The Merchant Navy is composed of vessels (ships) that carry cargo (called bulk carriers) or oil (called tankers ) or passengers (called liners). These ships may belong to Indian or foreign shipping companies. On board these ships the most important officers are the navigating officers and the marine engineers.
The Merchant Navy is the perfect place for you if you are full of spunk, mentally and physically tough, are adaptable, adventurous, and well able to maintain your cool under trying circumstances.
Those who are employed in the Merchant Navy spend extended periods at sea, and earn leaves. Most are hired for voyages that last several months and employment is contractual.
Nature of Work
Captains or masters are in overall command of the operation of a vessel and they supervise the work of any other officers and crew. They determine the course and speed, maneuver to avoid hazards, and continuously monitor the vessel’s position using charts and navigation aides. They either direct or oversee crew members who steer the vessel, determine its location, operate engines,
Communicate to other vessels, perform maintenance, handle lines, or operate vessel equipment. Captains and their department heads insure that proper procedures and safety practices are followed, check that machinery and equipment are in good working order, and oversee the loading and unloading of cargo or passengers. They also maintain logs and other records tracking the ships’ movements and cargo/passenger carrying history. Deck officers perform the work for captains on vessels when they are on duty. They also supervise and coordinate activities for the crew abroad the ship.
Engineers or marine engineers operate, maintain, and repair propulsion engines, boilers, generators, pumps, and other machinery. Merchant marine vessels usually have four engineering officers: a chief engineer, and a first, second, and third assistant engineer.
Seamen or deckhands operate the vessel and its deck equipment under the direction of the ship’s officers, and keep the non-engineering areas in good condition.
Navigating officers are responsible for the navigation of the ship, loading and discharge of cargo, maintenance of the ship, safety of passengers and crew
And observance of the various national and international codes of conduct relating to sea transportation. The highest post a navigating officer can aspire to is master of a ship.
Marine engineers are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ship’s
Main engines and auxiliary machinery and the safety equipment. The highest position a marine engineer aspires to is chief engineer of a ship.
Life in the Merchant Navy is unpredictable to say the least – you could be right in the middle of the high seas fighting the elements or sailing under a starry sky or have nothing more interesting to look at than the endless expanse of water on all sides. That’s what life is like on the high seas. You are totally out of touch with friends and family for months at a stretch. Significant events – births, deaths, marriages may be missed out because when you are out in the middle of the sea/ocean there is no way you can return immediately.
Navigating officers and marine engineers travel long distances over water and during these voyages these merchant navy personnel are totally cut off from their families. For weeks together only the crew and the passengers provide company while they sail over wide expanses of the sea/ocean. The ship is their world and
Each vessel is self-sufficient in every respect. During its voyage a ship may not berth at every harbour. Sometimes vessels may have to wait for an anchorage outside harbours for days. In contrast of this type of monotony these officers are given long spells of leave during which they may spend as much time as possible with their families and friends enjoying landlubbers’ activities. After attaining a certain level of seniority, officers are allowed to take their families on board the ships should they desire to. The work of navigating officers and marine engineers offers a lot of challenge because in the middle of the ocean the ship has to be self-sufficient in every way and it is solely their responsibility to ensure this. There is also the thrill of visiting new places in a variety of climatic and cultural zones.
Navigating Officers (who can go on to become captains) have to undergo a three-year training course in the theoretical and practical aspects of nautical science. This training is imparted in the training ship (TS) Chanakya, Mumbai.
They are trained for seamanship, navigation, cargo work, ship maintenance, naval architecture, collision prevention and marine communication. Practical
Training includes maintenance work on the ship and experience in handling various navigational instruments and also boat-work. All drills carried out in sea-going ships pertaining to safety of life at sea are regularly carried out on board.
Marine engineering (4-year) training equips cadets in fundamental engineering sciences together with specialized knowledge of theoretical and practical marine engineering and basic knowledge of humanities and the social sciences.
Mechanical engineering graduates can also undergo pre-sea training to become marine engineers.
Physical and Psychological Requirements
Practicality and resourcefulness, ability to take responsibility and make instant decisions, willingness to take orders and accept one’s place in the hierarchy, along with the ability to supervise and control people at work are considered useful attributes for success in the Merchant Navy. For women, self-sufficiency is important as you will be one of a very few (say, 1,2 or 3) women and this can be lonely. You should also not feel conscious of standing out in a crowd.
Other requirements are numerical ability; a scientific temper; ability to work as one of a team; self-confidence, love for adventure; touch physical constitution; optimistic outlook; capacity for hard work; love for traveling; adaptability; and a sporting spirit.
Applicants for these courses should be mentally and physically fit.
