What is Merchant Navy?

"Without international shipping, half the world would freeze and the other half would starve...".

-Efthimios Mitropoulos,
Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization

The Merchant Navy is a non-combatant commercial fleet, which deals primarily with transporting cargo and occasionally, passengers, by sea.

We are living in a global society which is being supported by a global economy-one that simply could not function if it were not for the shipping industry. Shipping touches every aspect of your day-to-day life. Imagine the first thing you see in the morning, through all the things you see/ use during the day, to the last thing to see before you retire for the day, and now imagine you life without all of these. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimate, 'Shipping is the backbone of International Trade. About 90% of the world trade takes place through Shipping'.

This means that all the commodities, goods, fuel, foodstuffs, wine, electronics, clothing and everything else that makes up the fabric of your daily lives has been brought to you, courtesy of the brave seafarers who touch your lives so intimately and yet remain invisible.

What Merchant Navy Officers Do?

Merchant Navy ships are maintained by experienced navigators and marine engineers.

Merchant Navy officers are primarily leaders and managers. However, as well as managing staff, senior officers are still expected to perform practical tasks with their colleagues.

Typical work activities

Your rank and the size of the vessel you are working on will affect your duties. On a smaller ship, activities will be more hands-on, whereas on a larger ship, the role tends to be more managerial.

A deck/navigation officer's typical work activities include:

  • Navigating the vessel using a range of satellite and radar systems and equipment;
  • checking weather and navigation reports and taking appropriate action;
  • coordinating the safe loading, storage and unloading of cargo;
  • managing the care and safety of passengers (if working on a ferry/cruise ship);
  • supervising the operation and maintenance of deck machinery, e.g. winches and cranes;
  • managing ship communication systems;
  • monitoring and maintaining safety, firefighting and life-saving equipment;
  • overseeing the ship to ensure that the highest levels of health and safety are maintained;
  • maintaining legal and operational records, e.g. the ship's log;
  • keeping up to date with developments in maritime legal, commercial and political matters.

An engineering officer's typical work activities include:

  • directing others in the operation and maintenance of the mechanical and electrical equipment on board;
  • managing power, fuelling and distribution systems;
  • repairing and upgrading systems and equipment, e.g. air compressors, pumps and sewage plants;
  • implementing regular equipment inspections and maintenance programmes;
  • keeping up to date with developments in the marine engineering field.

The role of Electro Technical Officer (ETO) is fairly new. It typically includes:

  • monitoring all the electronic and electrical equipment onboard, focussing on the ship’s safety and efficiency.
  • undertaking essential administration, including budgets, accounts and records of stock, cargo and passengers;
  • managing the work of ratings and providing training and support for officer trainees.

What are Ratings?

Ratings are personnel who assist officers in all departments. Ratings carry out essential tasks in the day-to-day running of the ship. A rating is also trained in fire prevention and sea survival skills. In an emergency a rating helps to deal with hazardous incidents, for example, as a member of a fire-fighting party or fast rescue boat crew.

Deck Ratings

  • Steer the ship and assist the deck officer in other navigational duties.
  • In port, they secure the ship to the dock;
  • Carry out maintenance;
  • Contribute to the security of the vessel.

Engineer Ratings

  • Maintain shipboard machinery;
  • Carry out routine oiling, greasing and servicing;
  • strip, repair and fit equipment parts.
  • Experienced ratings help the engineering officers to monitor the main plant and other equipment to ensure its smooth functioning.

Role of the Support Staff

Support Staff assists personal on-board merchant vessels with catering and housekeeping jobs.

Catering - Provide a variety of catering services for the crew and passengers on cruise and merchant vessels. Most cargo-carrying vessels have a cook or cook-steward on board.

Housekeeping - Housekeepers, stewards, cleaners, porters, laundry personnel, carpenters & joiners, concierges.

Why should you pursue a career in Merchant Navy?

  • You are paid while you learn
  • You get the chance to travel the world at your company's expense
  • Time off is quality period measured in weeks and months - not just days
  • Your life at sea is challenging and rewarding
  • You can quickly rise to the top and gain responsibility, respect and a salary to match
  • There is a lifetime of personal development opportunities post life at sea

"Pledged in the Services of Maritime"


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