I quite agree with Walter that a helicopter is the way to go and I have had the opportunity but only on rare occasions. Unfortunately for shooting on spec the price is a bit steep in my little world. So I find places from which I can shoot “bullshit aerials”. This is not so difficult on the Pacific Coast where rocky outcrops give many opportunities, but even in flatlands bridges and container cranes can be used.
I like to get to know a spot well so that I know what to expect according to light and even tidal conditions. One of my favourite places is Prospect Point in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. I can drive right to it and on an ebb tide the boats are still making enough way to have a decent bow wave.
I can take a shot that is framed by the North Shore Mountains and the Lions Gate Bridge of I can zoom in on ship details or the crew working as I have done in the attached photos. These are nice as they are generic and are not identified with any particular piece of geography. A challenge with container ships such as the Hyundai Republic is that for an overall shot they look best with a reasonable load of containers but for a bow shot it is nice to see more of the bulbous bow. This is generally only when they are between coastal ports as they would ballast down more at sea. Depending on how much knowledge your viewer has these can be considerations. Obviously owners like to see their ship loaded and making money but other users want to see the nice lines and colour variations. Personally I like to see the bow wave and some orange bottom paint reflecting on a dark hull.
Incidentally if I were submitting this shot for publication I would probably photoshop out the bit of white mast showing in the top left of the first shot as it is an unexplained distraction.