Merchant Navy Officer

In this career guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the merchant navy as a career, from roles and responsibilities, to work environment and roadmap to becoming a Merchant Navy Officer.

Who's a Navy Officer?

Do you dream of working at sea? Does the idea of working on a ship excite you? Do you think you could handle the high risk-high rewards life of having a career at sea? If you are nodding your head excitedly, then you could become an officer for the Merchant Navy!

A Merchant Navy official leads a team of marine engineers who look after the working of the ship’s engines. As a Merchant Navy Officer, you will oversee the repairs and maintenance of the ship. You will also conduct regular inspections of the cargo being loaded and unloaded. You will monitor the weather conditions and prepare a report based on your observations.

If you visit any port, you see many huge ships carrying big containers. These ships transport things like medicines, clothes, automobiles and even food to and from different countries. These ships – known as merchant ships – transport different products from one country to the other. The person in charge of loading and off-loading these resources is the Merchant Navy Officer.

What will you do?

Overseeing maintenance of the ship’s machinery.

You will oversee the regular checking of different on-boarding equipment and parts. If there are any issues, you must make sure to get the repairs done in time.

Example: The ship will be in the sea for long stretches at a time. Fuel and other necessities must be stocked and taken care of, and all the equipment should be in a good condition.

Managing schedules for loading/offloading cargo.

Schedules are a vital part of your job profile. You have to keep a close eye on cargo loading schedules and make changes whenever necessary. You also have to maintain records and orders of the goods that are being loaded or unloaded.

Example: Before your ship takes off the port, you should have a clear schedule with dates and timings of where it will stop to load and unload cargo.

Allocating and monitoring the ship crew’s tasks.

As a Merchant Navy Officer, you are in charge of the ship’s crew. You have to ensure that everyone is performing their job well. You have to be the leader they can all look up to.

Monitoring the weather.

Apart from overseeing the ship’s navigation, you will also have to keep a close eye on the weather and listen to broadcasts from nearby ports to understand how it will impact sailing. This is important to ensure the safety of your ship and crew. If the weather is about to turn rough, you might have to change course and anchor the ship to a nearby coast until it’s safe enough to sail again.

Maintaining budgets.

You might have to take a variety of measures to run the ship as per the allotted budget, and make changes wherever necessary to ensure that you don’t go overboard.

For example, if you end up spending more than the allotted budget while making changes in your route (possibly due to the weather), you might have to make changes in other aspects to ensure that you make up for it.

Following safety measures.

Given that you’re sailing vast seas for long durations, it’s important that you prioritise the safety of your ship and crew above all else. You will conduct regular checks to ensure that all the equipment is functioning properly, fire standards are met and weather regulations are adhered to while sailing. You will also train the crew on safety standards before they begin sailing.

Take the Mentoria career assessment test, to find out how well-suited you are as an Merchant Navy Offecer.

Where will you work?

At Sea

Most of your work will take place on sailing vessels as you will be sailing at sea for around six to nine months of the year. You need to be prepared to stay away from home and your loved ones for most of the year. You'd work on cruise liners, cargo ships, tankers and hovercraft, depending on the organisation you choose to work with.

Official Headquarters

When you're not sailing, you might have to visit the office headquarters from time to time. It's important to note that this career doesn't allow enough room for a social life, given that you're away from family and friends for months at a time. However, technology and satellite communication has made it possible to digitally connect with people while you're sailing.

How do you get there?

This stream won’t help you make an entry into this field.

This stream won’t help you make an entry into this field.

Step 1: Class XI-XII

You can opt for the Science stream at this level, and choose a subject combination of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. You need to score at least 60% in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) and 50% in English to be eligible for the next step.

Step 2: Entrance Exams

The ideal way to begin your career in Merchant Navy is to appear for the Common Entrance Test (CET) conducted by the Indian Maritime University (IMU). Once you have cleared this exam, you will be eligible for courses like BSc in Nautical Science, Marine Engineering and others offered in affiliation with IMU. Some colleges might also require you to clear the JEE Mains to get admission into their courses.

Step 3: Sponsorship

If you don’t wish to follow the standard route, you can pursue a basic maritime course and look for shipping companies that have their own training courses. You can apply for sponsorship at these companies, where they recruit you and ‘sponsor’ your training through their courses.

Step 4: Graduate Degree

Some of the most popular courses you can pursue to get into this field are B.Tech Marine Engineering, B.Sc Nautical Science, B.Tech Naval Architecture and Offshore Engineering, B.Tech Ship Building, B.E Marine Engineering, B.E Harbour and Ocean Engineering or BBA Shipping. If you’re keen on pursuing a diploma course after Class 10/12, you can opt for a Higher National Diploma (Nautical Science) or Diploma in Marine Engineering (DME) and aim for Lateral Entry in a BE Marine Engineering course. This option is also suitable for students who are pursuing their first year of mechanical or electrical engineering from an AICTE-approved institution.

Step 5: Pre-sea Training

Once you’ve completed your graduation, you will undergo one year of compulsory pre-sea training at the Maritime Training Institute before working on a ship as a cadet. Upon completing this training, you’d work on a ship for an additional training period of around 18 months. This will make you eligible for the competency exam conducted by the Government of India. Once you’ve cleared this exam, you can join the ship as a Third Officer.

