Want to pursue a career at sea but unsure which qualifications you need to join the Merchant Navy?
The Merchant Navy is a brilliant career option for people seeking an exciting life far from the monotony of an office job. From cargo ships to cruise liners, there’s a diverse selection of opportunities in the Merchant Marine.
But how do you join the Merchant Navy? What qualifications do you need? And what roles can you pursue? Find out more below.
What is the Merchant Navy?
The Merchant Navy (or Merchant Marine) in the United Kingdom refers to the fleet of commercial vessels registered in the UK. These ships operate globally, transporting goods and passengers. As the 10th largest merchant fleet, it plays a critical role in the country’s economy and constitutes a significant portion of international trade.
Moreover, the Merchant Navy also supports its military counterpart, the Royal Navy. Some parts of the merchant fleet supply UK overseas military installations, such as Gibraltar and Cyprus.
The Merchant Navy includes a broad collection of ships, including container ships, tankers, cruise liners, and ferries. These vessels employ tens of thousands of people, from ship officers and engineers, to cooks and stewards.
Careers in the Merchant Marine are known for being challenging. Nonetheless, it’s an incredibly rewarding life, giving individuals the chance to see the world and earn a good salary.
How to Join the Merchant Navy?
To apply for Merchant Navy jobs, you’ll need prior experience or the relevant qualifications. While not as rigorous as certain parts of the Royal Navy, there are still stringent criteria.
There are two broad aspects you can join:
- Ship Officers: Ship Officers are responsible for the navigation and operation of the vessel. They include roles such as the captain, chief officer, second officer, and third officer. Officers typically require a higher level of education and training, as well as certifications specific to their role.
- Ratings: Ratings are skilled workers responsible for the maintenance and operation of the vessel. They include roles such as seamen, engine room ratings, and catering staff. Ratings usually require specific vocational training and certifications related to their area of work.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to join the Merchant Navy:
Step 1: Eligibility Criteria
- Age: The minimum age to join the Merchant Navy is 17 years.
- Educational Qualifications: A candidate must have completed their GCSEs or A Levels, depending on the qualifications.
- Medical Fitness: Candidates must be medically fit and have good eyesight.
Step 2: Choose a Role
Decide on the role you are interested in, such as Deck Officer, Engineer, or Rating. Each role has different responsibilities and required qualifications.
Step 3: Undergo Training
Enrol in a maritime training institute and complete the necessary training courses. These courses provide the practical skills and knowledge required for your chosen role.
Step 4: Obtain Certificates
Obtain the necessary certifications for your chosen role. This includes safety training, first aid, and other relevant certifications.
Step 5: Apply for Jobs
Once you have completed your training and obtained the required certifications, you can start applying for jobs in the Merchant Navy. You can apply through recruitment agencies, shipping companies, or job portals.
Step 6: Gain Experience
Once you have secured a job, you will gain practical experience working on commercial vessels. This experience is crucial for career progression and building a successful career in the Merchant Navy.
Merchant Navy Qualifications
To become a Merchant Navy rating, you do not usually need any formal qualifications. So long as you have GCSEs (mainly English and Maths), you can apply for an apprenticeship in the following areas:
- Engine Room
- Maritime Catering
Shipping companies usually provide apprenticeships and advertise vacancies throughout the year. You can also apply directly to a shipping company or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. You will require three to four GCSEs with grades ranging from 9 to 4 (A* to C) in subjects such as English, Maths, and Physics, or Combined Science, or possess equivalent qualifications.
To become a Merchant Navy Officer Cadet, you’ll need to apply to and be accepted on an industry-sponsored foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree at a maritime college or university.
Common subjects include:
- Nautical Science
- Marine Operations
- Navigation and Maritime Science
- Mechanical and Marine Engineering
Degrees usually expect 1-2 A Levels for a Foundation Degree or HND or 2-3 A Levels for a degree. After qualifying with your degree, you’ll commence a career as a Merchant Navy Deck Officer, overseeing the day-to-day running and navigation of ships.