What is Merchant Navy? Read Only if you Want to Know Everything!

As a Merchant Navy Officer, people often ask me what is Merchant Navy and my job profile is onboard a ship. So, it’s better to write a blog post explaining everything about the merchant navy and clearing most of the doubts that young aspirants regularly ask.

What is Merchant Navy

Merchant navy is a Vast topic, so I will break it down into a couple of blog posts to keep it simple and easy to understand.

Below are the topics we will discuss in our What is Merchant Navy in India? The blog post series will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to the world of the Merchant Navy.

  • What is Merchant Navy
  • How to join the merchant navy After (Graduation, Mechanical Engineering, Btech, 12th)
  • Merchant Navy Salary (for Ratings, Officers, and Engineers)
  • Merchant Navy Courses, Fees, Eligibility, Qualifications
  • Career Opportunity for Girls in Merchant Navy
  • And clearing new aspirants’ doubts who want to join the Merchant Navy.

So let’s start…

What is Merchant Navy?

Simply put, the Merchant Navy involves moving goods by sea. It is a commercial shipping industry that uses cargo ships, tankers, and other vessels to transport goods and people across oceans and seas.

It is also referred to as the mercantile marine or merchant marine.

90% of global trade is carried out by Merchant Ships; hence merchant navy is a vital sector of global trade and plays a significant role in facilitating international trade by transporting goods and commodities between different countries.

“Let me explain more simply. I work on a ship in the Merchant Navy. Our job is to transport different things, like wheat, coal, containers, chemicals, crude oil, fruits, and sometimes passengers, from one country to another, this is Merchant Navy.”

Merchant Navy is a global industry, where thousands of ships are operated by private companies (there are few govt companies, but the ship jobs are private jobs only. The ship belongs to a Government company) from different countries. 

It is a complex and highly specialized industry that requires skilled and dedicated professionals to operate and manage the vessels.

The required skills are such that you need to gain sufficient experience and certification for promotion at every step.

  • For entry-level, you need CDC and basic STCW courses to get a job as Tr. OS / Tr. Wiper / Tr. Saloon Rating
  • From Tr.OS/Wiper, you need to Get Watchkeeping to become an OS
  • From OS, you need to get AB COP to become an Able Bodied Seaman
  • The same goes for Officers; to become an Officer, you need to give OOW Exams, after which you become 3rd/2nd Officer.
  • Once the required sea-time is completed, you must give the Chief Officer Exam and the same for Captain.
  • So for every promotion, you need to study and get the rank certificate, and only after that you can be promoted to the next rank.

How Merchant Navy Business Works

The Merchant Navy is a complex and highly structured industry comprising various components, including ship owners, operators, managers, agents, and seafarers.

Ship owners are the individuals or companies that own the vessels. They are responsible for the ships’ purchase, construction, and maintenance.

Ship operators are the companies that operate the vessels on behalf of the owners. They look after the cargo business to ensure the ship never sails empty.

They are responsible for crewing, maintenance, and day-to-day operations of the vessels.

Ship managers are the companies that provide technical, commercial management, crewing, and day-to-day operation services to ship owners.

They are responsible for ensuring that the vessels are operated safely, efficiently, and in compliance with the regulatory requirements.

Ship agents are the companies that represent the ship owners and operators in the ports. They are responsible for arranging port services such as berthing, pilotage, and stevedoring.

Seafarers are the individuals who work on the vessels; they can be deck officers, engineers, and ratings.

Onboard ship seafarers are responsible for operating the vessels and ensuring the safe and efficient transportation of goods and people from one port to another.

You might have understood that Merchant Navy is not only about working on a ship but everything related to the ship’s business.

Types of Vessels in Merchant Navy

To know about What is Merchant Navy you also need to know about the

wide range of vessels in the Merchant Navy, each designed to transport specific types of cargo or people.

  • Bulk carriers are vessels designed to carry dry bulk cargo such as coal, iron ore, and grain.
  • Tankers are vessels designed to carry liquid cargo such as oil, chemicals, and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
  • Container ships are vessels designed to transport containers loaded with goods such as consumer products, machinery, and electronics. (even your Laptop and iPhone)
  • Ro-Ro (Roll-on/Roll-off) vessels are designed to transport vehicles and other wheeled cargo.
  • Passenger ships are vessels designed to transport people. They include cruise ships, ferries, and other types of passenger vessels.
  • Offshore vessels include Supply vessels, DP vessels, AHTS, Tugs, etc.
Role of Merchant Navy

The primary role of the Merchant Navy is to transport goods and commodities between different countries and continents.

The industry plays a critical role in facilitating international trade and commerce, helping to drive economic growth and development.

