8 Myths To Be Cleared Up Before Joining Merchant Navy

A report states that the most common reason behind seafarers quitting very early in their careers is the lack of knowledge they have about seafaring before joining merchant navy

At Marine Insight, we receive a dozens of emails everyday from aspiring seafarers who have big dreams of shipping careers but lack basic understanding of the life at sea and the job requirements of a maritime professional.

But we cannot blame them!

The commercialisation of maritime academies and training institutes, who entice these aspirants with fake advertisements/ claims, promising 100% placements and thousands of dollars as salary, are to be blamed.

In the materialistic world we live in, it is very easy for a young aspirant candidate to fall for such misleading advertisements.

When we ask students, who are about to join merchant navy, their main motive behind taking up this career, we only get answers such as below:

“Because I want to wear smart uniforms and travel the world”

“Merchant mariners get a lot of respect and so I want to take up this career”

“I want me and my family to travel around the world”

“I want to become rich quickly”

“I want to earn loads of money without having a 9-to-5 lifestyle”

Though it’s great to see young professionals aiming high and aspiring big, it is disappointing to find that not a single one know about the realities of the profession or the kind of life they are getting into.

To add more to this dilemma, most of them have wrong notions and half knowledge about the colleges and companies they are about to join.

Considering the most common questions that are asked to us about merchant navy careers, we have listed down famous myths and misinformation that is prominent among those who are looking forward to a career in the  merchant navy.

1. Sailing is a Permanent Job

 Most of the shipping companies, to be more precise approximately 70% of them manage their ships on contract basis. Even the rest 30% of the companies do not have any clause on permanent employment in their contracts; rather they man ships on round-the-year contracts.

Under fixed contracts, you go on ships after signing a contract for “X” months (Depending on the company policy). Once the “X” term period is over, the company is not liable to provide you with another job/contract. You only get paid for “X” period of work and you might be required to look for a new company once your contract is over.

In round the year contract, company will provide you job for “X” months ON and “Y” months OFF. This means that you serve for “X” months on any of the company’s ship followed by “Y” months of leave. You will get paid during both “X” and “Y” periods; though the salary will usually be less than what is offered in fixed contracts. Technically, almost all shipping companies give more or less the same salary, irrespective of the type of the contract, by distributing the same amount of money over On and OFF periods.

Fact: Sailing for companies is not a permanent job – The job is either in fixed contracts or round-the-year basis.

seafarer welding


2. As “Advertisement” says, I Will Earn $10000 in Only Few Months

Everyone of us has seen advertisements of maritime academies exaggerating the amount of money seafarers earn at sea. In the past couple of years, merchant navy has gone through a drastic change in areas from examination structure to internal company promotions. All reputed shipping companies now have “Promotion Matrix” which requires minimum time of sailing for next promotion. Today, even the STCW examinations have become difficult to clear. To earn the highest salary, you would have to be in the top most position and for that it would need at least 7-10 years.

Moreover, the type of salary one earns greatly depends on the company and type of ships he/she is working on. Just like in any other field, in merchant navy as well every professional has to gain experience and rise in ranks in order to become eligible to earn a handsome salary. If you think you would earn thousands of dollars as soon as you start sailing, then you are highly mistaken.

Fact: You do not get big money in initial years; it will take at least 3-4 years to reach good salary package, and 7-10 years to reach the top management and draw the highest salary.

INA Successful deck officer

3. They say 100% Placement, I Will Surely Get the Job

The fact is, in today’s shipping industry, only few shipping companies, who also manage a ship management firm, can be relied upon. A private or even a government institute claiming 100% placement actually means that they will provide “100% placement assistance” on successful completion of the course. A lot can be figured out on the basis of the acute dearth of job opportunities in the shipping sector. Please don’t be fooled by “100% placement” advertisements, act wise and do your research before joining such institutes.

Fact: Most of the institutes are struggling to provide good placements due to less demand of maritime professionals, especially at the starting level.

4. I Will Get Salary Even When I’m On Leave

Not all company provide such facilities. As said in the first point, approximately 70% of the companies opt for fixed contract periods. This means that once you are OFF contract, you will not be getting any salary. The rest 30 % of the shipping companies, who do provide such facilities, will pay you the wages as per round-the- year contract terms, i.e. if the contract says 4 months ON and 2 months OFF, you will get only 2 months to enjoy the paid leave. In such cases, the companies have full command on your holiday period.

