Maritime Trade Operations Officer


Lantern Swinger
What does this job/role involve. Obviously from the title I can gather that it involves shipping movements, but that's about as much as I know. I read the little write-up on the RN website however it's full of acronyms which even when explained aren't very straight forward.

What do MTO officers do?
What sort of things would they do on mobilisations?
Where could they be mobilised (I know the answer is anywahere, but where most often)?
Is it a popular branch?

Good question AntC.

Was looking into it myself - have no idea. Made a mistake of asking someone in MTO... it just confused me! If you have any feedback - please pass on!!!!!!


Lantern Swinger
Ok, I didn't realise it was as cryptic to the insiders as it is to the outsiders! I guess I'll wait and see on that one then!
Answering the question, rather than the odd comments above. Maritime Trade Operations Officers are the interface between the Navy (both Royal and NATO) and merchant ships.

There are two subspecialisations in MTO, these are AWNIS and NCAGS.


The Allied Worldwide Navigation Information System (AWNIS) provides the Navigational Safety Picture to military commands and merchant shipping in an area of crisis.


A definition of the function of NCAGS (and hence an NCAGS officer) can be found in the Admiralty Notice to Mariners which states:

1. The organisation for the protection of British merchant shipping involves civil and military authorities, including the Ministry of
Defence (MOD), Commander in Chief Fleet, the Permanent Joint Headquarters, the Department for Transport (DfT), the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the UK Chamber of Shipping and vessel owners.
2. The reassurance and protection of British shipping is one of the roles of the Royal Navy, and the Ministry of Defence takes a
general interest in British shipping at all times. During periods of tension, crisis and conflict, this interest is greatly magnified and
the location of ships may be incorporated into the Recognised Maritime Picture – a situational plot that is held in UK military
headquarters, deployed theatre headquarters and warships at sea. An awareness of the whereabouts of British shipping allows
military and civil authorities to:
a. Advise on threat areas.
b. Provide advice, dialogue and issue guidance to de–conflict with military operations or exercise areas, or for enhanced
protection in the vicinity of threat areas.
c. Offer military assistance through presence, escort, accompaniment and ultimately convoying.
3. For these mutually beneficial reasons, the shipping industry and vessels are encouraged to participate in a Naval Co–operation
and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) operation. In an operations area, non–participating ships might quickly achieve status as a
Suspect Vessel and draw greater military attention, with consequent potential for the disruption of its voyage.
4. A system of communications and messages has been developed between military authorities, the civil establishment and vessels.
The updated messages in this annual notice reflect the changes that have become apparent in the nature of international crises and
in the light of recent world events. The use of automatic data transfer systems, including AIS, to assist in this process is under
5. All communications received from merchant vessels revealing positional information, cargo and passage intentions will be
treated as commercially confidential.

Hopefully that will give you some idea about the role of the MTO officer, both AWNIS provide vital support to both the grey navy and the merchant ships. This enables both to go about their business in a risk free environment.

MTO has been supporting the merchant community in a large area from Dubai, since October 2001 24 by 7. More information can be found at
I met the guy who was in charge of UKMTO Dubai a few times both in my MN and RNR capacities - RNR Commander from HMS FORWARD - good bloke, on the ball and very helpful - he was there for a long, long, long time. He had a couple of good sorts working for him as well.

I think he has moved on from Dubai now though - anyone have idea if he is still in the RNR and, if so, what he is doing now? He could tell you all about MTO - from the sharp end - and not just what the doctrine says.


War Hero
He used to post here, older hands may remember his pseudonym (not difficult to guess!). I believe he got into quite a bit of bother over some of his posts (or so rumour has it) and his MTO post went to an AW officer instead.


Lantern Swinger
sulzer said:
Sounds a bit like the old NCS Branch
Naval CONTROL of Shipping fell foul of certain non NATO nations when exercises were being planned in hot and sandy places. The title Naval CO-OPERATION and Guidance for Shipping was a NATO committe decision (Can't you tell from the way it rolls off the tongue!) NCS = Cold war, Convoying, Inflexibility. NCAGS = Flexibility, understanding of commercial shipping practices, flexibility and convoying as a last resort! (Stand fast the NATO nation with loads of Kiel pilots in its NCAGS organisation!) NCAGS works in Dubai and worked from Northwood during the Lebanon crisis. Apparently, they had reservist manned 24/7 watchkeeping in less than 3 days in Northwood. Who needed mobilisation!
The Shipping Centre at Northwood is permanently established and is manned in some shape or form 24/7/365.

Dubers is also manned, a pleasant penthouse apartment at the top of a block of flats apparently. Not called the hotel branch for nothing!

I cannot divulge the black arts of NCAGS here. It's not particularly secret, I just can't be bothered. It's late and I've been working all night..... :thumright:

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