The Merchant Navy is responsible for transporting more than 90% of the world’s trade, making it a crucial sector of the global economy.

The industry enables businesses to source raw materials and finished goods from different parts of the world, allowing them to manufacture products and offer services to customers around the globe.

In addition to transporting goods and commodities, the Merchant Navy also plays a critical role in providing humanitarian aid and support during times of crisis.

Merchant’s vessels are often used to transport relief supplies, food, and medical equipment to areas affected by natural disasters or conflicts.

The Merchant Navy also plays a crucial role in protecting the marine environment. Shipping companies are required to comply with international regulations and standards to ensure that their vessels are operated safely and do not cause harm to the marine ecosystem.

Different Departments in Merchant Ships

The Merchant Navy is structured around a hierarchical system of officers and ratings who are responsible for operating and managing the vessels.

The officers are responsible for the vessel’s navigation, communication, and safety, while the ratings provide support and assistance in various areas of the vessel’s operations.

In India its DG Shipping who issues CDC and approved Institutes for conducting various STCW courses and Pre Sea training.

The structure of the Merchant Navy can vary depending on the type and size of the vessel. However, the basic hierarchy is as follows:

Deck department:

What is Merchant Navy

The deck department is responsible for the vessel’s navigation, communication, and safety. The officers in the deck department include the Captain, Chief Officer, Second Officer, Third Officer, and Deck cadet as a trainee officer.

The ratings in the deck department include Able Seaman, Ordinary Seaman, and Trainee Deck Rating or OS.

Rating Course: GP Rating Course – A Complete Guide

Engine department: The engine department is responsible for operating and maintaining the vessel’s engines and machinery. The officers in the engine department include the Chief Engineer, Second Engineer, Third Engineer, Fourth Engineer, and Engine cadet as a trainee engineer.

The ratings in the engine department include Motorman, Fitter, and Wiper.

Electro-technical department: The electro-technical department is responsible for operating and maintaining the vessel’s electrical and electronic systems. (Usually, they are part of the Engine Room and report to the Chief Engineer)

The officers in the electro-technical department include the Electro-technical Officer (ETO) and the Electrician.

Catering/Saloon department: The catering department provides food and beverages to the crew and passengers. The Petty officers in the catering department include the Chief Cook and Second Cook.

This department’s ratings are called Steward, Mess Man, Mess Boy, and General Steward.

In conclusion, the Merchant Navy is a critical sector of the global economy that plays a crucial role in facilitating international trade and commerce.

The industry requires skilled and dedicated professionals to operate and manage the vessels, and it offers a wide range of career opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career at sea.

Working in the Merchant Navy requires specialized training, education, and physical and mental toughness. The industry offers excellent career prospects, with professional development and advancement opportunities.

If you want to pursue a career in the Merchant Navy, there are several ways to get started. You can contact a shipping company or a training institution to learn more about the training and education requirements for different positions in the industry.

This blog post has provided you with a better understanding of What is Merchant Navy and its role in the global economy. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


1. Can arts or commerce students join the merchant navy? 

Yes, Arts or Commerce Students can join the merchant navy and start their career as Rating.

2. Is merchant navy a government job?

NO, Merchant Navy is a Private Job, and you only get paid for the time you stay on the ship; once you come home for vacation, your salary stops.

3. Is merchant navy a permanent job?

NO, In Merchant Navy, you need to sign an employment contract of (officers 3-6 months, Ratings 6-9 months). Once the contract is finished, you can join any other company or re-apply to your current company by telling them when you are ready to return to the ship.

4. How to join merchant navy without pcm

You can join Merchant Navy Without PCM by doing a GP Rating course requiring a 10th Pass.

5. Is the merchant marine in the Department of Navy

No, Merchant Marine is not a department of the Navy or Government

6. What is itf company in merchant navy?

ITF Company means all companies associated with the International Trade Federation (ITF) Union.

7. Can merchant marines work on navy ships?

NO, Merchant seafarers can’t work on Navy Ships.

8. Can a girl join merchant navy?

Yes, Girls can join Merchant Navy. Internationally girls are encouraged to join the merchant navy.

9. What is the difference between Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy?

The primary difference between the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy is that the Merchant Navy is a civilian organization that operates for commercial purposes, while the Royal Navy is a military organization that operates for defense and security purposes.

The Royal Navy is part of the armed forces of a country UK, while the Merchant Navy is a commercial organization. Additionally, Merchant Navy ships are not armed, while Royal Navy ships are armed with weapons.


Looking to start a career in the Merchant Navy? We’ve got you covered!

Our team can help you get admission into DG approved institutes in India, without any service charge.

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