What is the Merchant Navy?

What is the Merchant Navy? - 19/07/2022

The Merchant Navy (or Merchant Marine) is a term used to refer to the commercial branch of the British maritime industry. It consists of a fleet of civilian-owned ships that are used to transport goods and personnel around the world; not to mention that cruise ships are also regarded as merchant vessels.

The Merchant Navy is an essential part of the UK’s economy and plays a vital role in supporting its military operations.

In this article, we will be discussing what the Merchant Navy is, what they do, why they are important to the United Kingdom, and how you can get involved.

A Brief History of the Merchant Navy

Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at its history.

The concept underlying the Merchant Navy has been around since the 16th century to describe the trading fleets of England and Scotland. These fleets were responsible for transporting goods and passengers around the British Empire and supporting the Royal Navy in times of need.

The Merchant Navy as we know it today was officially born following the First World War to recognize the important role that merchant ships played in supporting the United Kingdom’s war effort. These ships were responsible for transporting troops and supplies to the battlefields, bringing home wounded soldiers, and carrying out missions as needed.

To honour the sacrifice and contribution of the seafarers who lost their lives, King George V bestowed the title “Merchant Navy” on the fleets in 1918, and they’ve been flying the Red Ensign ever since.

Today, the Merchant Navy is still an important part of the UK’s economy, transporting goods worth billions of pounds around the world each year. The fleet includes everything from small cargo ships to huge oil tankers and container ships.

What Does It Do?

The Merchant Navy carries a wide variety of goods including:

  • food and drink
  • oil and gas
  • cars and machinery
  • clothing and textiles
  • timber and building materials
  • medicines and supplies

In addition to transporting goods, it also plays an important role in supporting the UK’s military operations. 

They provide a vital link between the UK and its military bases overseas, carrying supplies and personnel to where they are needed. It’s is also responsible for transporting military equipment and vehicles.

Cruise liners also count as a modern merchant ship and provide holidays and leisure activities, taking customers all around the world on unique excursions.

What Is The Merchant Navy Fleet Chiltern Maritime

What Are the Departments of the Merchant Navy?

Just like a branch of the military, the Merchant Navy is broken up into different departments that each have their own specialties.

These departments include:

  • Deck Department: Responsible for navigation, operating, and maintaining the ship.
  • Engineering Department: Responsible for operating and maintaining the ship’s mechanical equipment.
  • Electrical Department: Responsible for operating and maintaining the ship’s electrical equipment.
  • Steward Department: Responsible for catering, cleaning, management, and administration on board.

In addition, the Merchant Navy also has a clear chain of command, with the ship’s captain at the top and department cadets at the bottom. As you gain experience, certifications, and skills,  you can move up the ranks within your department—eventually becoming a fully licensed officer!

Cruise ships also have their own department which includes entertainers, tour guides, retail and medical teams to ensure guests make the most out of their time on board.

For example, the electrical department is headed by the Chief Electro-Technical Officer (ETO). This person was once a cadet in the electrical department, but has risen through the ranks and is now trusted with the responsibility of managing the entire department. As part of our help to enter a cadetship in a department (e.g., electrical department), you’re setting yourself on a course towards the role of officer (e.g., ETO).

How Big Is the Merchant Navy’s Fleet?

The Merchant Navy fleet is made up of 1,504 registered vessels that range from 20 metre tugboats to 240 metre oil tankers. All told, the fleet has an impressive gross tonnage (GT) of around 59,413,000.

Why Is the Merchant Navy So Important?

The Merchant Navy is essential to the UK’s economy, transporting goods worth billions of pounds around the world each year. Around 95% of the UK’s imports and exports are carried by sea, making it a vital part of the country’s infrastructure.

In addition, the Merchant Navy is a major employer in the UK, with around 34,000 people working in the fleet. This includes both seafarers and shore-based staff, such as:

  • engineers
  • navigators
  • deck officers
  • electro-technical officers (ETO)
  • cargo handlers
  • accountants

Shipping companies are constantly looking for young cadets to join, so it’s a great career option for those who are looking to work at sea.

What is the Merchant Navy Chiltern Maritime Fleet

How Can I Get a Cadetship with the Merchant Navy?

As you can see, the Merchant Navy is a vital part of the UK’s economy and infrastructure. If you’re interested in working at sea, it’s definitely an industry worth considering. But how can you get involved?

The easiest way is by signing up for a cadetship program. These programs are typically open to people aged 18 and over, and they provide you with the opportunity to study for a professional qualification while working onboard one of their vessels.

Cadetships are usually three years (with the option for an additional year of sea time), during which time you’ll complete your studies and gain valuable experience working at sea. Once you’ve completed your cadetship, you’ll be qualified to work as a deck officer or engineer.

Start Making a Difference with a Merchant Navy Cadetship

We help connect young people with a wide range of cadetship programs that will give you the skills and experience you need to start your career in the Merchant Navy.

To find out more, check out our cadetships or get in touch with one of our advisors today!

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