What is Naval Architecture: Careers, Courses And Jobs For Naval Architects

Over the past century, naval technology has developed leaps and bounds. Ships and other sea-going vessels along with the technologies of marine navigation and shipbuilding have seen huge advancements and this has led to the establishment of various dedicated fields of study. Naval architecture is one such specialized field, which is an integral part of the shipping industry.

What is Naval Architecture?

Naval architecture is the name given to the science and engineering of designing and manufacturing of sea-going vessels such as ships, yachts, powerboats, steamers, tugs, fishing boats, barges, warships, cruise ships, icebreakers and even submarines. In addition to these, the study of naval architecture also deals with the design and manufacturing of offshore structures of all kinds whether commercial or military.

Each of these structures whether permanent ones, offshore or the movable ones such as floating structures, have undergone vast changes with the development of this particular field of technology.

Naval architecture has been instrumental in the evolution of the new age sea machines and ports – some of these are very high-valued, complex piece of engineering structures ever created by mankind.

naval architect

A naval architect specializes in every facet of maritime activities such as dredging, shipment and transportation, offshore drilling etc. This is the field that caters to discipline of the shipping industry right from the research and development, designing, building and repairing of all above-mentioned machines. The naval architect is not only responsible for the development aspect, but also for the economic feasibility, values and safety of the marine vessels and related units.

Read what naval architects do here.

It is of utmost importance that a naval architect is updated with all that is latest in the maritime field and also stays connected with the new developments and research. These professionals also have to be excellent at coordinating with other professionals who are experts in the marine disciple, for e.g. scientists, marine surveyors, engineers of all departments, seafarers, accountants, mariners and even entrepreneurs.

Naval architecture

The experts from the industry are able to provide the best views on new developing marine details and the varying needs, and naval architects should learn how to inculcate these details while designing and manufacturing ships and other marine structure. Thus teamwork comes into play for the smooth functioning of the operations of this field.

A naval architect also needs to be extremely good with management and team coordination. Any person who involves himself in the field of naval architecture should have the characteristics of patience, understanding, time management, man management, eye for details and teamwork etc.

In terms of the technical contents, this profession is a beautiful blend of art and science, as it involves a creative and artistic thought as well as a studious and knowledgeable mind. Working knowledge of other departments is an advantage that is welcome for anyone who wants to make a career in this field.

The Naval Architecture industry has had a long-lasting impact on the socio-economic status of the world and it would be safe to say that the developments that the marine world has witnessed over the course of the last century would not have been possible without the blossoming of the field of naval architecture.

How to Become a Naval Architect?

Note: The procedure of becoming a naval architect depends on the country one belongs to. One should be able to find information about their respective country by going through the website of some prominent maritime academies. 

For E.g. in India, the universities offering the best naval architecture courses of the country are:

  • Indian Maritime University, Visakhapatnam Campus
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

One would have to qualify in the IMU-CET test (a common entrance exam) for being eligible to be offered admission to Indian Maritime University, Visakhapatnam Campus. For the IITs, one would have to secure a decent rank in the IIT-JEE (Advanced) examination.

There are other private universities that offer this course. Admission to these institutions can be secured by qualifying their respective entrance examinations.

What is the Ranking Hierarchy for a Naval Architecture Profession?

There is no fixed ranking hierarchy for naval architects. In a design firm, a fresh graduate naval architect can work his way up to the ladder to hold positions of highest technical responsibility in the organisation. The same holds for shipyards and classification societies. However, to make ones way to the tier 1managementt level of an organisation, management education is necessary.

What are the Main Software and Tools Used by Naval Architects?

It depends on what one is working on. At the initial design stage, software packages like NAPA and Rhino are widely used for surface modelling. Aveva Marine Initial Design™, Maxsurf Modeller, Autohydro are used for stability analyses. Aveva Marine Initial Design™ is also widely used for hydrodynamic analysis.

Hydrodynamics and Resistance Calculations can be carried out using packages like Shipflow, ANSYS Fluent, and StarCCM. For seakeeping, manoeuvring, and diffraction analysis packages like StarCCM, OpenFOAM, WAMIT, ANSYS Aqwa and OrcaFlex are widely used.

In the production design stage, specific modules of packages like AVEVA Marine, FORAN, NUPAS CADMATIC, and NAPA STEEL are engaged in the process. The choice of software is a function of the type of vessel, its size, the requirements of the design, and other technical offerings of the package. ANSYS modules are also widely used for structural analyses.

Apart from these, it is important to note that a good hold over Microsoft Excel is necessary for a good designer, as a lot of preliminary data analyses, and naval architectural calculations are carried out in MS Excel.

How are the Job market and Prospects of Naval Architects? 

The job market for naval architects depends on the country one is looking at. While the shipbuilding sector in India is yet to achieve its full potential compared to those other Asian and EU nations, there are opportunities for good talent in the country. The primary areas that employ naval architects in India are ship design firms, Classification societies, shipyards (public and private), and marine consultancy firms.

When one looks at similar opportunities overseas, they are better both in terms of the technical exposure and the pay packages. Many big ship-repair docks in the middle east, sub-sea oil exploration technology design companies, shipping companies in other Asian countries provide attractive opportunities, but also look for suitable talent and experience.

Future prospects can also include higher education and research work in areas of structural engineering, sub-sea engineering, naval architecture and ship design, etc. Reputed universities like –

  • Osaka University- Japan,
  • The University of New Orleans-the USA,
  • University of Southampton- UK,
  • University of Strathclyde- UK,
  • University of Michigan- USA, etc.

