A Comprehensive Guide to join Merchant Navy

by Rashi Dutta and Abhinav Jure

Understanding Merchant Navy

Most of the people confuse the term Merchant navy with Defense Forces. Merchant Navy deals with commercial shipping. To understand what is commercial shipping, you just need to look around and identify what products you are using and where they come from? The big-box that you see on a truck, the fuel you use at home or in your car, is being delivered by a ship. We the Ship-Crew deliver these goods on time. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), around 80% of global trade by volume and over 70% of global trade by value are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide.

First Thing’s First, Before I put up all the factual data, I would rather emphasize the most valid point. If you want to start your career in Merchant navy with an Indian Pre-Sea college, ensure that the college is Director General Shipping approved (DG-S) approved. The main job of DGS is to ensure that Indian ships and shipping companies meet high safety- and environmental standards, to ensure that Indian seamen have high qualifications and good working- and living conditions, and to ensure that foreign ships in Indian territory and ports meet international rules.

DGS is an attached office under the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India.

Ship Organisation Structure

A ship is a city within itself, a city that moves and delivers. To keep this city moving the division of labor is done. Before you join a ship, you need to understand what you are getting into. A Commercial Merchant Ship can be classified into 3 departments:

1. Deck Department.
2. Engine Department.
3. Catering Department.


The Deck department is in charge of the vessel navigation which includes the planning of passage as well as its execution, maintaining the ship's deck, cargo gear, and accommodation, taking care of the ship's life-saving and firefighting appliances. The deck department is also the one in charge of loading, discharging, and safe carriage of cargo. The Captain of the Ship is the highest rank in this career path.

Engine department is an organizational unit aboard a ship that is responsible for the operation, maintenance, and repair of the propulsion systems and the support systems for crew and cargo. These include the ship engine, fuel/lube oil management, water distillation, lighting, air conditioning, and refrigeration. Electro-Technical Officer (ETO) does not carry out an assigned engine-room watch instead they generally work a daily shift carrying out electrical and electronic maintenance, repairs, diagnosis, installations,and testing. Chief Engineer is the highest rank in this career path.


The catering department does functions such as preparing meals, cleaning and maintaining officers' quarter, and managing the stores. This department usually consists of steward/messman and chief cook. Depending on size and type of vessel there can be more than 1 steward as well as multiple cooks.


Minimum age – 17 years; maximum age not exceeding 25 years to be eligible for exams. (28 for GME candidates).


Medically fit with eyesight 6/12 in each eye, 6/9 in better eye and 6/18 in the other eye for distant unaided vision. Personnel who are color blind are not permitted in this career. Candidates with disabilities are not allowed either. The sole reason for this is that a seafarer is required to give his/her 100% when sailing at sea and needs to be physically fit to carry out the assigned tasks effectively. All candidates have to pass a complete medical examination and mandatory tests before joining through qualified doctors and professional laboratories specializing in Merchant Navy regulations and requirements as per ILO Convention 147 Seafarer's Medical Examination.




3-year B.Sc. Nautical Science Course:

Candidates interested in this route should note that after 10+2, they will be attending a 3- year course with hostel life. They will be subject to a daily set routine which will include academics, sports, discipline among many other things which will assist the candidate in the overall development and imbibe an officer like quality. In this route the candidate will have B.Sc degree before going onboard as a deck-cadet.

1-year IMU (Indian Maritime University) Course:

Candidates interested in this route should note that IMU CET (common entrance test) exams are conducted twice a year. December/January and May/June. However, kindly note that the IMU CET that is held in Dec/Jan needs a company sponsorship in hand first but the Cet in June can be given by all candidates. Also note that some companies have their training institutes and they conduct their entrance test, aptitude tests even before IMU CET exam.


This 12-month course is offered to HSC or 12th pass candidates securing more than 60% in English and 60% in PCM subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Maths).

Successful candidates will be given DGS approved course completion certificate, INDOS, and Indian CDC –for all coursed related to shipping


  • IMU 1-year course OR B.Sc. Nautical Science 3-year course.

  • Application Interview/Selection Medical/Eyesight

  • Pre-Sea training (1-year or 3-year depending on course)

  • 12/18 months cadetship on commercial ships.

  • Obtain 2nd mates license.

  • Sail as Certified Deck Officer on Merchant ships for 18 months sea-time.

  • Obtain a chief mates license.

  • Sail as Certified Deck Officer on Merchant ships for 18 months sea-time OR as a chief officer for 12 
    months sea-time.

  • Obtain a Master’s license.

  • Sail as Master/Captain once the necessary company requirements are fulfilled.


Master/Captain is the highest rank in this career flow and assumes the overall responsibility of the ship.






When it comes to B.E / B. Tech Marine engineering . There are two ways in which Candidates may acquire it.

  • He may go for regular B.E/B.Tech Degree after 10+2 (PCM) or may go for the lateral entry (after completing diploma program).

  • B. Tech Regular marine engineering is 4-year in-house training course. On the other hand, students making use of the lateral entry could get admission in 2nd year directly.

For both regular and lateral entry in B.E Marine Engineering candidate needs to qualify IMU CET Exam conducted twice in a year. Also, note that many colleges conduct their entrance test and aptitude test in addition to IMU CET exam.


