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An Ultimate Guide to a Career in The Merchant Navy

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Want to get away from humdrum jobs? Do you wish to be a “professional seafarer”? A part of the Merchant Navy! Are you dogged on having a career at sea and enjoy living life to the fullest?

A Merchant Navy career is not only monetarily rewarding but also satisfying & quite challenging. No matter how fast the world changes, a career at sea with specialist training will stand you in excellent stead.

You’ll work with cutting-edge technologies as part of the Merchant Navy, developing a raft of practical & technical skills. In a mariner’s career, time offshore is measured in weeks & months — not days!

Did you know? Globally, India currently supplies around 12.8% of Merchant Navy officers and around 14.5% of “ratings” (workers carrying out essential day-to-day tasks for the operation of a water-vessel) to the world seafaring community. This is one of the highest of any country.

merchant navy courses
Merchant Navy: A Global Map of “How Busy” some of the Current Shipping Routes Are

Moreover, an off-shore career is packed with international travel & incredible journeys. Take a peek at the details of a career with the Merchant Navy. Find out where a job at sea can take you.

What is Merchant Navy?

Merchant Navy means the marine commercial shipping industry. The industry involves the transportation of goods and passengers through sea routes across the world. The words ‘Merchant Navy’ basically means a fleet of ships used for purely commercial purposes. It is the backbone of international trade carrying cargo as well as all commercial water-borne traffic all over the world. Water-borne traffic includes passengers too.




Is “Merchant Navy” and “Navy” same? Well, it is not. All of the merchant navy is purely commercial, as opposed to the purpose of the “navy” of a country. The navy of a country is an armed force which is involved in the defense of the country. The navy of a country primarily protects and defends the sea borders and sea areas of the country.

Merchant ships employ a large number of workers. These ships carry & deliver goods from one country to another. Without the Merchant Navy, much of the import-export business would come to a catastrophic halt! Merchant ships may also be involved in explorations or carry passengers between ports.

The Merchant Navy ships and vessels are governed by both private & governmental shipping & ship management companies.

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Types of Merchant Navy Ships

There are lots of merchant vessels to choose from which differ in the kind of businesses they are involved in. The term “Merchant Navy” involves a plethora of individual ship operators of all kinds and sizes.

As a Mariner working in the Merchant Navy, you can be employed on a luxury cruise liner, a modern ferry, a large commercial vessel, a container ship, an oil tanker, a gas/chemical tanker as well as in a support vessel for the offshore exploration industry, etc.

Merchant Navy: You can be on These Types of Ships
Figure 2: Merchant Navy: You can be on These Types of Ships

Merchant Navy Departments on Board

You can work in any of the three departments on a ship as part of the Merchant Navy. Your department where you are inducted depends totally on your existing education at the time of joining.

Deck Department:

The deck department of a vessel is vested with the responsibility of navigation, along with handling cargo operations and berthing instruments present on the deck of the vessel. Deck Officers lead the navigation of the ships and all other non-technical processes and services. At the top of the ladder is the Captain who is also the apex head of all the other departments.

Engine Department:

The engine department mainly includes engineers & ratings responsible for the operation and maintenance of a vessel’s machinery in the engine room. The engine room houses the part of the vessel that fuels/propel it. Engineers & Electro-technical Officers take care of the smooth running of the engines as well as all the mechanical, electrical, & electronic equipment, machinery, systems and processes. At the top is the Chief Engineer who reports to the ship Captain.

Saloon Department:

The catering/ saloon department is responsible for the preparation of meals & general housekeeping for crew and passengers. The number of people employed varies among ships. Obviously, a passenger ship will have far more catering staff than a cargo ship. The Saloon department is headed by the Chief Cook who also reports to the Captain of the ship.

Merchant Navy: Rank Hierarchy in Various Department

Now, there is a distinct hierarchy of roles in each department on a ship which is almost concrete across the entire Merchant Navy fleet (all types of ships, government or private), irrespective of the kind of business a ship is involved in. At the top of the ladder is the Captain who is the head of all departments on board.

merchant navy ranks
Figure 3: Merchant Navy: Different Ranks in the Three Departments
  • Remember, your entry point (the role you’ll be first hired for when you join) depends on your academic qualification at the time of joining.
  • You may or may not rise to the topmost level in the hierarchy.
  • Example, if you join as a Deck, Engine or Saloon “Rating” (workers carrying out essential day-to-day tasks on a ship), it is almost impossible to rise to the rank of a 3rd Mate/ 3rd Engineer/ Chief Steward. Rating-level joinees are generally 10th pass-outs.
  • Consider the Engine Department. It takes about 6-7 years for a Junior Engineer Officer (with an engineering degree) to get promoted to the rank of Chief Engineer, depending on individual capabilities & job opportunities available.
  • Consider the Deck department. It takes about 8 years for a Third Officer/ Mate (with any B Tech/ BE/ marine-related B Sc degrees) to get promoted to the rank of Captain/ Master of Ship, depending on individual capabilities & the job opportunities available.
  • There are different departmental exams to progress through the ranks after a certain number of months of off-shore experience. This process of exams and duration may differ between companies too.

