Chart A Career in Merchant Navy

Merchant Navy Chitkara

90% of the world’s cargo is moved by sea. From crude oil to making petroleum, fertilisers for crops and nearly anything you can think of—including the device you’re using to read this blog, has components that were possibly sent by sea to its destination. Such is the importance of the sea as a transportation medium that we use the word “shipped” to indicate that something has been sent to the recipient. Most shipments today are sent by merchant navy ships.

Merchant navy, also known as a merchant Marine, is a fleet of vessels registered to a specific country for the purpose of transporting goods. The term “merchant navy” was coined by King George V for British ships following their service in the First World War. Today, numerous countries around the world continue to use merchant navy or merchant marine for their commercial shipping operations.

Commercial ships that carry goods worldwide are the backbone of international trade. The maritime sector employs thousands of individuals around the world in various capacities. A ship has engineers, navigators, sailors, cadets, medical officers, telecommunications personnel, chefs and dozens of other specialists. Individuals working in the merchant navy benefit from working with a highly professional workforce and benefits that exceed those of other professions. The ranking system for merchant vessels is divided into three categories: Deck, Engine and Catering.

Each category has its own ranks with specific roles and responsibilities. These include:

  • The Captain (Master): The captain is the highest-ranked and final authority on the ship. He shoulders the entire responsibility of all shipboard operations.
  • Deck Department: It has the following roles:

    • Chief Officer/Mate: The chief officer, or mate, is the second in command on the ship. The chief officer is the OOW (officer on watch) and his primary duty is the safe navigation of the vessel. He is the executive head of the deck and executes all operational commands of the captain. Additionally, the chief officer ensures the safety and proper functioning of the vessel and is responsible for the welfare of the crew and passengers (if any) on board.
    • Second Officer/Mate: The second officer is the OOW for charts and publications onboard. Additionally, the second mate is also the ship’s medical officer, who is responsible for the upkeep and administration of all medical services. The second officer also keeps navigational watches during specific hours.
    • Third Officer/Mate: The third officer is responsible for all life-saving and firefighting appliances onboard. Additionally, he handles all port documents for use by the captain along with the bond store.
    • Deck Cadets: Deck cadets are trainee officers onboard. They are assigned tasks according to their skill set, which is useful when preparing for a certificate of competency to assume the responsibility of an OOW.

Also Read: All about Merchant Navy Scope, Syllabus, Subjects, Fees

Most nautical science students begin their journey as deck cadets in the merchant navy. They get their CoC, or certificate of competency, on completion of the required sea service period and CoC examinations. After successfully completing three CoC exams and the requisite years of service at each position, deck cadets can become the ship’s captain.

  • Deck Rating (non-officer-rank staff)
  • Bosun: A Bosun is the head of the rating division and carries out all scheduled work assigned by the chief mate.
  • Able seamen: Able seamen possess a merchant mariner’s document and assist the deck department.
  • Ordinary seamen: Ordinary seamen perform buffing, scaling, clearing and painting operations on the deck and the superstructure. Additionally, they also undertake overhauling, splicing, wiring, rigging and repair work. The OS also ensures the secure handling of all cargo gear and the loading and dismantling of cargo as assigned by the Bosun.

It has the following roles:

  • Chief Engineer: The Chief Engineer heads the engineering team on the ship. He is responsible for the maintenance, operation and upkeep of the ship’s machinery and engine room. Although a chief engineer’s rank is considered to be similar to that of a captain, the complete responsibility of the ship is only on the captain’s shoulders.
  • Second Engineer/First Assistant Engineer: The second engineer reports to the chief engineer and he supervises the functionality of the engine room and assigns tasks to the engine officers and crew.
  • Third Engineer (Second Assistant Engineer): The third engineer reports to the second engineer and looks after the machinery onboard.
  • Third Assistant Engineer/Fourth Engineer: The fourth engineer reports to the second engineer, maintains spare inventories, checks bunkering and discharge systems and maintains the waste log.
  • Fifth Engineer/Engine Cadet: The fifth engineer is a trainee engineer and mostly accompanies the second engineer during watch duty. He is gradually assigned tasks that help him clear the Certificate of Competency to become a licensed (certified) engineer.

The engine rating department has the following ranks:

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

The merchant navy is an excellent career option for everyone who loves the sea, is fascinated by a highly organized, well-structured field of work and is in reasonable health. Working in merchant navy is a highly paid and exceedingly lucrative career option for everyone.


Further reading