Fact: You don’t get any salary once you are on leave after completing your contract. If you are on round -the-year wages, you will get salary during leave only for specific period.

5.  I Am Sponsored, I Do Not Pay My Fees

This is one of the most misused terms. Actually, the term “sponsored” is very differently used in the shipping industry. “Sponsored” does not always mean that the full tuition fees of a course is taken care of by the college. Instead most mean that they will sponsor a place for you on a ship to complete your initial training onboard ships which makes you eligible to sit for exams and get promotion. Before you take up such opportunity, please ensure that you read the terms and conditions of the company/institute properly.

Fact: Most of the times, you get  a sponsored seat on a ship as a trainee and not a sponsored course with fees waiver.


6. I Can Take My Family on Board Ships Once I Become An Officer

 No and Yes – No, you cannot take your entire family on ship immediately after you join as an officer. You can only take your immediate family onboard and that too only after sailing at a management rank with a shipping company. Though few companies allows operational level officers to bring their immediate family onboard once they complete a good amount of time with them, such privileges are diminishing as every company today is looking for cost cutting.

Fact: You can only take immediate family once you are at management position or sailed for comfortable period of time with a particular company at operational level.

7. I Wear Spectacles, I Cannot Join

You can join merchant navy with specs provided you meet the following requirement: 6/6 vision in both eyes (with visual aids); no colour-blindness for Nautical Officer’s and for Engineering Officers use of corrective lenses permitted but the maximum permissible limits at entry are 6/12 in each eye or 6/9 in the better eye and 6/18 in the other eye, for Distant Unaided Vision. It will be an individual’s decision to do whatever is required to meet the requirements and as long as one meets the above requirement, he/she will be eligible for joining the Merchant Navy. (The rules may vary across different countries)

*Color blindness of any type is not eligible for merchant navy

Fact: You can join merchant navy even if you wear specs. ( T & C Applied)

8. Plenty of Shore Jobs Are Available, I Can Shift to Land Anytime

Most of the shore opportunities in shipping companies will require managerial experience of at least 2nd engineer/ chief officer rank. To become one of these an average person will take at least 7-10 years. There are not many opportunities on shore for seafarers who want to make a shift early in their careers. If you are doing marine engineering or nautical science to get a job on shore, it’s not a very good idea.

It’s always advisable to shift to shore job, after taking decent managerial experience, to get a decent salary package (Of course, not as good as what you get at sea). Additional qualification such as MBA and advanced courses are always helpful for better salary and higher options.

Fact: It is not easy to get a decent job on land at start of a merchant navy career.

This is not an exhaustive list of questions that are asked to by aspiring merchant navy candidates, but these are some of the most misleading myths that needs to be cleared up before a person is planning is join merchant navy.

Do you any other famous myths that young students joining merchant navy have? Let’s know in the comments below.

Related Reading:

10 Reasons You Must Thank Seafarers Today

12 Famous Myth About Merchant Navy People Have

Note: Please do note that the employment opportunities, company policies and market condition would differ from country to country. The aim of this article, by no means, is to discourage young aspirants from joining merchant navy but to make them aware of the realities of a career at sea.

Do you have info to share with us ? Suggest a correction

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About Author

An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.


  1. Sir i heartly thank u for sharing the myths i need ur favour plz let me know the best institute for gp rating cousre in mumbai

  2. Thank you for this great insight on career at sea. Looking forward to more of this kind of articles.
    With warm regards

  3. Is there any corrective action for nautical officers, once they loose 6/6 vision?

  4. Sir,
    I want to persue GME course from foreign university.
    Can you suggest me some recommended institutes in UAE, New Zealand or some other country