How to Join the Merchant Navy after 10th?

Almost all maritime academies & Merchant Navy colleges pan India offer “Rating” level training courses (for 10th pass students) after which:

  1. You can also directly be employed in the institute’s own shipping & seafaring community as a Rating.
  2. You can apply to other shipping & ship management companies.

You must have Science, English and Mathematics in Class 10 as compulsory subjects.

To view courses list approved by the Directorate General of Shipping (Govt. of India), visit here.

After Class 10, you can be eligible for a job with the Merchant Navy, if you:
  • Do a pre-sea course for General Purpose (GP) Rating Training (usually for 6 months).
  • Do a pre-sea course for Fitters/Petty Officers (usually for 6 months) – you must have minimum 2 year ITI training from a Government approved institute.
  • Do a pre-sea course to become a Saloon Rating.
  • Do a Basic Safety Training course and a Certificate Course in Maritime Catering.
  • Finish a 3-year Engineering Diploma in Mechanical/ Electrical/ Electronics/Marine/ Naval Architecture/ Shipbuilding from a Polytechnic college and then do a Pre-sea Training for Diploma Holders/ Diploma in Marine Engineering (DME) or similar courses for Diploma holders.
  • Finish a 3 year Engineering Diploma from a Polytechnic college and get lateral entry into 2nd year for B Tech, BE or B Sc courses in some of the top Merchant Navy colleges.

Remember, if you can complete an ITI diploma or a Bachelor degree (through lateral entry after Diploma) you can join at a higher post in a department and not at the Rating-level. You will be eligible to join as a Deck Cadet/ Engine Cadet/ Electro-Technical Officer or higher depending on whether you have a Bachelor degree through lateral entry route or a Polytechnic Diploma or whether you have completed designated training courses.

merchant navy after 10th
Figure 4: Merchant Navy: How to join Merchant Navy after Class 10

How to Join the Merchant Navy after 12th?

There are 2 routes:

Join a Merchant Navy college directly after your 12th boards.

Join a Merchant Navy college after a regular engineering degree after your 12th boards. Some courses only allow graduate engineers to join.

There are many academic courses in different maritime colleges after your 12th boards. You can join these courses either by appearing for national level entrance exams or though individual college entrance exams as given in the following section.

What Merchant Navy Exams do we have in India?

There are popularly 2 viz. IMU CET & AIMNET.

You must remember that while IMU CET is a university and has several colleges affiliated to it, AIMNET is for entering OSA (Shipping Academy, Agra). These are the most popular exams among students after 12th boards.

However, IMU is a Government of India undertaking and is considered a more authentic springboard over AIMNET for a maritime career in the Merchant Navy.

Many other maritime education colleges conduct self-governed entrance exams for screening, for example, MERI Entrance Exam (for MERI college), AMET university entrance test, and TIMSAT (for Tolani College). But also accept IMU CET scores. Some courses may accept JEE Mains scores.

  • IMU CET is the Indian Maritime University Common Entrance Test conducted by IMU for different maritime training courses in IMU university campuses or multiple colleges approved by the Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India.
  • IMU CET can give you access to Marine Engineering degrees too (find a list of degrees in the following sections!), the future of which is not limited to the Merchant Navy only.
  • AIMNET stands for All India Merchant Navy Entrance Test conducted by Offshore Shipping Academy (OSA – maritime training centre in Agra), registered by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India. OSA is affiliated to IMETA (Institute of Maritime Education & Training Australia).
  • Both are entry-level screening frameworks for students aiming at having a maritime career at the sea.
  • AIMNET is dedicated to Merchant Navy aspirants only.

Merchant Navy Courses and Merchant Navy Colleges

There are several academic programs for Class 12th students in different colleges but it is mandatory to complete Higher Secondary (Class 12) level schooling in Science stream with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. The entry-level aggregate marks & Merchant Navy eligibility vary between colleges.

You can check the list of colleges approved by the Directorate General of Shipping (Govt. of India) here.

To view the list of courses approved, visit here.

