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Out in the sea

Sailors (remember Sindbad?) and their legendary voyages have long fascinated storytellers and audiences alike. Adventurous outings deep and far in the oceans, opportunities to see far off countries and experiencing diverse cultures and people attracts many. Add voluminous monetary compensation to the job and it becomes irresistible. Merchant navy is a career for those who wants to explore and enjoy.

The merchant ships employ a huge number of workers to carry and deliver goods from one country to another. Merchant navy fleet consist of cargo ships, container ships, barge carrying ships, tankers, bulk carriers, refrigerators ships, passenger ships, as well as roll off/roll on ships.

Nature of job

The main functional areas where Merchant Marine can be pursued as career are as follows:

Deck / Navigation Officer : Deck or navigation officer as the name suggest, are in charge of the navigation of the ship. He is not only responsible for vessel navigation but also for the discipline on the ship and safety of passengers, crew, and the cargo. He is in charge for assigning organizational duties for ships operation, navigation and maintenance with the chief mate. The officer must ensure the observance of national and international codes of conduct guiding sea transportation. It is essential for the navigation officers to obtain a certificate of competency. He is assisted by chief mate also known as first mate who is in charge of the cargo planning and deck work.

Engineering Officers: The ships engineers have complete responsibility of the ships engine room like the main engine, boilers, pumps hydraulic and fuel systems and the ships electrical generating plant and distribution system. The chief engineer is responsible for all machineries, equipments, auxiliaries. The job demands maintenance of documents of working as well as repair machinery. Further down the jobs are assigned to second and third engineers.

Stewards/Service department: This department is responsible for preparing of food and meals for the crew on board. They also maintain living quarters of the crew and the mess halls. The chief steward maintains inventories of food stuffs, linen, bedding, furniture, etc. The other staffs are the chief cook, baker and attendants.

Merchant Navy Rating: There are three kinds of ratings: deck rating, engine room rating and catering rating. Deck rating is responsible for cleaning, sweeping, chipping of rust, polishing, etc. They help in loading and unloading of cargo and in port they assist in the mooring of the ship. Engine room ratings are responsible for the day to day cleanliness of the engine room and for routine oiling, greasing, and servicing of machinery. As they experience they help officer monitor and ensure the safe running of main plant and ancillary equipment.

Catering rating - they usually clean accommodation areas and public rooms, helps in preparation of foods, clean galleys and cooking utensils, and to maintain fridges, freezers. They also serve meals to officers and crew and help in loading and storing of consumable stores.


 The job calls for genuine interest that can make the entrant adjust with ease and confidence. The ability to withstand long stretches of hard work in an emergency like situation on board a vessel and to the physical strain, needs a person with touch of mental and physical self to sustain through such stress. A person with a strong mental makeup and tough physical constitution along with a sporting adaptive and adjustable attitude can find at sea one of adventure and fun. Life at sea is not a comfortable break from the routine of academics. A merchant navy entrant must involve in a rigorous course of the on-the-job learning. They have to pass stipulated examination to get promotions.

 Professional Courses

 Nautical Training Ship 'Chanakya': T.S. Chanakya Institute, previously called T.S. Rajendra, offers maritime education and training to aspiring navigating officers. Affiliated to the University of Bombay, its syllabus gives a broad understanding of marine education, with special focus on the fundamentals of marine subjects and practical aspects. The subjects includes, English, Applied mathematics, physics and Electronic Computer science and marine Management.

Marine Engineering Research Institute : It was earlier known as the directorate of Marine Engineering. It offers marine engineering education. Headquartered at Kolkata, it has a branch in Mumbai too. Admission is open to both male and female candidates below 20 years of age. Candidates have to go a physical fitness test. Selection is based on the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) conducted by the IIT. A merit list is prepared after the written test and interview. The director General of Shipping has the authority to which of the two training courses the candidate is best suited for after considering the preference of the student

 Other Courses

 There are other courses in this field like:

Rating Traning - There are three establishments for training of ratings: T.S. Bhadra, Kolkata, T.S. Mekhala, Vishakapatnam and T.S. Navalakshi. The training course is of 3 months duration.

Training for Radio officers - Certificate of Competency Examination is conducted under the aegis of Wireless Advisor to the Government of India. A candidate wanting to become a marine radio officer has to acquire his academic degree from any institution providing training in radio communication.

Post Sea training - Merchant Navy personnel have to clear examination to move on to the next position. This training is imparted at Lal Bahadur Shastri Nautical and Engineering College, Hay Bunder Reay Road, Mumbai.

Pre Sea training - There are few private institutes imparting training and various courses to enable youngsters to take up a career in sea. Some of the institutes are:

a) Academy of Maritime Education and Training, chennai.

b) National Institute of Port Management,Uthandi, Chennai.

c) Vel's College of Maritime Studies, pallavaram, Chennai.

d) International Maritime Institute, Greater Noida, UP.

e) Tolani Maritime Institute, Erandawane, Pune.

Career Prospects

The development of new technology and better equipment has led to increase in the shipping business. Therefore manpower shortage in the marine professions has led many foreign and Indian shipping companies to recruit more and more people directly by putting advertisement in magazines like Sailor Today or through training institute. Post retirement, these officers are in demand for consulting and advising. Some even venture into allied fields like ship care and maintenance. Some may also take up a job on port or dock looking after the routine job like loading /unloading , clearing of goods from customs etc. The employment opportunities in this profession are available in government and private shipping companies like Shipping Corporation of India, Clearing Houses etc.


Merchant Navy is one of the few careers where the salary is relatively high. It can range anywhere between Rs. 12000 to Rs.8 lakhs per month though the pay structure differ from company to company, city to city, the export-import needs, seniority etc. All crew and officers are given free meals on board and senior officers can take along their wives for the voyage. Usually emolument in a foreign vessels are higher specially the West European, U.S and the Gulf. They are also entitled to four month leave every year.

Life in merchant navy can be adventurous for all those with wanderlust. The long period of solitude notwithstanding, the opportunity to see the world and get paid while doing so, just cannot be argued away.


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