A Career in the Marine Unit

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The Australian Border Force Marine Unit (Marine Unit) requires an officer to spend extended periods at sea patrolling Australian waters.

Our officers operate in an environment that is dynamic, fast paced, rewarding and challenging. Marine Unit officers face a number of uncertainties including weather conditions and maritime threats.
Marine Unit officers can sometimes work in extreme conditions ranging from cyclonic conditions of the tropics through to the intense sea conditions in the Southern Ocean. Working in the marine environment is like no other career.

Marine Unit officers are at the front line of protecting Australia's borders and the Australian community and maintaining Australia's national maritime security.

You will find information here about various positions within the Marine Unit and what to expect during recruitment, training and on the job.

A career with the Marine Unit requires officers to spend lengthy periods at sea. Officers operate in an armed environment often in challenging conditions. Before applying for a Marine Unit role, please be sure to read the following sections before you consider applying;

Following employment with the Marine Unit, officers will undertake a specialised residential full-time training program. On successful completion of training, officers are deployed on patrols on Australian Border Force vessels to undertake maritime enforcement activities within areas of importance to Australia.

All positions are advertised on this website.

What is the Australian Border Force Marine Unit?

The Australian Border Force Marine Unit (Marine Unit) plays a significant role in border security by maintaining an armed presence around Australia's coastline and responding to reported or suspected border incidents and illegal activity. This significant capability aids in the maintenance of Australia's national security and protecting the continuity of the Australian lifestyle.

Australian Border Force Cutters (ABFCs) perform strategic patrols and tactical support for various agencies within and beyond Australia's 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Australian Border Force operates a fleet of patrol boats, in addition to specialist vessels which operate in various parts of Australia's EEZ.

Australian Border Force vessels may be used to:

  • counter people, drug and weapons smuggling
  • apprehend foreign fishing vessels
  • gather information and intelligence
  • monitor environmental pollution
  • assist park management of offshore nature reserves and marine parks
  • assist search and rescue efforts.

The Air and Marine Branch is responsible for providing maritime surface and air assets and associated support capability to Strategic Border Command and Maritime Border Command. The Australian Border Force has overall command of its air and sea assets with operational control being assigned to operational areas.

In undertaking this responsibility the Branch provides:

  • Training of the maritime workforce, either internally or through external providers;
  • Oversight and auditing of officer's skills, operating procedures and marine qualifications;
  • Management of a number of service and maintenance contracts both in the marine and aviation sectors;
  • Management of the marine workforce ensuring that appropriately skilled officers are efficiently assigned to the various Australian Border Force vessels;
  • Vessel maintenance (including engineering) and logistic support to ensure the vessels are fit for purpose; and

A variety of communications support in the marine environment.

Staff profiles

Commanding Officer, ABFC Cape Leveque

I joined the then-Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit (Marine Unit) in 2004, initially through the Southern Ocean Program.

In the Southern Ocean Program I had the opportunity to explore one of the world's most remote and hostile environments, the Southern Ocean. On board the ACV Oceanic Viking I helped patrol for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that specifically targeted the Patagonian Toothfish. 

In this environment I faced harsh conditions, sub zero weather, and often swells greater than 15 metres. It was a fast paced role that was both challenging and enjoyable. It also enabled me to receive training that included boarding operations, cold weather survival training and tender driving.

The Marine Unit has allowed me to see and experience things that not many people have the privilege to access. 

Prior to working for Customs and Border Protection I had a background in captaining vessels in the tourism industry. I saw the Marine Unit as an opportunity to further develop my skills and knowledge while doing something that I enjoy. The Marine Unit was alluring as it meant that I would also contribute to the protection of the Australian borders and the lifestyle that we all enjoy.

In my current role in the Marine Unit I am the commanding officer of ACV Cape Leveque. It is my responsibility to maintain the safety of the vessel, the crew on board and respond to operational needs.

I can honestly say each patrol is different. We patrol around the vast Australian waters for 22 days straight.  Some of my career highlights include being involved in numerous search and rescue operations.

In 2009, as the Commanding Officer of ACV Botany Bay, my crew and I were tasked by the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre to help rescue a family stranded on a treacherous reef in the Torres Straits. This area lies to the North of Australia between Cape York and Papua New Guinea. The Torres Strait area is renowned for it is often strong and dangerous currents and unfortunately a place where lives are lost each and every year. The family was stricken after a fierce storm and in serious danger of being swept off the reef by the rising tide.  ACV Botany Bay was the closest vessel and was tasked with the rescue. When we arrived on the scene you could see the sense of relief and gratitude spread across their face. My crew and I no doubt saved their lives that day. It is days like this that makes me grateful that I am in a role that can make a difference.

Working in the Marine Unit is not without its challenges. The remoteness of the patrols can be challenging but we get through this with the close bond that is developed between crew members and a strong sense of camaraderie. Being on a vessel with up to 12 officers allows you to form strong friendships, which often continue outside of the work environment. You learn to rely on each other all the time, as you place your trust in one another often in life or death situations. 

On occasion we are faced with fierce weather conditions, but the training that Customs and Border Protection provides instils us with every confidence knowing that we will know what to do in any situation.