To apply for courses, click this page of the national unified portal.

  • Now, after you finish a course you can get placed in your institute’s proprietary holdings & ship management frameworks or you can also apply to different shipping companies after your course.
  • Some of the courses like DNS (Diploma in Nautical Science) or GME (Graduate Marine Engineering) are company-sponsored courses, depending on the college you choose.
  • Sponsorship means that a shipping company will pay for your course and assure you the training and job in return for signing a contract.
  • If you want to go for an IMU affiliated college, you can apply for company sponsorship even before appearing for IMU CET. Almost all the best maritime colleges in India are IMU affiliated.
  • Some shipping companies also conduct GME courses of their own and guarantee you a job placement if you take up the course at their institute.
  • Good colleges like Tolani or AEMA, taking students through higher cut-offs of IMU CET, technically have great sponsors.


What are the Top Merchant Navy Courses after 12th?

To view the list of courses approved by the central directorate, visit here.

Students have found highest employability with the following courses from a maritime academy listed above through IMU CET:

  1. Diploma in Nautical Science (DNS) – for 1 year usually followed by 18 months at sea
  2. B.Tech./ BE Marine Engineering
  3. B.Sc. Nautical Science or B.Sc. Applied Nautical Science
  4. B.Sc. Ship Building and Repair
  5. Diploma in Marine Engineering
  6. B.E. Naval Architecture & Offshore Engineering
  7. Higher National Diploma Course (HND Marine Engineering)
  8. Higher National Diploma Course (HND Nautical Science)
  9. Graduate Mechanical Engineering or Graduate Marine Engineering (GME): For Engineers with a degree in Mechanical Engineering / Mechanical & Automation / Naval Architecture / Naval Architecture & Ocean Engineering
  10. Electro – Technical Officer Training Course: For Engineers with a degree in Electrical / Electrical & Electronics / Electronics / Electronics & Communication / Electronics & Instrumentation Engineering
  11. B.E. Harbour & Ocean Engineering

Top 20 Merchant Navy Colleges in India

  1. MERI (Marine Engineering & Research Institute), Kolkata (Kolkata campus of the Indian Maritime University)
  2. Indian Maritime University Mumbai Port Campus
  3. Indian Maritime University Navi Mumbai Campus (T.S. Chankya)
  4. Indian Maritime University Kochi campus
  5. Indian Maritime University Chennai Campus
  6. Indian Maritime University Visakhapatnam Campus
  7. College of Ship Technology Palakkad
  8. Tolani Maritime Institute, Pune & Mumbai
  9. Hindustan Institute of Maritime Training Chennai
  10. Euro Tech Maritime Academy Kochi
  11. SIMS (Samundra Institute of Maritime Studies), Pune
  12. Coimbatore Marine College
  13. AEMA (Anglo Eastern Maritime Academy), Mumbai
  14. Maritime Training Institute (of Shipping Corporation of India) Mumbai
  15. Maritime Training Institute (of Shipping Corporation of India) Tuticorin
  16. AMET (Academy of Maritime Education & Training) University, Chennai
  17. MANET (Maharashtra Academy of Naval Education & Training), Pune
  18. Southern Academy of Maritime Studies Chennai
  19. Vishwakarma Marine Institute Pune
  20. Great Eastern Institute of Maritime Studies Lonavala

Complete List of All Merchant Navy Colleges in India

  • There are more than 140 institutes pan-India offering training & education to 10th and 12th passed candidates. Most of the institutes are concentrated in Mumbai, Chennai, Goa, Kolkata, Kochi, Pondicherry and Pune.
  • Many of these colleges have rating-level training programs or other technical training programs for Class 10th pass-outs.
  • A few of these are affiliated to the Central Government’s Indian Maritime University (IMU), the entry to which is governed by your performance in the IMU CET (Common Entrance Test).
  • Some colleges conduct self-governed entrance exams for screening, for example, MERI Entrance Exam (for MERI college), AMET entrance exam and TIMSAT (for Tolani College) but also simultaneously accept IMU CET scores.

Merchant Navy Jobs

Different types of Merchant Navy vessels on which you may find a job opportunity:

  • Luxury cruise liners – ‎Cunard Line of UK, American Cruise Lines of USA, Viking Line of Finland
  • Modern ferries (for automobiles too), Passenger ships – Blue Line International of Croatia, P&O Ferries of U
  • Cargo ships, Container ships, Large commercial/ oil tankers – Chevron & Mobil of USA
  • Barges – Wallem Ship Management of Hong Kong
  • Bulk carriers – Denholm of UK, Perwira Bersatu Services of Malaysia
  • Refrigerator ships – Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. Or “K” Line of Japan
  • Gas & chemical tankers – Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (BSM) of Germany
  • Support vessels for the offshore exploration industry – Alghadheer Shipping LLC. Of Dubai

The possibility of finding employment in cargo ships is more as compared to the others. Trained people are required for the 3 main departments of a ship: “the deck”, “the engine” and “the service department” (culinary, catering, hospitality, supplies & stock etc.).

