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“Lucrative pay packets, great working experience, early retirement and on-shore working options after retirement, all these make Merchant Navy exciting and rewarding”.

As the popular song goes. “Where can you find pleasure, search the world for treasure, learn science, technology? Where can you begin to make your dream all comes true on the land or on the sea? In the ‘Merchant Navy” yes, you can sail the seven seas..

A career with Merchant Navy can be both exciting and rewarding if charted out property. Broadly it can be classified into two segments: deck side and Engine side. The former deals with navigation and overall management of a ship, and the latter the running of the ship.

What is Merchant Navy?

The Merchant Navy is a fleet of noncombatant commercial ships that deals with transportation of passengers and cargo. The fleet includes cargo liners, tankers, containers, bulk careers, gas tankers, chemical tankers and passenger vessels.


On the deck side the career begins as a sea cadet and them goes up the ladder as third mate, second mate, first mate and finally the captain. For a good seaman it hardly takes 10 years to become the captain of a ship. In the engine side the career starts as third engineer till one become the chief engineer.

How to join as a cadet?

The minimum eligibility is 10+2 with Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. The candidates should essentially be unmarried and not more than 20 years of age (Relaxed by five years for SC/ST candidates). Ideally there are two ways of getting into the deck side of the merchant navy. First through the institute run by the Ministry of Surface Transport, T.S. Chanakya (formerly TS Rajendra), Navi Mumbai, and the other is through a couple of institute run by shipping majors like Great Eastern and Tolani Shipping in Indian and foreign companies like Wallam and Nedlloyd. There are also quite a few private institute but the candidates should essentially check whether they are recognized by the Director General of Shipping or not.

To get into Chankya one has to go through the IIT-JEE, while the other institute have their own set of selection procedures. The trainees also have to match a few physical standards to make to the selection grade, which includes a stringent check on eyesight.

The courses at Chanakya is for three years and students are awarded a B.Sc (Nautical Science) on completion. Chanakya graduates can attempt the third mate examination after spending six months on board as deck cadets. While at the same time the students who come into the profession after completing the three-and-a-half month training at various other private institutes have to undergo a minimum of three years on board a deck cadets before they can attempt the third mate examination.

Life in merchant navy is a mixed bag. On one side a person has to be at sea for long periods of time away from home and family and on the other side it provides a lot of excitement and adventure and opens up opportunity to see new places and a variety of cultures.

People who want to join the engine side in ship can opt of the premier institute in the country MERI (Marine Engineering & Research institute), Kolkata or its branch in Mumbai.

MERI conducts a four-year marine engineering course equivalent to a degree in Marine Engineering. The intake capacity of the above course is around 120 per year. Both institutes are fully equipped to impart effective training in all the branches of Marine Engineering. The cadets for admission are selected through a combined all India entrance examination conducted by IIT-JEE, all over the there are also other private institute recognized by DG shipping where one can take the training.

Today there is a churn out of over 4,000 marine engineers all over the country annually from different institutes compared to a few decades ago when it was only about 100, but the demand is ever growing.

Pay packets

The packet is lucrative and that is one factor luring young minds for decades. The pay and perks depend upon the type of the ship, experience and competency of an individual and the company. On an average a starter might get around 700 to 1,000 USD. A third mate or a third engineer could draw somewhere around 1,500 to 2,000 USD, second mate or second engineer – 2,200 to 3,500 USD, chief officer and chief engineer 5,000 to 8500 USD and the captain’s packet may vary from 6,000 to 8,000 USD. Some who join tankers and gas vessels now demand over 12,000 USD a month.

Early retirement

On an average one can become a captain or a chief engineer by the age of 30 and after a couple of years of service, contemplate an early retirement.

Ship management

The early retirement also helps them to take up on shore assignments. On ship or on shore they are in demand by the shipping industry. Many multi-national ship management firms look for Indian masters for the shore jobs.

Ship management is a new concept where a few companies run the show by hiring professionals with core expertise. Today most ship owners let out their vessels to such companies to run the show. The ship management firms in turn hire the experience of captains and chief engineers to operate on shore jobs like logistics, chartering and operations.

So whether board or on shore the career is wide open.

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