While on patrol you do have opportunities to have down time. You are able to relax and many officers use this as a chance for personal development studying for things like work health and safety degrees and other law enforcement relevant courses. An emphasis is also placed on exercising whilst not on duty. This is a great way to pass the time and keep you in shape to deal with the vast challenges of the job.

Another great thing about the Marine Unit is the shift work. After 28 days on patrol we are able to enjoy 28 days down time at home. During this break I enjoy spending time with my family, surfing, four wheel driving, fishing and playing golf. 

The Marine Unit is not for someone who wants a job, it is for someone who is searching for a career that will give them satisfaction contributing toward to the protection of Australia.  You will have remarkable experiences, meet great people and will learn skills that you will be relevant after you finish your sea faring career.

Level 1 Marine Unit Enforcement Officer, ACV Triton and ACV Ocean Shield

After serving ten years with the South Australian Police Department I began to look for a career change that would push me outside of my comfort zone.  My desire was to find something that quenched my thirst for challenge and pushed the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of.

I remember hearing about the Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit (Marine Unit) through an old co-worker from the South Australian Police. This sparked my interest and I set out to find out more.  The more I heard about the Marine Unit the more it interested me.  I heard stories of rough seas, travel, tactical response roles and other opportunities that got me excited about applying.

After being accepted I found myself on a training course for four months that took me to Canberra, Sydney and Perth.  I completed training in legislation, Sea Survival, Boarding Vessels at Sea, Operational Safety Training (Use of Force including firearms and defensive tactics), Emergency Evacuation, Ropes Rescue and many other appealing courses.

As part of my role I have sailed on three different Customs and Border Protection vessels in places ranging from the warm and occasionally cyclonic Timor Sea through to the sub-zero Antarctic temperatures of the Southern Ocean.  I have seen a vast range of marine life from manta rays, sharks and whales to giant penguins, sea lions and rare birds.

I've had some fantastic opportunities whilst being in the Marine Unit and have taken part in many training courses since starting my career, such as.50 Calibre Machine Gun training, Marine Radio Operators Certification and Lay Surgical Assistant training to name a few.  The Lay Surgical Assistant course gave me the opportunity to assist in surgical operations in emergencies, something I never imagined I would be part of.

At first I was concerned that I didn't have a background in maritime operations and was purely relying on my policing background but the constant training I receive and my experiences on board each patrol have enabled me to feel secure in my role here.

I often get asked if being a female officer on board is difficult in a male dominated workforce.  At the moment, on my team, I am the only female.  I've never found it to be a problem and I get along well with everyone.  There is an understanding that we are all equal, which comes from the knowledge that everyone was put through the same training and went through the same standards to get here.  I believe this contributes to a good and supportive team environment.  However, it does help to have a good sense of humour too.

There are times in between recertification of qualifications and taskings on patrol to have some down time.  During this time I like to train, read and study.  I'm currently obtaining a Certificate III and IV in Fitness and Personal Training.  Physical fitness is a big aspect of this job and as a female I'm determined to do well and never become a hindrance to my team.    

On my most recent patrol I was given the opportunity to perform the role of Team Leader.  Though there are other officers who I thought were more experienced than myself, my team has been encouraging and supportive and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.

I truly recommend this job to anyone who is looking for a challenging career with a dynamic team environment and a healthy work-life balance.

Level 2 Officer of the Watch, Bay Class vessel

I started with Customs and Border Protection under the Indigenous program on Thursday Island in 1987 as an administration officer and general purpose hand on the Australian Border Force Cutter (ABFC) stationed there at the time.

In late 1987 I transferred to Brisbane as an Assistant Customs Officer and undertook an intensive 12-month training program that included an attachment to each division/program within the organisation.

I graduated in 1988 as a Customs Officer Band 1 and served on the ACV Sir William Lyne in Brisbane before returning to Thursday Island as a boarding officer and general purpose hand on the ACV WT Turner.

I have also worked in various areas within the Cairns District office. Whilst based in Cairns, I was seconded by the Marine Unit to do patrols on an ad hoc basis, working on various ACVs.

In 1997, I transferred permanently to the newly established National Marine Unit, which is now called the Australian Border Force Marine Unit (Marine Unit).

My career so far with the Marine Unit has been fulfilling and challenging, there is never a dull moment. Some of the highlights have been patrolling the coastline between Weipa, Torres Strait and Cairns on the 12 metre ACVs in the late 1980s and 1990s which was an exciting and testing time. Another great experience was travelling to Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea to ferry a suspected drug vessel back to Australia on behalf of the Australian Federal Police.

Another career highlight was receiving the CEO award with my fellow crew member of the ACV Arnhem Bay. This award was for rescuing a large number of suspected unlawful non citizens off Ashmore Reef. I was also privileged to receive the Marine Unit's Casley Award in 2008, which is presented annually in recognition of qualities epitomised by former Marine Unit officer John Casley who passed away onboard the ACV Dame Roma Mitchell in 2000. Since 2001, the award has been presented to officers who display integrity, respect, leadership, team work and pride.

My role also requires me to help coordinate recruitment campaigns for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Trainees and mentor Indigenous Officers.

Working for the Marine Unit has been rewarding and a fantastic experience so far, with endless opportunities.