  5. I am4th engineer and now in singapore for my second and chief COC….all my expenses including residence/tution fee are been paid by the company….i joind as a cadet with my salary 500 us dollars…sailed for nine months as a cadet…went for COC exam…after passing my exam, i joind back as junior engineer wth salary upto 1500 us dollar…saling for a year on this rank,,,was been promoted as a 4th engineer with salary 3900 us dollars….now a days second engineer salary is around 5500 to 10 000 US dollars…..while chief engineer is getting the salary in between 6000 to 18000 us dollars depending on the type of ship they sailing on….normal contract is 4 to 6 months ONN with two or three months OFF….have madical insurence of the family in some companies,,,u get joining and leaving expenses for joining/leaving the ship,,,,,,,,,,,,,have internet facility for the crew now a days,,,,,,get chance to visit the countries,,,,,the bad thing is that you stay away from family and cant reach them when they need you,,but the good thing that when you are OFF you can enjoy full time with your family,,,lot of workload…have to face emergencies,,,,sometime not enough time on ports to go out…but in the end i would like to add that this job is “NOT FOR THE PEOPLE OF DEVELOPED COUNTRIES OR FOR DEVELOPED PEOPLE OF UNDEVELPED CONTRES”….

  6. thanks ..Sir” but I have already join academy
    I was unknown of these fact sir
    and yet I have not taken placement sir because. the academy which I have joined did not gives good placement
    ..all the students are regreting to join marchant navy….
    so. please sir tell me what should. I do to take placement. please sir help me

  7. Is there any better chance for experienced marine engineers to rescue jobs in other platforms like industries or factories? I will be highly obliged if you let me know thank you.

  8. Sir I did the course of gp rating with Dominica stcw .Institute didn’t provided placement.Sir plz tell the from where should I get the placement.Plz help sir asap!!!!

  9. i am doing 3rd year mechanical. what are the additional courses should i do like NDT or something else?

  10. Hi sir
    Your article was really knowledgeable , I am a mechanical engineering student in my last semester and recently a merchant navy firm named Cruiseline Ship management pvt. Ltd. Visited our college for placement and I have been shortlisted for the same to join as a trainee marine engineer but before that I have to complete pre sea programme or GME course from an academy they will be alloting. Before joining GME course they have said that they will give us job offer and we will join as soon as we complete the course. The course finance assistance would be arranged by the company through any of the nationalised bank. Sir my queries are that how I can trust the authenticity of the company , about the job offer, about the academy. So need your words on this. It would be a pleasure to get your views and suggestions on this.

  11. Sir
    i want to know that sponsorship is necessary or not in anglo eastern college.
    how to take sponsorship.?
    benefits of sponsorship?
    Loss of direct admission in college without sponsorship?
    Please reply

  12. Sir,
    Actually I have recently started exploring about merchant navy.
    So my doubt is that , what should be the right way or path in terms of getting a reputed post as well as to have a handsome amount of salary.
    So that I won’t get stuck anywhere like I heard in some comments that ” i have joined such institute and placement is not there so what should be the right path

  13. I am learning to be a 4th engineer. I would like to know how many bans I should wear.

  14. Pls sir, is it good for me to start sailing with an Assistant Certificate (coxain), Or rather take my time and have a Higher Diploma in Nautical Science before i proceed to sailing?

  15. Thanks a lot sir for this useful information but I want to ask that can u tell me how girls can enter in merchant navy

  16. Sir i want to do marine engineering from MERI kolkata….currently i am studying in class xii with pcm.I want to get admission in meri through jee mains…i am very much comfortable with all three subjects.Also i had got 9.4cgpa in class x.ALSO I HAVE THE ABILITY TO STUDY APPROX 12HRS A DAY AND I FEEL THAT I CAN GET INTO THIS CAREER.i want to ask that after doing 4yrs program of BE MARINE ENGINEERING from MERI,does we have to pay again for getting into training program offered by companies…if yes then how much????plz reply as early as possible

    Our financial status is not such good…so plz suggest me whether to choose it as a career or not or any other cheap marine engineering govt. College(i want to make a lots of money in the near future)ALSO I AM AN OBC SO DOES IT WOULD PROVIDE SOME FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE….HOPING TO GET THE ANsWER SOON.

  17. Started cadetship 1979 as Eng. Cadet. 4 years intensive training. Went to sea and worked bloody hard for 95% of the time (on 6 month contracts) but had the best times of my life for the other 5% and would NOT change one minute of it because it made me who I am.
    On leaving, everything in the garden was definitely not as rosy as I expected but my experience came into play and life turned out pretty good, thank you.
    It might be a ‘different’ life but it’s a life just the same….it’s what YOU make it.
    Go to sea, have fun, work hard and earn yoyr own good life. No-one owes you a damn thing ?

