Hydrographic systems operator

Naval Hydrographic Systems Operators not only assist in the creation of accurate seabed and coastline charts for navigational and military purposes, they help search for mines, underwater explosives, missing persons, sunken vessels, operate Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).

As a Naval Hydrographic Systems Operator you will need to be adaptable to change, be physically fit, work well under pressure, enjoy a challenge and become familiar with rapidly advancing computer technology.  You will also work towards gaining internationally recognised qualifications in Hydrographic Surveying, and the operation of Autonomous Vehicles.

The majority of your time is spent away either at sea or on location conducting small boat surveys. Tasks required within this specialised position include:

  • Monitoring of bridge survey computer equipment
  • Recording data observed by the charge surveyor
  • Recording tidal observations
  • Driving 4WD vehicles
  • Preparing survey equipment for deployment
  • Cleaning and maintenance of survey instruments
  • Assisting in the set up and operation of shore surveying stations
  • Maintaining survey records


While at sea you will be required to work on the Bridge of the ship as Helmsman or Online System Operators and should expect to work in this capacity for at least 2 x 4 hour shifts in every 24-hour period, as well as completing hydrographic and other work duties as required.

At sea you will have an important role to play in the ship’s operational organisation. During times, such as “action stations”, you may be a member of a small boats crew, refuelling at sea crew, and the man overboard recovery unit. Damage Control is an important aspect onboard all HMNZ Ships, and you will be required to participate in realistic fire and flood exercises. You could also be a member of a Beach Survey Team conducting beach surveys and reconnaissance in preparation for the landing of Defence Force personnel and stores, both in New Zealand and where required in the Pacific region.

You will start your career with basic common training before completing your first hydrographic course, during your basic trade training phase.  Following successful completion you will have on the job training period with the Military Hydrographic Group (MHG) based ashore and at sea to develop core navigation and seamanship skills.

Once fully trained you will be skilled in hydrographic surveying, assisting in searching for mines utilising autonomous underwater vehicles (remote underwater search), piloting of Remote Piloted Air System (Drones), driving a number of watercraft (Workboats, RHIBs and Zodiacs), driving heavy vehicles and many more qualifications.  You will primarily be a part of the operational unit. HMNZS MATATAUA, and be deployed via land, sea and air in New Zealand and overseas.  This will include assisting Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief efforts, Land based deployments as an integral part of the Maritime Mine Warfare Force, assisting the New Zealand Police in search and recovery or conducting hydrographic surveys to assist with the freedom to manoeuvre for both RNZN ships and other waterborne craft.

Careers in the Navy are well-rewarded, as well as being diverse and exciting. As you become more experienced and move up through the ranks, gaining additional skills and qualifications, you will see your salary rise accordingly.

While undertaking Basic Recruit Course you will be paid as a Recruit (see attached pay table). On completion of your Recruit Course you will be paid as an Ordinary Rate and your pay will continue to increase as your career progresses.

  • You must be at least 17 years of age.
  • Meet the citizenship & security requirements to gain SV security clearance for this trade.
  • You must be free of any criminal convictions.

You must have achieved the NCEA level 1 Literacy and Numeracy requirements.

Find out more about the NCEA levels and certificate requirements

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

Upon successful enlistment into the Navy you’ll be posted to Devonport Navy base in Auckland. Here you will complete your basic training. Find out more about basic training.

On completion of Basic Common Training you will begin your Basic Branch Training (13 weeks) which comprises of Phase 1 Seamanship (5 Weeks) and Phase 2 Hydrographic (8 Weeks) training. When completed you will be posted to the Maritime Survey Team to conduct ongoing training and familiarisation. Seamanship training includes:

  • Helmsman duties and bridge lookout
  • Slipping & berthing
  • Boat operations
  • Anchoring
  • Crane operations & rigging
  • Replenishment at sea
  • Towing
  • Recovery of personnel and materials from the sea
  • Upper deck maintenance & ship’s husbandry

On completion of the basic branch training you will complete specialised courses covering:

  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) Handlers and Operators Course,
  • Hydrographic theory, 
  • Mine Counter Measures - operations and tactics, 
  • Advanced First Aid and Firefighting,
  • Introduction into Geographic Information Systems,
  • Navigators Yeoman (Navigation & Chart correction course),
  • Four Wheel Driving courses,
  • Truck Driver (Classes 2-5)


Hydrographic Systems Operators complete additional specialised courses as their career progresses. Soon after which you will gain your Skipper Restricted Limits Certificate, and be promoted from Hydrographic Survey Operator to Hydrographic Survey Technician.

On completion of a six month hydrographic course in the UK or Australia, you are accredited as an internationally recognised Category B Hydrographic Surveyor, and on completion of a competencies log gain a Diploma in Hydrographic surveying and Diploa in Spatial Information Services.

Can you think of a more exciting way to get an internationally recognised surveying qualification?

Devonport Naval Base