Ships are used for transporting goods from one place to another. Such ships used only for transport of goods are called merchant ships. They earn money out of this trade and transport. They are commercially run. At the same time, countries like India, who have a coastline, have to defend their coastline. The Navy of the country does this. Ships with the Navy are called as naval ships and they don't aim to make money. Working on naval ships requires one to be part of the navy. This article however, is only for providing information on a career in Merchant Navy.
A ship in very simple and easy term can be compared to any well known transporting objects like airplanes, trucks, trains and so on. Also, let us keep the carriage of human beings (passengers) aside and look only at carriage of cargo (goods). Any transporting object would need someone to drive or navigate it from one place to another. At the same time, it would also require someone to maintain and repair such a transporting object. When it comes to a ship, all these people live together, work together and do different jobs assigned to them.
There are three divisions or streams into which one can enter. They are namely: Deck Officers, Engineer Officers and Crew (better known as Ratings). The working of a ship is divided into three different departments, namely:
Navigation (deck side) - This department navigates the vessel from one point to another, loads and unloads the cargo, and also maintains the ship in good condition. It is headed by the Chief Officer, and consists of Deck Officers and Deck Ratings.
Engine Room (engine side) - This department deals with the care and maintenance of propulsion and steering system, electrical systems, and all other machines of the ship. It is headed by the Chief Engineer, and consists of Engineers and Engine Ratings.
Salon (cooking and cleaning) - This department consists of the cook and stewards who deal with the hospitality matters of the ship. It consists of Salon Ratings, namely Cook and Steward.
One has to decide, into which department and as 'what' he or she wants to enter Merchant Navy. Certainly, the eligibility criterion for that has to borne in mind. There are quite a few variations into the entry procedures, into any department of Merchant Navy, which you can see below. But before that, always bear this most important thing in mind, that in Merchant Navy, one always starts from the lowest and basic level and works his way ahead. There is now way, one can aim to be an Officer or Engineer without having served in the junior ranks for adequate number of years.
Career in Merchant Navy can be pursued either as an Officer or a Rating in mainly two specialized fields, i.e. Marine Engineering and Nautical (deck). To become a seafarer, following streams of entries (Pre-Sea courses) are available to Indian citizens in the Government as well as in private training institutions (recognized and approved by Director General of Shipping, Ministry of Shipping).
Various jobs onboard a ship:
Deck Officer: The officers from this branch primarily look after the ship's navigation, loading/unloading of cargo and the general maintenance and administration of the ship. The Officer joins in the rank of 3rd Officer and is subsequently promoted to the rank of 2nd Officer, Chief Officer and finally the Master (Captain) of the ship. Of course, the promotions are subject to the individual passing his competency exams and his performance onboard the ship. In addition to navigation duties, normally a 3rd Officer looks after the life saving appliances, 2nd Officer looks after the passage planning and the navigation equipment, the Chief Officer looks after the cargo work and the Master is the overall in-charge of the ship.
Courses for entering as deck cadet:
Three year degree course in Nautical Science for (10+2) students are offered by colleges like Training Ship Chanakya in Nerul, Navi Mumbai, Vel's Academy in Chennai, and many more. On completion of this course, a candidate is awarded B.Sc Nautical Science degree and he has to join a ship as a Deck Cadet, do the requisite sea time to be eligible for competency exams, clearing which he can then join as a 3rd Officer. These are fully residential courses. One has to compulsorily stay in the campus of the college.
Deck Cadet's Course for Diploma in Nautical Science for (10+2) students, is offered by Mumbai Maritime Training Institute, Khopoli, Samundra Institute of Maritime Studies, Lonavala, Training Ship Rehman, Nhava Sheva, Naval Maritime Academy, Colaba , Applied Research Institute (ARI), New Delhi, and many more. On completion of this course, a candidate is awarded Diploma in Nautical degree and he has to join a ship as a deck cadet, do the requisite sea time to be eligible for competency exams, clearing which he can then join as a 3rd Officer. These are also fully residential courses. It is also to be noted, that the above course syllabus, duration, certification, etc. is undergoing certain changes. Institutes conducting these courses can give more information on the same.
