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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Career in Merchant Navy





Unconventional, adventurous and rewarding: a career in merchant navy can be exciting if you are ready to work hard and stay away from home.

   If you like travelling by sea, detest a nine to five routine, want a financially comfortable job, and don't mind long stretches away from home, then a career in the merchant navy may be up your street. In a nutshell, the merchant navy is a commercial business, which deals with the transportation of cargo from one port to another. It involves basic navigation skills from port to port, loading and unloading cargo while ensuring stability of the ship. 


  There are two ways of joining the merchant navy, one, after you complete your class XII, second, after you complete your graduation in engineering or nautical science. You need to have studied physics, chemistry, math and English at the 10+2 level in order to join the merchant navy after class XII. The field comprises of two important wings - the deck side and the engineering side. Chetan Abhyankar, chief officer, now on a break in Mumbai to do his competency exam to become a captain says,“To join the deck side, after class XII, you need to do a pre-sea training course for three months and then become a cadet on board for three years. However, if you do a three-year degree in nautical science, you sail as a cadet for just 12 months.” 


   There are four ranks on the deck side - master (captain of the ship), chief officer or mate, second officer or navigation officer, and third officer. Once you join the merchant navy as a cadet, you move up the career ladder by clearing competency exams. 

What kind of work does it involve? 

As a cadet on the deck side, for three years, you could be sweeping the decks with a broom, as well as learning housekeeping, navigation and technical skills. The third mate is responsible for life saving and fire fighting equipment such as life boats, life rafts, breathing apparatus, and carrying out the routine check-up of the systems. The second mate, on the other hand, is responsible for navigation, passage planning, plotting the course, handling traffic separation schemes, studying weather currents and depth through the depthindicating equipment and charts. The duties of the mate include handling the maintenance of the ship, as well as handling teams, among others. The master, that is to say, the captain of the ship is in complete charge, with control over the entire staff on board, and is considered the owner's representative on the ship. Only those from the deck side can become the master of the ship. 


   On the engine side, the engineers are in charge of all engines, boilers, purifiers, generators, and air compressors.In short, it is their duty to keep the machines working and the ship moving. These days, women too are joining the merchant navy as cadets and engineers. 


   Most people in the merchant navy are hired on a contractual basis as it requires people to work for months at a stretch. So, one can be employed for four months and then take a break for two months. 

Why join the Merchant Navy? 

Working in the merchant navy can be rewarding, not only in terms of seeing different places around the world, but also in terms of monetary profits. Abhyankar reveals,“Salary-wise, a cadet with a foreign company is paid around Rs 20,000 to 30,000 a month. A third mate can earn up to Rs 1,20,000 per month whereas, as a second mate you can fetch up to Rs 1,70,000 per month. As chief officer, you can be paid up to over three lakh rupees a month. And as the captain of the ship, you can earn as much as Rs 4 lakh a month.” For those wanting to join this field, there cannot be a better time, since there's a severe shortage of officers in this field at present. The industry needs an average of 18,000-20,000 more recruits. 


   Two major downsides to this career are the feelings of monotony and getting home sick. Shyam Rao, who worked with the Indian Navy before joining the Indian coastal operations in the merchant navy cautions, “You have to learn to deal effectively with the monotony.” 


   So if you want to do something different and can tolerate being at sea for months at a stretch, then a career in the merchant navy may definitely be a rewarding one for you. 

The Marine Engineering Research Institute, Kolkata, offers a BE in Marine engineering from the Jadavpur university which is a four-year residential course 


   A candidate must clear the IIT- JEE and apply for the Indian Institute of Maritime Studies after a 10+2 in physics, chemistry, math and English. Various institutes in Pune, Delhi, Bhubhaneshwar, Madurai among other places, offer this course. 


   MERI's branch in Mumbai offers a graduation in mechanical engineering. You can enrol for a one-year course specialising in marine engineering after completion of the course. 


   You can do a three-year degree course in maritime science through IIT- JEE and IIMS.




Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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