Step 6: Postgraduate Degree

In order to rise up the ranks in the Merchant Navy, you will have to regularly appear for exams as defined by the Maritime Institute. However, you can also pursue a postgraduate degree to aim for higher posts. At a postgraduate level, you can consider courses like an MBA in Shipping & Logistics Management, Shipping Finance, Marine Human Resource Management, Cruise Ship Hospitality Management, Oil & Gas Management,  or an M.Tech. in Marine Engineering Management, Petroleum Engineering, or M.Sc. in Fleet Operations Management or Marine Biotechnology – depending on the specialisation you’d like to pursue.


Thinking of a career as an Merchant Navy Officer? Take the Mentoria assessment test & talk to our career counsellors to get personalized step-by-step guidance for your future career path.

What skills would you need?

Technical Skills

Technical Skills

As a marketer, you will work on different platforms to communicate with people. If you don’t understand how they work, you won’t be able to come up with the best strategy. You will also use various kinds of software like Google Adwords, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, etc., during your promotions. You need to know how they work, and how to use them to your advantage.

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Time Management

Time Management

The best - and worst - part about marketing is that there is never a dull moment. But this also means that there is NEVER A DULL MOMENT. Be prepared to be working on several tasks at once. That means that there are times when you will have to put certain projects on the backburner. You will have to know how to prioritise so that you don’t lose out on any opportunities.

Communication Skills

Communication Skills

It’s harder than ever to get people’s attention, what with so much information being thrown at them. But, people cannot resist a good story. Every good marketing campaign has a story to tell their customers and relate to them on an emotional level. Marketers who tell great stories through their marketing campaigns are always in great demand.

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How do you make it to the top ranks?

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Deck/Engine Cadet

There are two main departments – deck and engine. The first level at both is a cadet or 4th officer. If you’re on the deck team,  you’d look into the safety of the ship, read navigational charts and look after shipping traffic. If you’re on the engine team, you’d keep a list of all the inventory and locations of pumps and tools, maintain records of the machinery, and perform maintenance work.

Third Engineer

This post exists at an engine level. As a third engineer, you would be in charge of boilers, fuel, auxiliary engines, and feed systems. You’d also carry out maintainence work when required and prepare for the ship to arrive at a port.


Second Officer/Engineer

At a deck level, you’d be the main navigation officer. Depending on the organisation you’re working with, you could also be the Medical Officer on the ship at this level. At an engine level, you would schedule and oversee maintenance of the engine room as the Second Engineer and assist the Chief Engineer. You’d also manage the crew in the engine room.

Chief Officer/Engineer

At a deck level, you will be in charge of the ship’s crew and cargo. You would oversee safety regulations, quality checks and other operations. At an engine level, you would head the entire engineering department and design projects as per the assigned budget. You’d also be responsible for allocating resources, training new recruits and managing the engineering team.

Ship Captain

As captain of the ship, you’d be responsible for its crew and cargo, and ensuring that your tasks are completed safely, on time and without any incidents.

Pursuing your career locally VS abroad

There’s a huge demand for merchant navy officers around the world. The attractive salary package and options of different sailing vessels makes this a lucrative career option for several people. Around 90% of the world’s trade is conducted by the international shipping industry. There are over 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo, thereby offering several opportunities within this career. There’s also a lot of scope to grow within this field – at each level, you need to clear an exam for a promotion and a higher salary. Another factor that makes this career an attractive option is tax-free salaries at most organisations.

Once you’ve completed your training and gained enough experience, you can work with any shipping organisation in the world. You could also look at studying the right MBA abroad to boost your chances of getting a job offer in the country you wish to settle in. Given that shipping is an integral part of world trade, opportunites in this sector exist in most countries and, with the relevant experience, landing a job at an international organisation shouldn’t be a difficult task!

How much would you get paid?

Your pay will depend on your rank, posting, and other qualifying factors. However, we can give you a fair idea of how much you could earn as a merchant navy officer.

What are your career options?

General Service

Officers in the general service manage ships of the Navy. They strategise methods in which they can use ships as instruments of warfare and command them during battles with their enemies. Because of the nature of their work, all general service officers are trained in navigation, communications, gunnery, anti-submarine warfare, and diving.


Hydrographers conduct surveys at sea. They operate in territorial waters and explore high seas, depending on the task at hand. These professionals create navigational charts that are recognised internationally and even used by mariners across the world. Hydrographers in the Indian Navy also work as Instructors at Hydrography School at Goa.


The Navy also has an Air Wing with professionals trained for airborne coordination during maritime warfare. Observers mainly act as the “eyes” of the force, flying on board helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft to participate in various naval operations. If required, they also take up the responsibility of firing weapons of warfare.

Naval Armament Inspection

Naval Armament Inspection (NAI) Officers are responsible for inspecting the armaments used by the Navy. They run a quality check and also overlook the maintenance and storage of the armaments. Some officers in NAI are involved in research and development of maritime weapons, working with DRDO labs for their development.


The logistics officers have administrative responsibilities in the Indian Navy. They predict, plan, and execute the budget for various naval operations and are also involved in the inventory management of spare parts and items required for the smooth functioning of their ships. Additionally, they manage other responsibilities such as food and clothing of all officers, supply chain, and IT.

Information Technology

The IT cell is responsible for the implementation of hi-tech networks, software development projects, IT infrastructure, and advanced IT applications for the Navy. They are also involved in research and development of systems that ensure smooth connectivity and synchronised operations between the various ships of a fleet.

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