Career FAQs: Merchant Navy

What are the skills required to do well in this career?
You'll need to have:
  • decision-making skills
  • the ability to remain calm in difficult situations
  • teamworking skills and the ability to lead, motivate and inspire confidence in others
  • written and verbal communication skills
  • mathematical ability
  • knowledge of mechanical and electrical systems (for engineer officer roles)
  • an interest in technology
  • resourcefulness, adaptability and flexibility
  • confidence, enthusiasm and self-reliance.
  • Why should I pursue a career in Merchant Navy?
    As far as salaried professions are concerned, the merchant navy remains one of the most rewarding lines of work. The prospect of travelling the whole world, earning money that is far better than those that are handed out on shore, the ability to don a uniform and call oneself an officer, the pride and maturity that are to come with handling responsibility- the responsibility of running a multimillion dollar ship and her cargo as well as running the manpower behind it- these are the salient features of this profession that not many other can boast of!
    What should I do to pursue a career in Merchant Navy?
    To join as a Deck Officer:
  • BSc Nautical Science (3 Years)
  • Diploma in Nautical Science (Leads to a BSc Nautical Science. Duration is 1 year) To join as an Engineer:
  • BE/B Tech Marine Engineering (4 Years)

    Earlier these courses would be affiliated to different universities across India with the multitude of options and eligibility criteria. However, after the inception of the Indian Maritime University (IMU), most of the recognized courses have come under the purview of IMU. The degrees and diplomas are awarded by the IMU and this was a huge step in integrating all the different courses under one banner.Depending on the marks on the IMU CET (Common Entrance Test), candidates are accepted into the various campuses of IMU and its affiliated institutions.
  • What is the eligibility for joining the Merchant Navy?
    Age: The minimum age is 17 years and the maximum is 25 years to be eligible for examinations pertaining to the merchant navy. As per the Government rules, the maximum age relaxation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is 5 years.

    Physical Fitness:Physical fitness is of utmost importance for a career at sea. A certificate of fitness from a registered medical practitioner is mandatory for admission into a course. Candidates with disability aren’t eligible for admission into courses with regard to the merchant navy. This hasn’t much to do with discrimination as such as it is supremely important to be fully able in carrying out the duties onboard a merchant ship.

    Eyesight:6/12 in each eye or 6/9 in better eye and 6/18 in other eye for distant unaided vision. Colour blindness in any case is absolutely not permitted.
    What are the various professional paths in this career?
    As a Merchant Navy officer, you'll be employed on the many types of vessels that make up the commercial shipping industry. These include:
  • ferries and cruise ships
  • cargo container ships
  • oil, gas and chemical tankers and other bulk cargo carriers
  • specialised supply, support and rescue vessels - including support for the offshore oil and gas industry.

    Officers usually work in either the deck or engineering department and your role will primarily be as a leader and manager, although you'll still be expected to perform practical tasks with your colleagues. The larger the ship, the more managerial your role is likely to be.

    At sea, Merchant Navy officers are employed in an engineering or navigation capacity, on a range of sea-going vessels. These include the following major types:
  • oil, gas and chemical tankers and other bulk cargo carriers
  • cargo container ships
  • ferries and cruise ships
  • offshore support vessels, designed for specialised roles

    Ashore, you may work in a management, administrative or operational role across a variety of business and commerce. Employers include:
  • shipping companies
  • marine insurance companies
  • maritime regulatory authorities
  • maritime training and recruitment companies
  • port operations, including pilotage
    There are also opportunities to get similar work with overseas-based shipping companies.
  • What are the prospects in this career?
    Qualification as a Merchant Navy officer can lead to opportunities throughout the entireMerchant Navy fleet. The majority of those undertaking officer training programmes are employed on completion of the course. There are also opportunities to work for shipping companies based overseas.

    As a navigation/deck officer, you'll need to:
  • navigate the vessel using a range of satellite and radar systems and equipment
  • check weather and navigation reports and take appropriate action
  • coordinate the safe loading, storage and unloading of cargo
  • manage the care and safety of passengers (if you're working on a ferry/cruise ship)
  • supervise the operation and maintenance of deck machinery, e.g. winches and cranes
  • manage ship communication systems
  • monitor and maintain safety, firefighting and life-saving equipment
  • oversee the ship to ensure that the highest levels of health and safety are maintained
  • maintain legal and operational records such as the ship's log
  • keep up to date with developments in maritime legal, commercial and political matters. As an engineering officer, you'll need to:
  • operate and maintain the mechanical and electrical equipment on board
  • manage power generation and distribution systems, as well as refrigeration plant, ventilation and pumping systems
  • monitor, repair and upgrade systems and equipment, e.g. air compressors, pumps and sewage plants
  • implement regular equipment inspections and maintenance programmes
  • keep up to date with developments in the marine engineering field. With further experience and training, navigation (deck) officers can progress to senior navigation officer level. At this point you'll be responsible for a small team of staff, including junior officers and ratings. You could then progress further to becoming the Captain of the ship.

    Similarly, engineering officers can rise to the position of senior engineering officer, leading a team of engineering staff both at sea an in port, before progressing to the role of chief engineer.

    While some Merchant Navy officers remain at sea for their entire careers, others move into onshore marine posts. Many companies manage their own ships and control all aspects of ship operations, so you'll find management opportunities in areas such as fleet, logistics coordination and training, marine, engineering and general operation.You could also move into the wider marine industry, where opportunities include:
  • surveying ships (to check seaworthiness)
  • managing ports/harbours
  • working in maritime law or marine insurance
  • working for maritime regulatory authorities
  • lecturing or research in higher education institutions.
  • Can you give some useful links to explore this career in greater detail?