The Merchant Navy is a non-combatant commercial fleet, which deals with transporting cargo and occasionally, passengers, by sea. Its fleet is therefore composed of passenger vessels, cargo liners, tankers, carriers, as well as other special types of vehicles. A career in this field is full of adventure and long voyages to exotic places. Above all this, the excellent pay and promising promotional opportunities make the career lucrative and exciting in spite of all the hard work life and long absence from family and home.
The main positions open in the merchant navy are for navigating officers, radio officers and marine engineers. They are usually employed by shipping companies on a contractual basis, which is generally of six to nine months’ duration. Earlier a career in this field was considered purely for men. Women were not generally known to take up jobs in merchant navy but the past few years have seen a positive change with many women taking up jobs as ship doctors and radio officers.
In Merchant Navy, major tasks performed are in three basic areas of a ship i.e. the Deck, the Engine and the Saloon Department. There are thus, many career options that are available for any youngster who has dreams to join the merchant navy. The deck officers include the captain, chief officer, second officer, third officer and other junior officers. The engine department consists of the chief engineer, second engineer, third engineer, fourth engineer, electrical officer and junior engineers. The service department manages the kitchen, laundry and other services.Jobs are available with shipping companies in India and other countries.
Educational qualification: The minimum eligibility for courses in Nautical science and Marine engineering is 10+2 or an equivalent examination with physics, chemistry and mathematics. He should also pass a medical fitness testfor sea service under standard norms and with eyesight 6/6 with no colour blindness.
Selection: Candidates are selected for the B.Sc. Nautical Science degree of TS Chanakya, Mumbai; and the four-year Marine Engineering degree course at Marine Engineering Research Institute, in Calcutta and Mumbai, known as DMET, through the Joint Entrance Examination conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), which assesses the candidate’s knowledge of physics, chemistry and mathematics. The examination is followed by personal interviews/counseling, where the interviewers assess the degree of alertness, and awareness of the external environment, in the candidates and their suitability for a career in the Merchant Navy.
The entry level for a fresh Marine Engineer (ME) is at the rank of fifth engineer or junior engineer and a Nautical Science graduate is as a Deck Cadet. Promotions depend on further examinations conducted by the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS), the quality of experience and personal merit. On successfully completing these examinations the candidate receives the ‘Certificates of Competency’ needed for promotion to the respective classes. This examination is conducted by the Ministry of Surface Transport, in association with the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) Mumbai, for determining the promotion prospects for the officers.
Direct entry to Merchant Navy is also possible – students who have completed their 12th with PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics) are eligible to join as Deck Cadets and a student holding a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical/ Electrical/ Technology Engineering could also join the Merchant navy as a Engine Cadet/ Fifth Engineer/ Junior Engineer.Direct entry Deck Cadets are required to undergo basic pre-sea training arranged by the recruiting company itself and the direct entry engineering cadets are preferred to do a Pre-sea course of 9 months duration in Marine Engineering conducted by the MERI.
Personal attributes: A career in the merchant navy requires people with strong inner self and tough physical form, along with a sporting, adaptive and adjustable attitude. Willing to take on responsibility, love for adventure and challenges; have the urge to strive for higher positions; be able to work as well as study for examinations in between. Candidates need to be intelligent, intuitive, willing to work as a team, flexible, patient; have a liking for solitude, willing to live apart from loves ones for long stretches of time. Those opting for a career should not be sea sick.
Engineers need to be resourceful and practical; skilled at Maths and Physics; have in-depth knowledge about the workings of the different machines. Manual dexterity is a must; one should be willing to learn new ways and work with modern technology; and able to work in the deck department as well if need arises.