Engineering Officer: These are the officers who are qualified in Marine Engineering. They join as 4th Engineer and step by step, get promoted to 3rd, 2nd and Chief Engineer, subject to their passing the competency exams and performance on-board the ship. The Engineering department in addition to looking after the main engines, are also responsible for associated equipment like power generation equipment, cargo pumps and air conditioning. The 4th Engineer is responsible for operation and maintenance of engine room auxiliaries. The 3rd Engineer takes care of the fuel, water and the boiler room equipment. The 2nd Engineer looks after lubricating the system, engine room auxiliaries, and electric equipment. In addition, there is an Electrical Officer, who is responsible for the electrical equipment.
Courses for entering as Engine Cadet:
4 year degree course in Marine Engineering for (10+2) students.
2 year course for Diploma Holders.
1 year course for Graduate Mechanical Engineers.
Colleges conducting these courses are:
1. Marine Engineering & Research Institute (MERI), Kolkata.
2. Marine Engineering & Research Institute (MERI), Mumbai.
3. Lal Bahadur Shastri College of advanced Maritime Studies and Research, Mumbai.
4. Tolani Maritime Institute, Induri, Pune
Ratings: There are three kinds of ratings - deck, engine room and catering. Deck rating is responsible for navigational watch keeping, cargo handling, mooring/ unmooring and general maintenance of the ship. Similarly, the engine room ratings assist the engineering officers in maintenance and operation of engines and associated equipment. The catering crew consists of Steward / Cooks and as the name suggests, they look after the catering and the house keeping of officer's cabin.
For Ratings (Entry standard is Std. Xth):
4 month Pre-Sea Course for General Purpose (GP) rating.
3 month Pre-Sea Course for Deck rating.
3 month Pre-Sea Course for Engine rating
4 month Pre-Sea Course for Saloon rating.
In addition, a candidate can join as utility hand or Petty Officers (Fitters) after completing four basic courses, i.e. FPFF, EFA, PSSR and PST.
There are four Government Training Institutes providing Pre-Sea and Post-Sea training of international standard:
Training Ship Chanakya, Navi Mumbai.
Marine Engineering & Research Institute (MERI), Kolkata.
Marine Engineering & Research Institute (MERI), Mumbai.
Lal Bahadur Shastri College of advanced Maritime Studies and Research, Mumbai.
In India, merchant shipping comes under the purview of the Ministry of Shipping. Directorate General of Shipping regulates the examinations, documentations, certifications, etc in relation to Merchant Shipping. Their website www.dgshipping.com can be referred to find out the recognized institutes.
Word of Caution
It is a peculiar requirement of this field, to be first selected by a shipping company and then do the courses at the institutes they direct you to. Institutes conducting courses will admit you in, without any sponsorship from a shipping company, but one will have a tough time to find employment afterwards. Being sponsored by a company initially will be the safest bet, saving in a lot of time and money. Campus recruitment do take place, but they are often limited to the best of the institutes and also depend on requirements of the market. Many a shipping companies select their cadets from a few selected institutes only. At the same time, quite a few training institutes are owned and managed by shipping companies. Another benefit of being selected by a shipping company is that the office of such a company will always guide you for the courses and documentations to be completed. It is preferable to beware of agents who mislead students in promise of easy admission.
A passenger ship (like the Titanic) carries human beings from one place to another for luxury and also traveling purposes. One can work on passenger ships in the above mentioned discipline and streams too. However, this market is very very limited and not very promising for we Indians. The only persons working on passenger ships are the specialized hospitality crew. A passenger ship or so called cruise liner is like a floating city with state of the art rooms, hotels, discos, etc. Hence, a lot of Indians find jobs in this section of a passenger ships after they completing hotel management and other similar courses. One can see, that this stream or career is way different than the merchant navy career, as mentioned above. Within the purview of the international rules, all persons working on ships are called seafarers, but career wise, one needs to get this difference right. A lot of people are not aware of this difference between working on a vessel and a passenger ship.
The author, Lawrence Dsouza is a merchant navy professional with over 7 years of sailing experience. Apart from sailing he also advises students looking to make a career in Merchant Navy.
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