merchant navy

Career in Merchant Navy: Career opportunities, roles and educational qualification

Suparna Ghosh
Suparna Ghosh
Posted on 24 Sep 2022
10:56 AM

Merchant Navy can largely be associated with the shipping industry responsible for the transportation of cargo and passengers through sea routes
Salary packages offered in the Merchant navy are quite attractive, ranging from INR 35,000 to INR 6,00,000 per month, depending on your job experience

If you’re looking for a high-paid job and want to have strong financial independence, then the Merchant Navy might be the career path you want to take. It is partly glamorous because being a seafarer can sail you to the corners of the world but also at the same time, it is a strenuous job that will need you to handle immense physical pressure. There will be times when you will have to sail for 6-8 months when you remain disconnected from the rest of the world and also your family.

Speaking of the demand, with the advances in industrialisation, the merchant navy is a flourishing industry and is only expected to reach newer heights. So, want to take a look at the opportunities and pathways to careers in the Merchant Navy? Then here is all you need to know.

Merchant Navy as a Career


The Merchant Navy is associated with the shipping industry responsible for the transportation of cargo and passengers through sea routes. There are a lot of merchant ships like container ships, oil or gas tankers, oil rig supply vessels and various others that cross the seas carrying their cargo. It is said that as much as 95% of trade goods are carried through sea routes, and hence, the demand for shipping is increasing year on year.

To summarise, a career in the merchant navy requires hard work, but you are also contributing to the country’s commercial shipping sector, giving you global prominence at the same time. It is a job that demands you to be at sea for months at a stretch. If you are looking for a handsome pay package then a career in the merchant navy is the right choice for you.

Opportunities in the Merchant Navy

There are a number of different areas on a ship that the crew of a ship tend to while at sea. Freshers or less experienced candidates are usually inducted into entry-level roles, and they need to pass certain exams to progress up the ranks and reach higher positions. The different personnel on a ship are:

Deck Officer: A ship will have a number of deck officers, popularly known as navigation officers, who are responsible for taking decisions on steering and manoeuvring the ship, and controlling navigation and communications. They use GPS systems to navigate the ship and are responsible for monitoring weather reports and taking decisions accordingly. Ship navigation, strategising and safe handling, communications, cargo handling, and delivery are some of the major responsibilities of navigation officers.

Following are the rankings of Deck Officers, arranged in order of seniority:

  • Chief officer/ mate
  • 2nd officer/mate
  • 3rd officer/mate
  • Deck Cadet

Marine Engineering: Marine engineers maintain the machinery of the entire ship or cruise. They oversee the operation of propulsion, fuel and waste systems. As ships are made of steel and ply on saltwater, they require proper maintenance and time-to-time inspection. So engineers need to be practical, resourceful and have a real interest in mechanical and electrical systems.

Following are the rankings held by Engineering Officers in descending order of seniority:

  • Chief / First engineer
  • 2nd engineer / First assistant engineer
  • 3rd engineer / Second assistant engineer
  • 4th engineer / Thirst assistant engineer
  • 5th engineer / Engine Cadet
  • Electrical officer (ETO)

Apart from the deck officers and marine engineers, there is a lot of requirement for ship crew members who act as supporting staff. They assist the officers and carry out the groundwork requiring both physical and hard labour.

The engine department personnel include:

  • Fitter
  • Motorman
  • Wiper
  • Trainee Fitter / Trainee Wiper

The saloon department is maintained and run by:

  • Steward
  • Trainee cook
  • Chief cook

Once you’re promoted to the post of Senior Engineering Officer, you will be responsible for leading a team of professional engineering personnel at sea and port.

Eligibility Criteria:

Following are the eligibility criteria a candidate must have to pursue a career in the Merchant Navy:

  1. A candidate must have passed 10+2 or an equivalent examination with physics, chemistry and maths with an aggregate score of 50 per cent or equivalent, from a recognised board.
  2. They should also pass a medical fitness test for sea service under standard norms and with eyesight 6/6 with no colour blindness.

Courses in the Merchant Navy

In order to pursue a career in the merchant navy, one needs to opt for a bachelor’s degree programme with a related specialisation. Candidates can opt for specialisation in BTech or B.E according to their choices. To work as a Deck Officer, a candidate will require a B.Sc in Nautical Science, which has a course duration of three or four years.

UG courses offered in both specialisations are:

  • Offshore Engineering
  • Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering
  • Marine Engineering
  • Naval Engineering

After the completion of their bachelor’s degree, candidates can take any of the two following roads:

First- They can immediately start working in the merchant navy at an entry-level post.

Second- Candidates can opt for an M.Tech or M.E. with a related specialisation to increase their chance of being recruited for a higher position automatically.

PG Courses offered in both the specialisations are:

  • Naval Engineering
  • Offshore Engineering
  • Marine Engineering
  • Dredger and Harbour Engineering

Merchant Navy Specialisations:

Apart from taking up UG and PG courses, a student interested in this career can also enrol in certain merchant navy specialisations available to enhance your skill sets. The duration along with the specialisation is given below-

  • GP Rating Course- 6 months
  • Saloon Rating Course- 6 months
  • Deck rating Course- 6 months
  • NCV Course- 6 months
  • Engine Rating Course- 6 months
  • Diploma in Nautical science- 1 year
  • STCW Basic Safety Training- 5 days
  • Electro-Technical Officer Course- 4 months
  • Commercial Diving Course- 6 months
  • General Purpose Rating Course- 6 months

Top Institutes and Colleges offering Merchant Navy Courses in India

  1. Maharashtra Academy of Naval Education and Training (MANET)
  2. Samundra Institute of Maritime Studies
  3. Tolani Maritime Institute (TMI)
  4. International Maritime Institute (IMI)
  5. Vels Academy of Maritime Studies
  6. B.P. Marine Academy
  7. Coimbatore Marine College (CMC)
  8. Institute of Technology and Marine Engineering (ITME)
  9. Indian Maritime University (IMU)
  10. TS Rahaman

Top Institutes and Colleges offering Merchant Navy Courses Abroad

  1. Edith Cowan University
  2. The University of Strathclyde
  3. The University of New Orleans
  4. Aarhus University, School of Marine and Technical Engineering
  5. Griffith University
  6. Hiroshima National College of Maritime Technology
  7. British Columbia Institute of Technology
  8. Australian Maritime College
  9. Fleetwood Nautical College
  10. Manukau Institute of Technology

Job Opportunities and Salary

As the world is gradually moving towards a consumer-driven society, import-export has increased manifold. Since most of the import-export is being carried out by shipping companies, there will always be a need for people in the merchant navy and hence the demand for merchant navy officers. The salary packages offered in the Merchant navy are quite attractive, ranging from INR 35,000 to 6,00,000 per month, of course depending on the job experience.

According to the statistics available from the Ministry of Shipping, the number of seafarers employed on Indian flag vessels increased from 22,103 in 2017 to 27,364 in 2018, while the employment figures on foreign ships went up from 60,194 to 72,327 during the same period. The number of Indians in the Merchant Navy had earlier gone up from 1,03,835 in 2013 to 1,26,945 in 2015.

So ready to sail towards a booming future?

Last updated on 24 Sep 2022
10:56 AM
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