These universities provide world-class opportunities for higher education and research in the field of naval architecture.

What is the Lifestyle of a Naval Architect?

The lifestyle of a naval architect varies depending on various factors like work domain, job location, etc. The first few years of a naval architect are best invested in acquiring the required skills that would enable him/her to perform at higher levels of responsibility in the future. This may include working on specific software modules and gaining expertise in them, diversifying one’s experience through exposure to multiple kinds of projects, attending relevant conferences and industry conclaves, and keeping oneself updated with the latest technologies in the industry by subscription to the top journals. In the long term, when most of the learning is done, a naval architect acts as a conduit between the multiple functional stakeholders in a design project.

What are the Names of Some Popular Companies that hire Naval architects?

Some popular companies that hire naval architects in India are:

Public Sector Shipyards

1) Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited

2) Garden Reach Shipbuilders Limited

3) Cochin Shipyard Limited

4) Goa Shipyard Limited

5) Hindustan Shipyard Limited

Private Sector Shipyards

1) Larsen and Toubro Shipbuilding

2) Reliance Defence Industries Limited

3) Tebma Shipyard Limited

Classification Societies

1. Indian Register of Shipping

2. Lloyds Register

Marine Design Consultancies and Firms

1) Vedam Design

2) Aries Marine Consultants

3) Marintek

4) Conceptia

5) Buoyancy Consultants

The opportunities increase manifold in the international arena. Some of the largest shipyards like Samsung Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi, Keppel Shipyard, Drydocks World-Dubai, Fincantieri and others of the top league provide world-class opportunities and exposure to naval architects. Most of the world class shipyards also offer the latest design experience in their respective design departments.

All the classification societies worldwide are the most suitable place to work for naval architects who look for specialisation in rule development, plan approval, and marine surveying. Apart from these, there are many software development companies that look for naval architects for providing better software solutions to their customers.

What Further Studies can a Naval architect do?

A naval architect can pursue a range of specialisations offered by various universities. Some of them are ship design, structural design, marine structures, hydrodynamic design and offshore structures design. The range of specialisations and course offerings vary according to the universities offering them. We’ve mentioned some of them previously.

What are the Famous Naval Architecture Colleges in India and abroad?

In India, the universities offering the best naval architecture courses of the country are:

1) Indian Maritime University, Visakhapatnam Campus

2) Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

3) Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

4) AMET University, Chennai

Some of the universities that are globally known for their naval architecture courses are:

1) Osaka University- Japan

2) The University of New Orleans- USA

3) University of Southampton- UK

4) University of Strathclyde- UK

5) University of Michigan- USA

What are Some Famous Books that Naval Architects Must Have?

Though there is a range of books that a naval architecture can refer to, there are a few that every naval architect refers to in his/her career:

1) Principles of Naval Architecture (By Edward V. Lewis, SNAME)
2) Basic Ship Theory (By E.C. Tupper and K.J Rawson)
3) Introduction to Naval Architecture (By E.C. Tupper)
4) Ship Stability for Masters and Mates (By D.R. Derret)
5) Ship Construction and Welding (By N.R. Mandal)

What are the Differences Between Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering?

The difference is significant. The expertise of a naval architect lies in designing and building ships, submarines and other marine structures. Due to their complex engineering, a naval architect is a professional who brings together the contributions of a mechanical engineer, electrical and electronics engineer, material engineer, and other disciplines to suitably apply them on marine design. At any stage of the design or construction, the only go-to person who could have an overview of all the nuances involved is a naval architect, because he not only acts as a point of contact between all the involved engineering applications, but also has knowledge on Stability, Hydrostatics, Strength and Structural Design, Classification Society Rules, SOLAS Rules, Resistance and Powering, General Arrangement Layout, and all the design details in the project.

A marine engineer, however, is someone who specialises in operating and maintaining all the engineering systems used on a ship. When a ship is at sea, it is the team of marine engineers who keep the systems running and free from breakdown. A good marine engineer is also expected to know the design of most of the engineering systems used on ships. Every Chief Engineer on a ship is a graduate marine engineer.

What is the Average Salary of Different Ranks and Professions in Naval Architecture India and Abroad?

While there are no such ranks in the profession of a naval architect, some positions that naval architects hold in the Indian industry and worldwide are:

1) Designer to Chief Designer (Engineering / Stability / Systems / Structural)

2) Surveyor (Classification Society)

3) Marine Consultant

4) Production Manager as ranks above it (in shipyards)

5) Offshore Structures Designer

This is, however, a broad layout. There is a wide range of roles that are offered to naval architects, which depends on the organisation. But to sum it up, a naval architect, with years of experience or relevant management education is usually the most suitable professional for serving the highest hierarchical roles in the ship-building and maritime design industry.

Disclaimer: This is not a promotional post. The websites/books, if mentioned, are ranked randomly and not in any particular order. The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight. 

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  1. I’d like to know more on the subject matter of ship construction and naval architecture.

  2. How can you miss Ship Technology Department of Cochin University of Science and technology ? It is one of the prestigious institute in india which have Naval Architecture and Ship Building course.

  3. @Suha: It is a different stream. You cannot opt NA on the basis of your B. Arch degree.

  4. I have a Lindsay Lord first edition naval architecture book I am interested in selling.

  5. A Naval Architect is a professional engineer who is responsible for the design, construction and repair of ships, boats, other marine vessels and offshore structures, both civil and military, including: Merchant ships – Oil/Gas Tankers, Cargo Ships, Cruise Liners, etc.

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