The TS Chanakya ( formerly Rajendra) is an institution imparting maritime education and training to the prospective navigating officers of the country. It is affiliated to the University of Mumbai as a degree college for conducting the three-year course in Nautical Science. The syllabus aims to give a broad-based
Marine education with special emphasis on the fundamentals of marine subjects
And practical aspects of the profession. Physical training is an essential part of the curriculum to keep the young persons fit for the tough and adventurous career at sea. The theoretical and practical training programme instills officer-like qualities and a high sense of discipline in the cadets. At the end of the three-year course the University of Mumbai awards cadets a BSc Nautical Science.
After successful completion of this course the cadet officers have to complete one year in the deck department before being able to bid for the grant of Second Mate’s (foreign-going) Certificate of Competency. During this period a nominal stipend is paid to them.
The marine engineering course of training is conducted by the Marine Engineering Research Institute (MERI) Kolkata, formely known as the Directorate of Marine Engineering Training (DMET). Marine engineering training is spread over a period of four years and it leads to a graduation certificate considered equivalent to a first degree in engineering by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for appointment in the senior services of the government. During
The four-year course much importance is attached to participation in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities of the institute.
Initial training at the MERI includes the use of basic hand tools, machine tools and technical gadgets pertaining to the engineering subjects. Subsequently, cadets are attached to the marine workshop and are engaged in the overhaul, repair and maintenance of the ship’s main and auxiliary machinery and shipboard
Systems. Technical classes are held in advanced marine engineering and technology. Practical training in the powerhouse gives cadets an idea of actual working situation with the help of instruments such as simulators. Visits to factories, shipyards and modern merchant ships form a part of the co-curricular activities. It is compulsory for cadets to take part in physical training, swimming and outdoor games. Facilities for hobbies such as photography and music are also provided.
Performance of the cadets is assessed not only in terms of achievements in academics but also in terms of participation in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities together with the discipline maintained by them.
Admission to the courses on Nautical Science and Marine Engineering is open to students who have completed the Plus Two or equivalent examination with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics and secured at least 35 percent marks. There is an admission examination that assesses the candidate’s knowledge of physics, chemistry and mathematics of the Plus Two or equivalent standard. The nature of the entrance test is a combination of the objective and subjective types of questions. The written test is followed by an interview which is a test of personality.
Marine engineers and navigating officers are usually employed by shipping companies on a contractual basis. The period of contract varies from six months to nine months in different companies.
Cadets, after completing the three-year Nautical Science programme and acquiring the certificate of competency of second mate (foreign-going) are eligible to be appointed as third/second officer on board a merchant ship. They can draw a handsome salary.
After completing the four-year training programme at the MERI a cadet is taken in as a junior engineer officer on a merchant ship, and earns a handsome salary. Subject to satisfactory service and passing of requisite exminations, junior engineer officers are posted as 3rd engineer, 2nd engineer and ultimately chief engineer of a merchant ship.
The competency examinations for navigating officers and for the marine engineers are conducted by the Ministry of Surface Transport through the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS), Mumbai.
The Merchant Navy offers bright prospects to navigating officers and marine engineers. Their starting salaries are in the region of Rs.30,000 to Rs. 40,000 per month. In foreign shipping companies salaries are paid in foreign currency and you may acquire an NRI status.
The prospects of promotion are directly linked to passing of the requisite competency examinations conducted by the Ministry of Surface Transport through the DGS.
The highest post that a navigating officer can hope to attain on board a ship is master of a ship. After successful completion of the 3-year degree course in Nautical Science, the cadet officer has to complete one year on a deck department on board a merchant ship before becoming eligible for grant of Second Mate’s (F.G) certificate of Competency. Candidates who pass the BSc (Nautical Science) exam. Of University of Mumbai, qualify for remission of sea service and certain exemptions in the certificate of competency exams. After possessing the Certificate of Competency of Second Mate (F.G) such an officer can be appointed as 3rd/2nd Officer on board a merchant ship and can draw a handsome salary. Subsequent promotions require them to render further sea service to pass the higher examinations – First Mate (F.G) and Master (F.G). The Certificate of Competency as Master (F.G) entitles the officer to become captain of a merchant ship. The Ministry of Surface Transport through the DGS conducts the competency examinations.
For the marine engineer, the lowest examination pertains to the Second Class Certificate of Competency. This examination is conducted in two parts ( A and B)
By the Ministry of Surface Transport through the DGS. Candidates of MERI in possession of the Passing Out Certificate are exempted from Part A. After completion of qualifying sea-service MERI candidates can obtain part B of the Second Class Certificate. After completing training at MERI, a cadet is taken as a Junior engineer officer on a Merchant Navy Ship. Subject to satisfactory service and passing of requisite examinations, a junior engineer is posted as 3rd Engineer, 2nd Engineer and finally as a chief engineer of a ship.
Salaries rise with promotions and enterprising officers may gain their promotions very early in life. A career in the Merchant Navy, thus, offers high salaries, thrill, challenge and adventure all in one package.