4-year course is offered to HSC or 12th pass candidates securing more than 60% in English and 60% in PCM subjects (Physics, Chemistry, Maths). Age of candidate should be within 17-25 years of age Lateral Entry is offered to Candidates with diploma In mechanical (60% overall with 60 % in English).
IMU Cet is mandatory for admission in B.E /B.Tech Marine Engineering .age should not exceed 25 years


1-year Pre-Sea Training for Graduate Engineers (GME) Course:

This course is offered to existing Graduate Engineers (Degree in Mechanical & Automobile/Naval Arch) an opportunity to join a one-year Graduate Marine Engineering course (inhouse). Companies have their training institutes and they conduct their entrance test, aptitude test for 1-year course which includes sponsorship from the same company.



1 year GME course -B.E or B.Tech (Mechanical/Naval arch) from AICTE approved college with 60%  marks and at least 60% in English in either 10th or 12th. Age should not exceed 28 years on the date of commencement of training.

On completion of, course candidates will receive B.E/B.Tech degree, PGDME diploma with STCW Certificates Indian CDC and INDOS NO


  • IMU CET exam for B.E/B.Tech Marine Engineer OR B.E Mechanical Engineer /Naval Arch.

  • Application Interview/Selection Medical/Eyesight

  • Pre-Sea training (4-year or 1-year depending on course)

  • 6 months as a Trainee engineer on commercial ships.

  • Obtain MEO class IV COC.

  • Sail as Certified Marine Engineer Officer on Merchant ships for 12 months sea-time.

  • Obtain MEO CLASS II COC.

  • Sail as Certified Marine engineer Officer on Merchant ships for 18 months sea-time OR as a Secon
    Engineer for 12 months sea-time.

  • Obtain MEO CLASS I COC


Sail as Chief Engineer once the necessary company requirements are fulfilled.
Chief Engineer is the highest rank in this career flow.





The Electric officer’s responsibility includes operation, maintenance, and repair of all electrical, electronics, automation, and refrigeration systems on-board.

Entry Qualification & Training Requirements

This course (as per STCW 2010 amendments) impart training about the electrical system on-board ship
Duration- 17 Weeks (Residential) including 4 Mandatory Modular course (PSCRB, PSSR, AFF & MFA)


1. Passed 10+2 with Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and English (min 50% marks).
2. Passed 3 years Diploma or 4 years Degree with 60% marks in Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering (Diploma/Degree must be recognized by any state or central government or AICTE)


Not more Than 35 Years old the date of commencement of Training and medically fit including eyesight and hearing as prescribed in M.S (Medical Examination) Rules,2000: As Amended.

On-board Training –Candidate for certification as ETO Shall follow approved on-board training of not less than 6 months

ETO course is divided into two segments


Electro-Technical Officer WITHOUT HIGH VOLTAGE (Power system less than 1000V)

Electro-Technical Officer WITH HIGH VOLTAGE (Power system in above 1000V)


FOR issuing of COC for ETO

A Seafarer who completed 1 Year sea service as ETO are required to appear only for written and oral examination for obtaining Certification of competency



General-purpose Rating

This course (as per STCW 2010 amendments) impart Training in both Deck and Engine room task. Such ratings may be employed either in the Deck Department or Engine Department according  to the need of the Company.

Duration of course

6 months’ course including basic mandatory modular courses.


Pass in S.S.C/10th or its equivalent exam from recognized Board. The Aggregate percentage must not be less than 40%.

Age limit  

Maximum age is 25/27 years at the time of commencement of course


Same as for other courses as per DGS circular

After training external examination is conducted by Board of Examination of Seafarer (BES)  under D.G Shipping
Students will be awarded INDIAN CDC AND INDOS NO. after completion of the exam Career on Board Ship                                                                              


GP Rating can join On-board as

Trainee Ordinary seamen (OS)
Trainee Fitter
Trainee Oiler 
On further On Board Sea Service candidate will be Promoted as 
Able-Bodied Seamen (AB)
Engine Fitter

There is a possibility of growth from GP rating to an officer on a ship. A Committed person can rise up to rank of Captain and Chief Engineer.

Catering Department

Certificate Course in Maritime Catering course helps to study major topics like naval architecture, food productions, cargo operations, ocean structures, catering service, ship geometry, and ship maintenance. Admission procedure for Certificate Course in Maritime Catering course may vary from one institute to another. Students who would like to study this course in government or under-governed colleges can attend counseling conducted by the universities and select the required college to study.

In private colleges, students should attend the entrance exam and the personal interview to get admission for this course. Top universities and colleges conduct major entrance exams like



  • MERI


Other colleges may directly select students based on the performances in their 10+2 examination. After completing this Certificate Course in Maritime Catering, candidates can get opportunities in both catering and shipping sectors. Professionals may get jobs in catering areas like hotels, food craft industries, restaurants, tourism industries, food and management sectors, telecom sectors, retail sectors, motels, supermarkets, malls, etc

Professionals may also get job opportunities in shipping areas like Indian Naval Sciences, Weather Forecasting Centres, Port Operations Companies, and government and non-government organizations. Professionals in this field may work in positions like a junior marine engineer, structural engineer, submarine engineer, onshore marine coordinator, dock marine equipment designer,engineer, etc. 

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