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What is a ship’s accountant?
Ship accountants specialize in the peculiarities of the shipping industry: They work for shipping companies and are therefore tied to a certain region. In Germany, most positions are concentrated in Hamburg, but there are also corresponding jobs in Lower Saxony or Schleswig-Holstein. Depending on the size of the company, ship’s accountants report either to the head of accounting or directly to management.
The tasks of ship accountants depend to a large extent on the exact role they play in the respective company. The job profiles on the market vary greatly and include different areas of responsibility. There are three possible scenarios:
- Asset manager: Similar to an asset manager in the real estate industry, the ship’s accountant manages the funds. This includes, above all, the accounting of ships according to HGB and IFRS, depreciation, US dollar transactions, the management of trust accounts and the preparation of company accounts. Accountants or sole accountants are often hired for this purpose.
- Ship operating cost manager: If the ship accountant acts more as a ship operating cost manager, he is an internal service provider. He then takes on fewer accounting tasks and is more responsible for accounts receivable and accounts payable. He is also the contact for external stakeholders and service providers.
- Chartering manager: As the chartering manager, the ship’s accountant mainly deals with billing issues. Here it is important to know the numerous specifics such as charter revenues from liner shipping companies or accounting periods of the individual ports.
Ship accounting and digitization
Digitization affects almost every area of private and professional life, but this applies particularly to jobs in accounting. In recent years, the work processes have changed massively, especially in invoice processing: While all work steps used to be manual and paper-based, today the workflow is mostly digital — and in many cases already automatic with special software.
Above all, digitization has simplified the daily work of ship’s accountants. For example, a 50-page document from China had to be entered manually ten years ago, while today the pages are automatically digitized, read and made available in a system. Further examples are the simplified advance sales tax return through the connection of the accounting systems to Elster as well as filter options for Z-reports.
However, digitization has not only simplified the work, it also enables better control. Because the digital systems can, for example, remind you of payment dates, indicate missing data or ensure that the right people are involved in a process, approve payments or similar.
In addition to digitization, two other developments in ship accounting have been observed in recent years: on the one hand, key figures and reports have become more important since the global economic crisis. And, as in many other business areas, these have to be provided faster and faster.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: Business degree or completed commercial or business education, preferably in shipping
- Starting salary: €38,000
- Top salary: €65,000
- Opportunities for advancement: Accountant, tax specialist, head of accounting
What does a ship’s accountant do?
- Checking and account assignment of incoming and outgoing invoices (customers and vendors)
- Posting of banks and cash registers
- Creation of travel expense reports
- Account Clarification and Reconciliation
- Preparation and, if necessary, creation of monthly, quarterly and annual financial statements
- Partial evaluation of ship inventories (lubricants, paints, spare parts) according to fictional consumption or fixed values
- Preparing sales tax returns and business tax returns
Depending on the size of the company and the distribution of tasks, other tasks may also be added:
- Preparation of business transactions according to HGB and/or IFRS
- Creation of invoices and reminders
- Coordination with technical inspection/specialist department or charter department
- Coordination with external partners and stakeholders
- Keeping budget and balance lists
- Master data maintenance of supplier, administrator and owner data
How to become a ship’s accountant
The shipping industry brings with it a peculiarity with regard to accounting — and thus special requirements for accountants. For example, there are special accounting periods or specifics for charter revenues that ship accountants need to know. In addition, they must have the following knowledge:
- Business studies or completed commercial or business training, preferably in shipping
- Alternatively or additionally: Professional experience in the shipping industry after your studies or training
- Safe handling of MS Office and, if necessary, DATEV as well as ERP systems
- good English knowledge
- Currency accounting (usually USD)
- If necessary, knowledge of accounting (HGB, IFRS)
- if necessary, knowledge of the sales tax law
How much does a ship’s accountant earn?
up to €65,000
The gross annual salary of ship accountants is between € 38,000 and €65,000 and increases significantly with increasing professional experience. In addition, the salary also depends on the role of the ship’s accountant in his company and the associated tasks: Does he have to provide many or few KPIs? Does he manage many or a few accounts? Does he take on accounting activities or not? The degree of responsibility depends on these and other questions, which in turn affects the salary.
What do you expect from the ship’s accountant?
The classic image of the “bean counter” does not apply to ship’s accountants. Of course, ship accountants also have a good understanding of numbers and enjoy working with numbers. They are reliable and work in a structured manner. In addition, they are also open-minded and very articulate, as they often have to work with different stakeholders and provide information.
In addition, the shipping industry is considered to be innovative and keen to experiment. Accordingly, ship accountants must also be flexible and be able to adapt to new circumstances regularly and happily. An affinity with IT is also becoming increasingly important: because developments such as digitization are constantly changing everyday work in accounting. In order to remain in demand, ship accountants have to deal with digital systems and IT processes and undergo regular further training.
Opportunities for advancement as ship’s accountant
Ship accountants can climb the career ladder and take on a managerial position through further training as an accountant or tax specialist or through good work and increasing professional experience. The path leads via a team leader and/or department leader to the manager of the accounting department. In addition, a change to the real estate industry as well as to a regular accounting position outside of shipping is easily possible.
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