  18. Totally agree with you…It’s one of the best opportunities out there and it’s surely a great life. It depends on how you make it. Thanks for your inputs.

  19. I have cleared IMU vet with a rank of 63 and will be joining Anglo eastern maritime academy in august. I am a sponsored candidate and the fees of the institute is around 6-7 lakhs. I have heard good things about the college from my friends who went there but I don’t know much about Anglo eastern itself. Is it a good and trustworthy company as the waiting periods after the pre sea training are 6-9 months. Also do we have to with 6-9 months after we become a officer or it is reduced to 3-4 months as I have heard. The last thing is that they pay a little less than other companies which are smaller so does that mena they have better onboard security when going from hostile areas or better lodgings and food. Security is big concern in pirate areas so do they provide good onboard security. I also like Anglo eastern because recently they merged with univan and now are the biggest group in the shipping industry with about 700 ships. Please suggest should I just go ahead and join them or look for some other company like BSM,fleet etc .

  20. Tell me about the anglo eastern maritime academy and what about the placemeny…

  21. Sir I have completed B.Tech. In Mechanical Engineering.
    Sir I have two artificial teeth fitted by dentist after picking up that. And now all teeth are okay. Then sir Am I eligible for Graduate Marine Engineering GME Course or not.???
    And in future is there will be any problem for getting job due to this,????
    Sir please reply me soon…..

  22. @Sarfaraaz: If you are not facing any kind of difficulties (dental pain etc.) with the current setup, you are eligible.

  23. Sir r u heard company name of
    “alpha 9 marine services”. Through I selected placement from our collage…. Can plz tell me about the company

  24. It has mix review on the internet. We cannot comment on its credibility as we do not have any correct info for the same.
    We always recommend to directly join a credible institute instead of going through a 3rd party.

  25. Sir , is the International maritime academy , chennai good for Bsc nautical science

    and also what about their placement

    sir kindly please reply me as soon as possible

  26. Hello sir,
    I m a mechanical engineering student, presently in final year. I m appearing for IMU CET 2017 on 27th may for MBA courses.
    I m bit concern about the colleges. Which college i should opt for.
    I hve seen lot of students are going for ANGELO EASTERN, but y not for IMU MUMBAI, IMU CHENNAI. ??
    What z the cut off or the rank required to get admissioned in good college ?

  27. Sir it is good to start a carrier in merchant navy from normal ships without imu or itf companies for gp rating from foreign companies.

  28. i am 28 years old, I have done my graduation in Mechanical Engineering and working as a Software Engineer. i have around 6 years of experience in IT.
    Will i have an opportunity to join and work in Merchant navy.
    Please let me know.

    Thanks in Advance

  29. SIR can you please tell me about anglo eastern institute it is good or not

  30. sir if do not get contracts
    then whole life will be ruined???
    hoping to get answer soon

  31. @Shobhit: You need to clear various examination to get a promotion. For that, you need to complete your sea time. If you do not get on the ship, you cannot proceed further in this career.

  32. Hi sir, I’ve completed Mechanical Engineering in 2017 and have zeroed in on Anglo Eastern maritime academy for GME course. Now my question may seem a little pessimistic but want to know considering the worst case scenario , what if after completing the pre sea and sailing as 5th engineer I fail the MMD orals/written in the test required to sail as a 4th engineer, then will I have to redo the sailing time? Or will one be able to take up the exams again immediately ? And also please throw some light regarding the contract period in Anglo eastern ships, will there be long gaps before one can board a ship again after promotions?


  33. @Vinay: Everyone fails the test. That is how we learn :). No, it is not needed to sail again as 5th engg. You need to re-apply for the test and keep giving the attempts till you pass the exams.

    Regarding the contract, it will depend on the company, the ship’s availability and your performance. Still, the waiting period is everywhere for new joiners/ junior officers.

  34. @Jatin: That is the toughest question anybody can ask. :(.
    For Junior officers, it may vary from 4 months to more than a year.

  35. Sir. I have graduated with Marine Mechanical Engineering from Myanmar Maritime University. I would like to attend GME Course in India. Is there any institute or university that accept foreigners?

  36. Sir, in India there are more than 350 licensed RPSL Companies…
    1.How can we know whether the company is genuine or fraud ?
    2.How can we know whether we have got permanently placed in the same company after 1st contract?
    Please give your advise.

