How to join Merchant Navy | Full Guide 2023


Table of Contents

What is Merchant Navy (Mercantile Marine or Merchant Marine)?

Before knowing how to join merchant navy, we have to know what Merchant Navy actually means. The word Merchant means anyone who is involved in trade & Navy means a fleet of ships. So Merchant Navy can best be described as a fleet of ships registered in a country, engaged solely in commercial business or trade. It is also known as Merchant Marine or Mercantile Marine.

The personnel who run the ships at sea are known as seafarers or seamen. These seafarers are specially qualified, trained, and certified personnel who carry out their designated duties at sea.
Presently there are 3 branches in the merchant navy as mentioned below:

1) Navigational department(Deck Department)
2) Engineering department(Engine Department)
3) Catering department (Saloon Department)

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What are the ranks and designation in the merchant navy?

1) Captain – The supreme commander of the ship. Though he/she comes from the Navigation department onboard the ship, he/she is the direct representative of the shipowner & technically does not belong to any department.

2) Navigational department (Deck Department)
-Chief officer / Chief mate/1ST Mate (Head of Deck Department)
-2nd officer / 2nd mate
-3rd officer / 3rd mate
-Deck cadet / TNO (Trainee Navigating Officer)**

Other than the above-mentioned officers, the deck department has a certain number of support crew known as deck ratings, their ranking is as below:
-Bosun /CPO (Head of the deck rating staff)
– Deck Fitter **
-Able-Bodied Seaman (AB)
-Ordinary Seaman (OS)
-Trainee OS **
** Depending on the type of ships, owner’s requirement & statutory requirements, some ships may not have this personnel.

3) Engineering department (Engine Department)

-Chief / First engineer (Head of the engine department)
-2nd engineer / First assistant engineer
-3rd engineer / Second assistant engineer
-4th engineer / Third assistant engineer **
-5th engineer/Fourth assistant engineer **
– Engine Cadet **
-Electro-Technical Officer (ETO)
** Depending on the type of ship, owner’s requirement & statutory requirements, some ships may not have this personnel.

Other than the above-mentioned officers, the engine department has a certain number of support crew known as engine ratings, their ranking is as below:
– Engine Fitter
– Motorman/Oiler/Pumpman
– Wiper**
– Trainee Fitter **
– Trainee Wiper**
** Depending on the type of ship, owner’s requirement & statutory requirements, some ships may not have this personnel.

4) Catering department (Saloon department):
– Catering officer/ Chief steward **
-Chief cook
– General Steward(GS)
-Trainee Steward **
-Trainee cook **
** Depending on the type of ships & owner’s requirements & statutory requirements, many ships may not have this personnel.

How to join Merchant Navy & what are the minimum qualifications needed for entry into to join?

Merchant Navy is a highly capital intensive global industry & regulated by strict international laws, hence there is a need to have certain entry-level qualifications & training.

1) To join the deck department, one has to study Diploma /BSc. in nautical science, which is basically a 3/4 years course. 
Upon completion of the nautical science course, the candidate has to join a ship as a trainee/deck cadet and then move up the ranks( Third officer – Second officer – Chief officer- Captain).

2) To join the engine department, one has to study marine engineering, which is a 4-year degree course or studies diploma course followed by 2 yrs of pre-sea training or a mechanical engineer can become a marine engineer after undergoing a Graduate Mechanical Engineering course.

Upon completion of a marine engineering degree, you will join a ship as a Trainee/Fifth engineer and then move up the ranks (Fifth engineer- Fourth engineer – Third engineer – Second engineer – Chief engineer).

3) To join a ship as ETO (electro-technical officer), you must have passed a three-year Diploma or passed Four years Degree in Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, or Electronics & telecommunication/Instrumentation engineering. You will be required to undergo pre-sea training (ETO course) followed by mandatory on-job training onboard ships.

4) To join as ship ratings (Deck department -Bosun, Able Bodied Seaman (AB), Ordinary Seaman (OS), Deck Fitter, Engine department – Fitter, Motorman/Pumpman, Wiper & Catering department – Chief cook, General steward), it is required have a minimum qualification of 10th standard from a recognized board & attend pre-sea training at approved training institutes.

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After knowing how to join the merchant navy, let us see what are the type of merchant ships.

What are the type of Merchant Navy ships:

The main types of merchant ships are as below.
1. Bulk Carriers
2. Container ships/Fully cellular container ships
3. Tanker (Crude/Product)
4. Gas Carriers(LNG, LPG)
5. Passenger ships
6. RoRo ships
7. Ferries
8. Offshore vessels
9. Support vessels
10. Research vessels

Salary & remuneration in Merchant Navy?

After knowing “how to join the merchant navy”, now have some insight into the salary and remuneration in the merchant navy.

The salary & remuneration for seafarers working in the merchant navy varies considerably. It mainly depends on nationality, type of ships, experience, loyalty, employing company, and ship owners & to an extent as per supply and demand of seafarers.

Below are the salary & remuneration ranges ( for information purposes only).
Captain: US$ 7500 – 15500
Chief officer: US$ 5000-11000
Second officer: US$ 3500-5000
Third officer: US$ 2000 – 4000
Deck cadet: US$ 350- 900

Chief Engineer: US$ 7300 – 15300
Second Engineer: US$ 5000-11000
Third Engineer: US$ 3500-5000
Fourth Engineer: US$ 2000 – 4000
Fifth Engineer/Junior Engineer: US$ 350- 1000
ETO: US$ 3000 – 5000

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Chief Cook: US$ 1400-2500
Fitter: US$ 1000 – 1500
Bosun: US$ 1350 – 1800
Able-Bodied Seaman: US$ 1000-1400
Ordinary Seaman: US$ 800-1100
Pumpman: US$ 1000-2400
Motorman: US$ 800 – 1300
Wiper: 600-1000 USD
Steward: US$ 600-1500

Things to know before choosing a career in Merchant Navy:

The topic of how to join the merchant navy will be incomplete without knowing the pros and cons of a merchant navy career.

1) The salary earned by mercantile mariner is quite high. One can save a lot if one wants to, as boarding and lodging during your period of employment are paid by the employers.

2) Your workplace is near your living quarters, so no traveling time like shore jobs.

3) Depending on the type of ships you serve you, get to see a lot of places around the world. You get to meet a lot of people around the world and know about their lifestyles and culture.

4) Though life at sea is tough it is adventurous & glamorous.

5) By working at sea one becomes very responsible at a young age & an effective team player too. This becomes an added advantage for seafarers when they wish to switch careers to shore.

1) Your workplace on board a ship is confined, so one should be prepared to work in a confined environment.

2) Depending on the trading areas of the ship, the harsh nature of the sea & unpredictable weather conditions, life at sea can be tough & dangerous.

3) The social life onboard is very limited.

4) As one has to be away from family & friends for the entire duration of service (varying from 4 to 12 months), he/she has to be mentally prepared to stay away from loved ones. Though now with the availability of internet on board, things have improved a bit.

5) One may have to work with varying cultures and hence should be willing to adapt & work at sea.

Readers may leave their comments after reading the article -How to join Merchant Navy.


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