Joining the Merchant Navy – What is the Merchant Navy?

Joining the Merchant Navy – What is the Merchant Navy? / 07.03.2019

What is the Merchant Navy?

The merchant navy is a term used to refer to the commercial sector of the maritime industry. The merchant navy has no involvement in military service, but rather the shipping of cargo and people across sea routes aboard cargo ships, tankers, and cruise liners.

The maritime industry stands at the heart of global connections and economy as much of the world trade between nations is still carried out marine trade routes. 

Positions aboard merchant ships can typically be broken down into four departments; deck department/ navigation, engineering department, electro-technical department, and stewards department/ hospitality. 

All departments operate under the orders of the ship’s captain, the highest responsible acting on behalf of the ship’s owner.

When joining the merchant navy, it is essential to have a basic understand each of these departments, their core responsibilities.

Below is an overview of each department and their roles aboard merchant navy vessels.

Departments in the Merchant Navy

Merchant Navy Departments and Ranks
Typical merchant navy on-board hierarchy.

Deck Department

Deck Officers head up the overall running of the ship, handling navigation, communication and the crew. On cargo ships they will oversee the cargo and aboard a cruise ship they would take care of passengers and be present for onboard social events.

There are different positions available as you gain more experience as a deck officer, starting with Third Officer. This would be your first position after training and would give you responsibility over safety equipment and lifeboats as well as assisting the Second Officer and carrying out watch duties. 

The Second Officer gains more responsibility as they have more experience; they preside over the computer systems and navigation, including using satellites and radars. They also monitor the vessels speed and direction as well as weather conditions whilst still carrying out watch duties whether the ship is docked or at sea.

You can begin your training to become a deck officer through our cadetships with us at Chiltern, where anyone over the age of 18 may apply to begin their course as a Chiltern Maritime Deck Officer Cadet.

Electrical Department

Modern ships are based on very modern complex electrical technology, and a wealth of electrical equipment is on board at any given moment. This is why the electrotechnical work within the engineering department to maintain the electrical control boards, a navigation system, radios, and propulsion control for the ship.

More and more ships crews are specifically employing an electro-technical officer as ships are becoming increasingly reliant on complex electrical equipment. Almost all engineering departments have ETO’s, and they tend to report to the chief engineer.

Chiltern’s Maritime Electro-Technical Cadetships offer a fantastic way into this career path, with full training and support throughout our comprehensive course.

Engineering Department

The Engineering department maintain the machines that keep the ship moving, from the propulsion machinery, the engine room refrigeration units, ship air conditioning, and deck machinery. They monitor all of these machines through keeping watches in the engine rooms and repair any problem arises efficiently so that the ship may carry on the important journeys the Merchant Navy demands.

This department is hierarchical, and officers may progress with experience. After cadetship, you will typically enter a ship as Third Engineer and your responsibilities will be assisting the Second Engineer and maintaining the electrical systems and machinery. 

Second Officers supervise the day-to-day duties of the staff and engine crew, whilst the First (or Chief) Engineer is the highest authority in the department for allocating tasks and planning engineering tasks aboard the ship.

Take your first steps into this career by applying for a Chiltern Maritime Engineering Cadetship.

Stewards Department

Stewards aboard the ships focus on the other people aboard, both passengers and crew. They are in charge of helping to prepare and serve the food and maintain all aspects of the living and eating quarters including linens and furniture. On passenger ships, they are the staff that most closely work with the guests and see to their needs.

There are many routes into stewardship, and this open and diverse career allows you to travel the world with very few previous requirements needed. Look for opportunities to suit you through the Viking Crew jobs portal to find jobs in hospitality or kick start your career by training with Maritime Skills Academy.

Joining the Merchant Navy

The Merchant Navy offers a wide range of opportunities that lead to lucrative and exciting careers. Through Chiltern’s incredibly successful Maritime Cadetships you could enter into a bright new future where you do challenging but rewarding work whilst traveling the world by Sea.

At Chiltern Maritime, we provide for deck officer, electrotechnical (ETO) and engineering cadetships. We pride ourselves on providing great career opportunities and incredible experiences to our cadets with continual career development support during your cadetship and beyond in partnership with our sister companies; Maritime Skills Academy and Viking Crew

If you’re considering a maritime cadetship, we’ve made it easier than ever to apply. Simply follow our online application process and we’ll be in contact to get you started with your career at sea. 

Make sure you have what you need to apply for a maritime cadetship.

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