Careers in Merchant Navy
The Merchant Navy is a non-combatant
commercial fleet, which deals with transporting cargo and occasionally,
passengers, by sea. Its fleet is therefore composed of passenger vessels, cargo
liners, tankers, carriers, as well as other special types of vehicles. A career
in this field is full of adventure and long voyages to exotic places. Above all
this, the excellent pay and promising promotional opportunities make the career
lucrative and exciting in spite of all the hard work life and long absence from
family and home.
The main positions open in the merchant navy
are for navigating officers, radio officers and marine engineers. They are
usually employed by shipping companies on a contractual basis, which is
generally of six to nine months' duration. Earlier a career in this field was
considered purely for men. Women were not generally known to take up jobs in
merchant navy but the past few years have seen a positive change with many women
taking up jobs as ship doctors and radio officers.
In Merchant Navy, major tasks performed are
in three basic areas of a ship. The Deck, the Engine and the Service Department.
There are thus, many career options that are available for any youngster who has
dreams to join the merchant navy. The deck officers include the captain, chief
officer, second officer, third officer and other junior officers. The engine
department consists of the chief engineer, radio officer, electrical officer and
junior engineers. The service department manages the kitchen, laundry, medical
and other services. Jobs are available with shipping companies in India and
Prominent institutes conducting courses in
this field are TS Chanakya, Mumbai and Marine Engineering Research Institute (MERI),
in Kolkata and Mumbai.
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 colour 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
Selection: 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
The entry level for a fresh Marine Engineer
(ME) is at the rank of 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.
Personal attributes: A
career in the merchant navy requires people with strong inner self and tough
physical form, along with a sporting, adaptive and adjustable attitude. Willing
to take on responsibility, love for adventure and challenges; have the urge to
strive for higher positions; be able to work as well as study for examinations
in between. Candidates need to be intelligent, intuitive, willing to work as a
team, flexible, patient; have a liking for solitude, willing to live apart from
loves ones for long stretches of time. Those opting for a career should not be
Engineers need to be resourceful and
practical; skilled at Maths and Physics; have in-depth knowledge about the
workings of the different machines. Manual dexterity is a must; one should be
willing to learn new ways and work with modern technology; and able to work in
the deck department as well if need arises.
Job Prospects and Career Options
Merchant Navy is the backbone of
international trade, carrying cargo across the globe. Without the merchant navy,
much of the import-export business would grind to a halt. Therefore trained
personnel is required for various departments of the ship and this widens the
scope for employment in this field.
They are offered jobs in the following major
The Deck Officers: Deck
officer or navigation officer as the name suggests is in charge of the
navigation of the ship. That particular department is called Deck department.
The captain or the master of the ship is in charge of the ship.
He is not only responsible for the safe navigation of the vessel but also for
the discipline on the ship and safety of passengers, crew and the cargo. He must
ensure the observance of national and international codes of conduct guiding sea
transportation. The captain of the ship is further assisted by first mate,
second mate and third mates. The First Mate / Chief officer is
the right-hand man to the Captain; the second in-command. He overseers all the
cargo planning, assists during navigation, allocates duties and work for the
maintenance and upkeep of the ship to the Deck Cadets and deck crew, ensures
that discipline and order are maintained. The Second Mate / Second
officer, assistant to the First Mate is in-charge of checking all mails
and keeping the navigational equipment and charts in good condition and also
assists in navigational watches at sea and cargo watches at port. The
Third Mate / Third officer is responsible for keeping safety equipments
-the lifeboats, firefighting and signaling equipment in top condition; acts in
the capacity of signal officer and assists with cargo work.
The deck department also has other staff
with specific duties called 'ratings'. They act as look outs and helmsmen,
assist with the securing of the ship as it docks at ports and help clean tanks
and holds before the cargo is placed in them.
Marine Engineers: Marine Engineers
have the complete responsibility of the ship's engine room. The main personnel
in this department is the Ship engineer/chief engineer who
ensures safe and economic running of all engines, boilers, electrical,
refrigerating and sanitary equipment, deck machinery and steam connections
aboard the ship. He supervises the work of the engine-room crew and is assisted
in his duties by the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Engineers and other junior
Second engineer looks after
the day to day work in the engine room. Third engineer is in
charge of the main engine, spare parts for the main engine, all purifiers,
boilers, compressors etc. Fourth and fifth engineers are in
charge of the numerous generators onboard ship as well as certain small pumps.
Besides the officers of the navigation and
engineering teams most ships have a Radio Officer and an
Electrical officer. The Radio Officer is in charge of the radio
room and handles the operation of the wireless and transmitting of signals.
Electrical Officer is responsible for the functioning and handling of all
electrical equipment onboard the vessel. There is another one named seaconny,
who ensures that the ship is on course and that the gangway at port is
The work undertaken here revolves around the
living and catering services for all the crew on board. A chief steward
heads a large team of stewards, bakers, messmen etc. Apart from this, the
department also has other services such as the services of Divers
for underwater examination of the heel of the ship, propellers, pipes etc.
Light Keepers, who operate light house signaling equipment to
guide incoming and passing ships, and Nautical surveyors, who
prepare charts of particular regions of the seas, with regard to topography and
conditions of the sea.
The starting salary varies between Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 a
month. A person gets a variety of benefits such as free food, accommodation,
paid leave, two-way free passage and facilities for families. In other words,
the salary can be saved totally while one is on ship. The perquisites include
bonus, holiday travel and other annual benefits. Foreign companies pay higher,
and a starting salary of $ 1,500 to $ 2,500 can be expected.