Some popular Indian recruiters are:

  • Shipping Corporation of India
  • Great Eastern Shipping
  • Essar Shipping Limited
  • Adani Shipping Pvt. Ltd India
  • Shreyas Shipping Company
  • Varun Shipping
  • Mercator Limited
  • Jindal Shipping Company India
  • Scindia Steam Navigation Company Limited

Merchant Navy Salaries

The pay structures differ from company to company, city to city, the export-import needs, type of business (personnel/cargo), etc. The ranges given here are therefore very broad.

The interesting fact is that there is no income tax return imposed on the earnings of a Merchant Navy professional. Imported beverages, canned foods, and cosmetics are available onboard duty-free.

The earnings/ month of a –

  • Bosun/ Head of Ratings: INR 21252 to INR 248028.55
  • 3rd Officer/ Mate/ Engineer: INR 29486 to INR 412342.9
  • 2nd Officer/Mate/ Engineer: INR 35420 to INR 531388.55
  • Chief Officer/ Mate/ Engineer/ Cook: INR 56672 to INR 743908.55
  • Captain/ Master: INR 177100 to INR 2125288.55
Merchant Navy: Pay Packages of Different Ranks
Figure 5: Merchant Navy: Pay Packages of Different Ranks


Do you know that the various ranks in the Merchant Navy can be recognized by the epaulets? Epaulets are ornamental shoulder pieces or decorations worn on the uniform. These distinguish the ratings from the officers as well the officer ranks from each other. Are you interested in wearing an epaulet too but can’t decide all by yourself?

You may want to speak to one of us for a firm hand-holding through an unbiased career counseling session clarifying the several individual worries that you may be bearing now. Prepare yourself now to be a proud mariner!

Seek Online Career Counselling from iDreamCareer or enroll for a complete Career Planning Program.

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18 thoughts on “An Ultimate Guide to a Career in The Merchant Navy”

  1. There are no more jobs and salary only for the days you spend in ship and life is hectic . No salary while your in home. Many people are already struggling to get a job after spending lakhs of rupees. I had a sorrowful experience.

    1. Yes, I agree Kamala. Especially in this COVID environment, shipping lines are anyway going through a rough patch. Particularly jobs to Class 10 pass-outs are awfully low in absolute numbers. Moreover, since nowadays many secondary level candidates are ready to work without pay just for experience, so it is very challenging for those looking for paid work.

    1. Hi,

      Courses after 10th for Merchant Navy would be: GP Rating Course, Saloon Rating Course, Deck Rating Course, Engine Rating Course, Saloon Rating Course (for catering), Near Coastal Voyage & Diploma in Marine Engg. (3yrs course).

      Hope it helps.

  2. Is pursuing a degree from India a better option to get placed, than abroad ?

    And I am in need of an article for joining Merchant Navy abroad.

  3. Your blog post about a career in the merchant navy is a great way to show people all the benefits of this type of career, as well as all the opportunities that come along with it. I’m glad that you mentioned some of the challenges and rewards that come with this career.

  4. You talked about a career in the merchant marine in this article but what requirements must be met in order to enroll in this course abroad?

    1. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is the examination and certification body on behalf of the Administration. It is under the authority of the Department of Transport. Eligibility for examinations is based on the sea time requirements of the various shipboard ratings in relation to the certificate of competency applied for.

      Various preparatory courses are offered by some very famous universities in the UK e.g. Glasgow College, and the University of Plymouth. The main maritime training institutes in the UK are located in cities such as Liverpool, Southampton, Orkney and Shetland. These courses include both theoretical and practical training. There are numerous institutes globally that provide the best education for the merchant navy. Some of them are Massachusetts Maritime Academy, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, British Columbia Institute Of Technology’s Pacific Marine Training Campus, Aarhus School Of Marine And Technical Engineering, Fleetwood Nautical College, University Of Galveston, etc.

      For more details please click the link below to get answers to such queries from our study abroad consultants. We are conducting free counseling sessions. Few seats are available!

  5. Thank you so much for providing information on how to join, jobs, and salaries in the Merchant navy its a very informative blog.

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