We don’t just help keep ships safe, we also protect one of the seven natural wonders of the world: The Great Barrier Reef.

People are often surprised at the variety of roles TMR offers and when it comes to unique work, you’d be hard pressed to find a job more interesting and challenging than what Nathan Best and his team do.

As manager of Maritime Safety Queensland’s (MSQ) Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) operations centre in Cairns, Nathan and his team are responsible for monitoring and advising on the safe navigation of vessels in the ports along the northern Queensland coastline from just north of Cardwell up and around to the Northern Territory border.

“We communicate with vessel masters and marine pilots to assist them as they move through our northern ports and adjacent waters, safeguarding both ships and the environment in the process.

“We also provide critical communication assistance to search and rescue operations in the north, being the only 24/7 radio station in the region,” Nathan said.

MSQ operates the largest VTS network in the world covering much of Queensland’s 6973km of mainland coastline. The Cairns VTS is one of five port centres along the Queensland coast that monitor shipping traffic in ports and their approaches.

The separate ReefVTS center in Townsville monitors shipping transiting the Great Barrier Reef and adjacent sections of the Coral Sea from just north of Bundaberg to the western approaches to the Torres Strait.  This complements the work of the five location-based port VTS centres.

Of this, Nathan and his team currently manage eight (and soon to be 10) ports in the 2994km of mainland coastline which makes up the Cairns Maritime Region, the largest in Queensland.

“The Vessel Traffic Service is a little-known area of TMR but we make a valuable contribution to the environment and the safety of shipping.

“In addition, VTS as a whole contributes to the economic growth of Queensland by assisting in the safe and efficient movement of vessels in the port system,” Nathan said.

Nathan came to the team in a frontline role 11 years ago with a wealth of defence and operational experience under his belt and says he’s still driven by the changing operational environment and strong team he works with.

“I enjoy the diversity of what I do because it’s a dynamic work environment and I never get bored.

“Importantly, we also have a great crew and that strong team dynamic is what makes the centre such a great place to work,” he said.

To work in the busy VTS environment, Nathan said you don’t necessarily need to have marine experience as detailed, accredited professional training is provided, but you do need to have confident decision-making skills and good situational awareness.

“You need to be able to work autonomously and make quick decisions, while knowing when to call your team for back-up.

“But I love the operational focus and the job is extremely interesting – you never know what could happen at any time so no two days are the same,” he said.

Nathan is also driven by knowing that every day he comes to work he makes a difference by helping protect one of the natural wonders of the world: the Great Barrier Reef.

“The reef has been declared a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) by the International Maritime Organization so there are even stricter than usual rules for ships moving through our region.

“In our world, no news generally is good news, as the work we do is very much focused on preventing incidents from happenings.

“MSQ’s motto is ‘safer, cleaner seas’ and we take that role very seriously,” he said.

After 11 years with TMR, Nathan says overall what he enjoys most about working for TMR is the diversity, professionalism and opportunities the department offers.

“I have a complex, interesting job and work with a tightknit team of great people.

“I also get to enjoy the lifestyle and natural environment that living in Far North Queensland offers – it’s the best of both worlds, really,” Nathan said.

So, if you’re interested in a role where you can do interesting, rewarding work while enjoying the benefits of regional lifestyle, follow TMR on LinkedIn to find out about upcoming vacancies!