As of January, 2015 – A fleet of 50,000 merchant vessels are trading in international waters. This includes:
- Bulk Carriers (the largest of the chunk)
- General Cargo Ships
- Crude oil tankers / Chemical Tankers
- Container ships
- Passenger / Ro-Ro Ships
- LNG / LPG ships
Excluding the passenger ships, each ship has a crew of 25-35(mostly) to attend to vessel’s affairs. Each crew member on board a ship has a specialized role to play in the safe and efficient operation of the ship and he/she will find himself to be working in one of the following departments –
- Deck / Navigation Department
- Engine Department
- Catering Department
Any person willing to work on board a merchant ship has to choose a relevant pre-sea course according to his interest in the purview of eligibility for the course.
In both the Deck and Engine Department, there is a further sub division – Officer and Rating. Catering department, however, has all ratings.
A brief on the job of an officer and a rating is as follows –
Officer – He / She has in depth theoretical knowledge of the subject matter of his department’s affairs with good operational, maintenance and troubleshooting skills. He also plays supervisory cum on-hands role in planning, execution of a job and its proper documentation.
Rating – He / She has strong hands-on skills and is generally very good with housekeeping and jugaad maintenance. He/she works under the supervision of an Officer and assists him in the job as required.
Roles in the merchant navy
The hierarchy of ranks in Deck, Engine and Catering Department is as follows-
|Deck Department||Engine Department||Catering Department|
|Chief Officer/Mate||Second Engineer/
First Assistant Engineer
|Second Officer/Mate||Third Engineer/ Second Assistant Engineer|
|Third Officer/Mate||Fourth Engineer/ Third Assistant Engineer|
|Deck Cadet||Engine Cadet/ Junior Engineer|
|Ratings||Bosun||Fitter/No.1 Oiler||Chief Cook|
|Welder/Fitter or Pump man
|Motorman/ Oiler||Second Cook/
|Trainee Ordinary Seaman|
One starts off his career at sea from the bottom of the food chain (as listed above). One must choose the ‘officer’ step or ‘rating’ step to climb up the ladder in either Deck or Engine Department.
Officers and Ratings both have to successfully complete their share of pre sea courses and additional certification/exams to join a merchant ship. Ratings can cross over to the officer ladder after gaining stipulated sea experience, relevant pre sea courses and competency exams. Electrical Officers need to undergo pre-sea course (5-6 months) to join a merchant ship. The galley crew (Catering Department) also requires relevant pre-sea course and competency certificate to join a merchant ship.
How to join Merchant Navy – FAQ
What is the eligibility criteria for joining a pre-sea course?
Deck or Engine, both have their respective array of pre-sea courses.
IMU CET is the umbrella exam for admission to any of the pre sea courses at DG shipping approved institutes. Minimum academic qualification requirement for IMU CET is to have Physics, Chemistry, Maths and English as subjects in the curriculum at (10+2) level or equivalent examination.
There is a minimum percentage criteria too for the above stated subjects and there is a route for Diploma holders (Mechanical / Marine / Electrical / Electronics) to gain admission in pre-sea courses.
Here is a link to the list of specific requirements for Deck or engine entry: link
The link will open a page, where on the left you will find a tab with number of options to choose from. Choose –‘Pre-Sea Maritime Courses with its Eligibility Criteria and Institutes for Entry in Merchant Navy’. A pdf file will open giving all needed details.
If for some reason, the link doesn’t work- browse for – link. On the website under the “Maritime Training” tab in the top row, choose ” Pre-Sea Maritime Courses with its Eligibility Criteria and Institutes for Entry in Merchant Navy” link to get the pdf file.
There is age limit to enrol into one of these courses. The link above gives details on it.
Medical fitness is mandatory for entry into any of these programmes. A complete medical screening will be carried out before you admitted to any of the pre-sea courses.
How to decide which institute to join?
The link above also provides the list of approved Institutes to enrol for the various courses it tabulates. If an institute under your consideration does not appear on the list, it is best to avoid it.
Do the institutes provide any placement assistance?
Once you have successfully completed the pre sea course of your choosing, the institutes do assist for placements in shipping companies. However, don’t just take their word for it. Visit the campus, interact with existing students to find out the existing scenario. The shipping trade is affected by the condition of world economy and its effect ripples down to the bottom level i.e. Institute placements. However, good institutes are mostly able to help students to find a job.
You can also apply for placement externally, however they are hard to come by owing to the recent growth in the number of enrolments in pre sea courses.
Is there any additional fee charged for placement?
There is a nominal placement fee (which is generally part of course fee itself) charged by the institute as per AICTE rules and regulations. It only accounts for administrative work. Nobody will ask you for money for ‘setting’ or ‘procuring’ a job for you. It is illegal. Shipping industry has seen a recent growth of such touts. Beware!
Are there any additional courses, documentation?
Yes. Towards the end of your pre sea course or after its completion, and before join a ship, you will need to have STCW certifications. There are 4 basic courses to complete. Each of them lasts only a couple of days and the training institute will help you through it. A CDC (Continuous Discharge Certificate) can also be applied for thereafter. A CDC becomes your identity document as a seafarer.
You are issued a training book, which you will need to complete during your time on board ship. It helps you understand and learn the ship board arrangements, equipment and safe working practices on board a ship. And of course, if there is a training, there is an exam for it. Exams which will help you climb up the food chain.
Then here is – Indian National Database Of Seafarers (INDOS) registration, Complete medical check up, vaccinations – yellow fever, cholera, hepatitis- A,B.
Don’t worry at this point for all of the above. Either your training institute or the shipping company you are placed with will help you through it.
How to decide if a shipping company is good or bad?
As wonderful and exciting it may seem to be at sea. It is an equally dangerous scenario. A ship is a safest place to be at sea and the shipping company which entails a safety culture for ship upkeep and ship operation is a good company.
A company that asks you for money to put you on board and pushes you to do a job that is hazardous to you, to the environment or illegal is not a good company. Never get on board on such a company’s ship, however difficult your personal situation might be because you might not come back home in one piece or worse may not even return.
As ironical as it may sound, money should not be the motive, safety should be. Money will come. Trust this from a seafarer who belongs to a middle class background and has been at sea for 8 years.
Having said that, here is a link to the list of companies registered with Government of India: link
Select the link – ‘RPS Licenses Issued as on date’ from the page to get the full list companies and their contact details.
If the link above does not work. Browse for – www.dgshipping.gov.in and click on ‘RPS Agencies’ in the left tab column. You will be directed to the page where you can find the link – ‘RPS Licenses Issued as on date’ .
Companies with valid RPSL numbers should be pursued for employment. This is for your own safety.
Note: The website – <www.dgshipping.gov.in> is the official website of Government of India and can be trusted for all the information it provides.
PS : I will cover more details on what to expect and how to prepare oneself before joining your first ship in the next article. Stay put. Cheers!
Till then, read these related posts:
– Life on board a Merchant Navy ship: Benefits and Risks
– What do Merchant Navy officers do?
– Merchant Navy problems: Life of a Marine Engineer
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