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Career in Merchant Navy

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Industry overview:

The Merchant Navy is a non-combatant commercial fleet which deals with transporting cargo and occasionally, passengers, by sea to destinations around the world. The Merchant Navy fleet is mainly composed of cargo liners, tankers, cruisers, passenger vessels and other special types of seafaring vessels. Merchant Navy is the backbone of international trade, carrying cargo all over the world. Without the merchant navy, much of the import-export business would come to a grinding halt! The attraction of riches in this profession has been the subject of many a folklore. Even today, the situation remains more or less the same, except that today the ships are far safer than they were in the times of Vasco-da-Gamma and Columbus. Today, there is hardly any career which can fetch such high salaries at such a young age that the Merchant Navy offers. There are three distinct areas of activity in the merchant navy - navigation, engineering and radio and wireless communication. The merchant navy provides a range of career paths, with opportunities at sea and onshore. Following are the career options in merchant navy:

Deck Officer - The officers from this branch primarily look after the ships navigation, loading/unloading of cargo and the general maintenance and administration of the ship. The officer joins in the rank of 3rd officer and is subsequently promoted to the rank of 2nd officer, Chief Officer and finally the Master of the ship.

Engineering Officer - These are the officer who is qualified in Marine Engineering. They join as 4th Engineer and step by step, get promoted to 3rd, 2nd and Chief Engineer, subject to their passing the competency exams and performance onboard the ship. The Engineering department in addition to looking after the main engines is also responsible for associated equipment like power generation equipment, cargo pumps and air - conditioning etc.

Radio Officers - The Radio Officers looks after all the electronic communication and the related records. In addition, he also looks after electronic navigation aids such as radar, depth measuring devices, long range navigation equipment, and global positioning system etc. However, this category of personnel has been almost phased out and their duties passed over to other deck officers. To be qualified as Radio Officer an individual need to do a two week GMDSS course.

Purser - He is an officer who looks after all the administrative work related to pay and perks of personnel onboard. However, this category of personnel has also been almost phased out and their duties passed over to other deck officers.

Ratings - There are three kinds of ratings - deck, engine room, and catering. Deck rating is responsible for cargo handling, mooring/ unmooring and general maintenance of the ship. Similarly, the engine room ratings assist the engineering officers in maintenance and operation of engines and associated equipment. The catering crew consists of Steward / Cooks and as the name suggests, they look after the catering and the housekeeping of officers cabin.


The minimum eligibility for courses in Nautical science and Marine engineering is 10+2 or an equivalent examination with physics, chemistry, and mathematics. He should also pass a medical fitness test for sea service under standard norms and with eyesight 6/6 with no color blindness.Candidates wishing to enter the navigational and engineering fields of Merchant Navy need to complete a Bachelors degree in Nautical Science or Marine engineering before they can gain admission to the field.

Candidates are selected for the B.Sc. Nautical Science degree of TS Chanakya, Mumbai; and the four-year Marine Engineering degree course at Marine Engineering Research Institute, in Calcutta and Mumbai, known as DMET, through the Joint Entrance Examination conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), which assesses the candidate’s knowledge of physics, chemistry and mathematics. The examination is followed by personal interviews/counseling, where the interviewers assess the degree of alertness, and awareness of the external environment, in the candidates and their suitability for a career in the Merchant Navy.

The entry level for a fresh Marine Engineer (ME) is at the rank of the fifth engineer or junior engineer and a Nautical Science graduate is as a Deck Cadet. Promotions depend on further examinations conducted by the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS), the quality of experience and personal merit. On successfully completing these examinations the candidate receives the 'Certificates of Competency' needed for promotion to the respective classes. This examination is conducted by the Ministry of Surface Transport, in association with the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) Mumbai, for determining the promotion prospects for the officers.

Direct entry to Merchant Navy is also possible - students who have completed their 12th with PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics) are eligible to join as Deck Cadets and a student holding a bachelor's degree in Mechanical/ Electrical/ Technology Engineering could also join the Merchant navy as a Engine Cadet/ Fifth Engineer/ Junior Engineer. Direct entry Deck Cadets are required to undergo basic pre-sea training arranged by the recruiting company itself and the direct entry Engineering cadets are preferred to do a Pre-sea course of 9 months duration in Marine Engineering conducted by the MERI.

Job Prospects & Remuneration:

There is enough scope for employment in Indian as well as foreign ships. And since the Merchant Navy offers excellent remuneration and good career prospects, many young people are being attracted to the profession.Placement may be found on various types of ships such as tankers, cargo and passenger ships. Companies that run merchant ships require trained people who can operate and maintain the ships. Trained people are required for the three main departments of the ship: the deck, the engine, and the service department.

Your career graph would be as follows:

    Deck Cadet
    3rd Officer/Mate
    2nd Officer/Mate
    Chief Officer/First Officer/Mate

In the Engineering branch, you'll join as a Junior Engineer/Fifth Engineer. You could rise to the post of Chief Engineer Officer after upgrading your qualification. But, you cannot be the captain of the ship as that is only for deck officers.
After a successful stint or retirement, you can return to the land where you work in:

    Government Surveyors of Ships
    Cargo and insurance surveyors
    Marine Superintendents of Shipping companies.
    Pilots of ships at ports.

Trained navigating and marine officers are in great demand. They are offered jobs by various shipping companies in the government and private sector. Foreign shipping companies also offer good job prospects So far there are no openings for women in the Merchant Navy, but there are moves to induct women as Radio Officers and Ship Doctors. More and more women are now opting for training in marine engineering, which will eventually lead to their employment in the Merchant Navy.
The pay packet is lucrative. The pay and perks depend upon the type of ship, experience and competency of an individual and the company. On an average, a starter might get around Rs. 30,000 to 40,000. On an average, one can become a captain by the age of 30 years and after a couple of years of service, contemplate an early retirement. The money is good in this field. You could start off with as much as Rs 27,000 per month and work up to 1.5 - 2 lakh a month.

Institutes & Universities:

The two premier institutions for imparting training for the merchant navy are:
Training Ship Chanakya (TS Chanakya), Mumbai.
Marine Engineering Research Institute (MERI), Calcutta.
Other prominent institutions include:
National Institute of Port Management, Chennai.
International Institute of Maritime Studies, New Delhi
There are three premier institutes for training of ratings:-
T. S. Bhadra, Calcutta,
T.S. Mekhala, Vishakapatnam T.S. Navalakshi.
Duration of the training course for ratings is of 3 months.
Training for Radio officers - Certificate of Competency Examination is conducted under the aegis of Wireless Advisor to the Govt.of India. A candidate wanting to become a marine radio officer has to acquire his academic degree from any institution providing training in radio communication.
Post-Sea training - Merchant Navy personnel have to clear examination to move on to the next position. This training is imparted at Lal Bahadur Shastri Nautical and engineering college, Hay Bunder Reay Road, Mumbai.
PreSea training - There is few private institute imparting training and various courses to enable the youngster to take up a career in the sea. Some of this institute are:
a) Academy of Maritime Education and Training, Chennai.
b) National Institute of Port Management, Uthandi, Chennai.
c) Vel's College of Maritime Studies, pall avaram, Chennai.
d) International Maritime Institute, Greater Noida UP.
e) Tolani Maritime Institute, Erandawane, Pune. 



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