team liaises between the New Zealand Defence Force and the maritime industry by completing tasks such as port-based liaison, briefing of merchant vessels' masters, vessel tracking and maritime operational analysis. Ensuring that the NZDF is well connected to our shipping and port industries is a vital area that impacts upon New Zealand's trading ability and maritime security.

People from the shipping / maritime / logistics industry

MTO has traditionally been an interface between the RNZN and the merchant marine and maritime industry. That is the genesis of MTO, and that is still where MTO can continue to add significant value to the RNZN. For example, MTO personnel in New Zealand and overseas have in the past;

  • provided the Navy with specific information on vessels and their potential use for Defence purposes,
  • arranged for vessels to be boarded at sea as part of NZDF exercises in preparation for deployments to the Persian Gulf,
  • obtained useful information from ships' masters about piracy practices and the methods used to thwart attacks on merchant vessels.

In order to continue to provide practical and useful information and advice, MTO is looking to recruit people with experience in shipping and the maritime industry. By way of example, professions and trades of interest to MTO include;

  • master mariners (from both the coastal and international trades) who are either still working at sea or who have decided to come ashore
  • professional skippers (for example, from offshore fishing vessels or supply vessels)
  • harbour pilots
  • tug masters
  • employees of one of New Zealand’s port companies
  • shipping agents
  • shipping company employees
  • marine surveyors, marine insurers
  • lecturers / tutors at maritime colleges
  • people involved in logistics, particularly maritime logistics (e.g. freight forwarders), road and rail logistics, provedores and stevedores
  • other people linked to / associated with the maritime / shipping / offshore fishing industry

People with prior experience in the defence force

MTO is particularly interested in people from a military, and particularly a Naval background, and especially personnel with experience / qualifications in the following areas;

  • VRX
  • Communicators
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Intelligence
  • Supply / logistics
  • Training

Government agency experience

The New Zealand Government has made it clear that it expects all government departments and agencies to work together to achieve the Government’s goals. Examples of this “whole of government” approach include the Navy making available its patrol craft to assist Customs, Fisheries and Conservation officers with their missions policing the sea coast and looking after offshore islands, and the National Maritime Coordination Centre, where Defence personnel work with Police, Customs and other agencies.

In the context of MTO, we are interested in people who work in or have experience working in the agencies that are responsible for border control and the coastal environment. This means that we need people who come from a range of government departments and agencies, and in particular;

  • NZ Customs Service
  • NZ Police
  • Maritime NZ
  • Ministry of Primary Industries

People with analytical skills

A recent development is the growth of MTO as a resource for the Navy and for the NZDF, developing information resources from open source material on New Zealand’s trade routes and on markets for New Zealand goods and services, and on markets from which New Zealand derives imports, particularly in the South Pacific. These resources are comprehensive (sometimes running to 200 – 300 pages).

These documents – Information Briefing Memoranda, or IBMs, are entirely unclassified resources. The advantage of the MTO products is that they are a resource that the RNZN and NZDF can freely distribute – either to NZDF personnel who may be deployed to one or other of the South Pacific Islands – or to partner navies.

To prepare these IBMs we need people who have an interest in the world, are skilled in undertaking research, can quickly read through large volumes of information and identify relevant material, organise that material in a logical way, and write up high quality commentary.

The kind of skill sets that this requires are those of a policy analyst / researcher. People who are academically inclined and prepared to do research and analysis and writing, and who can communicate well, are of value to MTO. Potential recruits can come from backgrounds as disparate as geography, history, political science, anthropology, any scientific specialty, engineering, linguists/language specialists, lawyers, teachers/lecturers, town planners, etc.

People with IT, geospatial intelligence and project management experience

MTO needs to have a strong IT capability which can enable it to;

  • Set up its own IT networks
  • Undertake data mining / analysis
  • Manage software tools and extract maximum benefit from them

The need to have access to skills required to get the best use out of software tools, set up networks, analyse data and attend to IT issues generally, requires that MTO have personnel with excellent IT skills.

By way of example, MTO Reservists have been used to assist with;

Development of a Common Operating Picture (COP) using ARC GIS software

During the international Exercise Bell Buoy 13, MTO used a non Defence system to generate a COP because the wide range of participating nations meant that it was not appropriate to use restricted NZDF systems. MTO therefore used an ARC GIS system with assistance from a software company – and incorporated a live Automated Information System (AIS) feed showing movement of all commercial shipping and aircraft in real time.

Further development of an MTO deployable information technology capability

MTO has 10 deployable kits with Unclassified laptops, printers, 22inch external screens, wireless routers and GPS units and accompanying cables and accessories in large waterproof Pelican containers. These deployment kits provide MTO with the capability to travel anywhere and set up one or more mobile Shipping Coordination Points.

Maximizing the value from miscellaneous software

MTO personnel have been trained in the use of a software tool that can generate documentation for use in amphibious operations. The type of people we need to maximize the benefit of the software are those with an IT or mathematical / statistical background

MTO personnel need to have the ability to use a wide range of software products including Automated data Processing software such as Namesis, the full range of Microsoft products and SharePoint, and other platforms such as APAN in order to manage MTO organisation and outputs. During Exercise Bell Buoy 13 MTO had to set up an alternative system for managing message traffic in a matter of a couple of hours.

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Career progression and training

Basic Training

Job Training

Time Commitment



Your introduction to the Navy begins with a three-week basic training course at the Tamaki Leadership Centre in Whangaparaoa where you will train alongside your Regular Force counterparts in the rank of Midshipman. On successful completion of this training you will be promoted to Ensign.

You will then start training with the Maritime Trade Organisation branch of the Naval Reserve. The first qualification, MTO level 1, consists of three courses which will introduce you to merchant shipping, the maritime industry, trade, merchant vessel navigation and tracking. On completion of this qualification you will work with a Port Liaison Team to gain practical experience.

The second qualification, MTO level 2, consist of a single course which will provide you with the skills necessary to manage MTO operations including liaison with Ship Masters and the wider maritime industry at an operational level.

On successful completion you will be eligible for posting in support of MTO and other NZDF exercises and operations. All MTO Officers enter into the Operations sphere and on successful completion of both MTO qualifications may be considered for further training as MTO Analysts, Planning or Training Officers.

Naval reservists commit to undertake a minimum of 20 days training each year which includes:

  • Evening parades (generally every second week)
  • Monthly training session held over a weekend
  • 10–14 days of full time training per year

You are required to wear a uniform which is supplied free of charge.

Promotion prospects within the branch are excellent; in fact two of the current Naval Reserve Commanders have been promoted from the MTO specialisation. Promotion is based on merit and as well as meeting the training requirements, reservists are expected to gain and maintain a standard of fitness.

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As a Reservist you are paid on an hourly rate rather than a salary. Pay rates depend on the role you are in and your rank; your pay will increase as move through the ranks. Reservists in the Navy are paid on a graduating pay scale depending on rank. You will be paid for your attendance on an hourly basis.

Entry requirements



Fitness and Medical


Period of Service

  • Be a minimum of 17 years of age upon entry.
  • Be free of any criminal convictions for the previous two years.
  • Must produce evidence that you can swim (the Navy swim test requires individuals to swim 50 metres and tread water for 3 minutes in overalls).

Qualifications for this role will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

  • You must be medically fit for service.
  • Colour perception restrictions may apply.

There are strict citizenship and security requirements to gain the required SV security clearance for this trade.

Find out if you’re eligible here.

There may be a return of service period for this trade.

Please contact our 0800 number or talk to your Candidate Experience Facilitator for more information.


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