Read about what you can expect to experience working in the Customs and Border Protection Marine Unit (Marine Unit) through our staff profiles on current serving officers.
Marcus GREGORY – Commanding Officer of a Bay Class vessel
My last seven years at Customs and Border Protection have been memorable. I joined the 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. Onboard the 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 Botany Bay. This vessel is 38 metres in length and can accommodate up to 12 Marine Unit Officers. Powered by two V16 MTU engines it has a range of 1000 Nautical miles at 20 knots. Much greater distances can be achieved at slower speeds. The ACV is also equipped with 2 high speed 6.40 metre pursuit tenders for conducting surveillance and boarding operations. It is my responsibility to maintain the safety of the vessel, the crew onboard 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, 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 to the 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 instills 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 OH&S 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 22 days on patrol we are able to enjoy 20 days down time at home. During this break I enjoy spending time with my family, surfing, 4wheel 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.
Nicole PEDEMONTE – Level 1 Enforcement Officer
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.
I have been a Marine Unit Enforcement Officer for just over a year now and have completed about eight Patrols. I have sailed on two 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. Courses 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.
I was concerned at first 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.
Michael MUHAMAD – 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 Customs Vessels (ACVs) 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 Customs and Border Protection 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.