  37. Sir I’m about to complete my +2 this year n I want to join merchant navy but I have a doubt that if I pass the exam and get the job and if my contract is over than how do we get a new contract and what if we don’t get any

  38. Sir, I am from Karnataka we don’t have much knowledge about merchant navy, but I wish to join for ETO, I have done Btech ECE, but waiting period and current scenario of ETO making me to think twice plz plz help me out, mail me if possible

  39. @Prajwal: Yes, the waiting period is high and jobs for freshers in the market are very minimal. It is still a career and the struggles for the starting is like any other job. If you can take admission in a institute which provides placement assistance on ships, you can definitely think about this stream

  40. @Aayush: A very valid point. Seafarer works on a contract basis, and if you do well in your first contract you might be called back by the same company. However, the waiting period in the recent past for new and fresher employee had varied from 6 months to 1 year. Try to get into a good company which provides contract surety.

  41. I am a btech mechanical graduate.I know the next step to join ship is GME course,but the fee is huge amount,i can not get educational loan because of i have already a educational loan for my btech study
    My question is that
    Can I get promotion if I join as a oiler or ab after 6 month sailing
    Am I eligible for meo class 4 exam if I join as oiler

    And also
    Can I work in deck side

  42. @Rahul: If you join as oiler or AB, you need to work in that position for 36 months. Post that you are eligible for giving exams for officer rank (Marine engineer or deck officer).
    If you join as engine room rating, such as oiler, you are not eligible to give deck side officer exam and vice versa.

  43. Sir I am eee graduate and I want to join in eto my main motive is that I can earn more money than a software engineer earn right now is this correct and money making is possible or not

  44. Sir I want to join best merchant navy academy Mumbai 2019. Please suggest me the best collage name.Thank you.

  45. @Shashank: Apply for those colleges which provide sponsorships for the first onboard training.

  46. It depends on your capability. If you decide to stay on Merchant Field alone. Then you’ll end up in the Merchant Field forever. Coming from a poor family, it is really a good opportunity working on a ship but really working on a ship is just a stepping stone and build my initial capital for my next venture. Getting stucked on this field will earn you a lot of money, though you will have to spend the rest of your life on the ship. And I think its not a good idea. And thats the sad truth about a seafarer’s life. Working mostly half of your life onboard.

  47. Thanks Sir > If you have any Idea about VMS Shipping .It is good for merchant navy coaching in Mumbai.

  48. Sir i have question=1) i have done mechanical engineering and i joining in vship company as onshore assistant mechanical engineer post. Ajent says that it is permanent job an it is also right in joining latter it is froud or what????

  49. @Prashil: It will be an onshore job, as you are not qualified to go to sea as of now. If you are going through Agent, please confirm once with the company. It is always advisable to directly contact the company rather than approaching an agent which can be little dicy.

  50. I have 6/9 vision can i jion as deck officer????I have passed 12th this year with PCMB as main subjects.

  51. Hello,

    Please i want to know if its possible for someone from IT(Information Technology) background to join a shipping company or to become a Merchant Navy and how can this be done.

  52. Sir I have completed my bachelors in Mechanical engineering. Doing Masters in Ceramic from IIT,BHU.
    How can i join merchant navy as an officer and what is the age limit for the same. Thankyou

  53. Hi, I am a recent mechanical engineering graduate and i am going to study one year GME Course in AMET University,Chennai…whether they have good placements and how’s the current job market for GME. And i am wearing glasses with eyesight upto 5/60 in one eye and 6/60 in another eye…they have tolded me to do LASIK Operation to correct the power to join the course…will these LASIK operation was affect in future when i got promotions in engineer officer rankings…can u please describe me about these issue…because i have so much confusion about these LASIK operation…

  54. @Ifthihaar: Placement by the colleges are getting down every semester. AMET used to have a good repo, however, due to the job crunch all the maritime colleges are facing issues in placing their students. We wish you luck.
    LASIK is a very common procedure opted by maritime students to remove glasses.

  55. Sir I have passed SSC exam with 64.60% but I have failed in HSC exam .If I do gp rating training,can I get promoted to officer in future with SSC CERTIFICATE.

  56. Sir, is the merchant navy an uncertain field ? And i also heard that merchant navy is now oversaturated with officers and crews is it true ?sir plz reply

  57. Sir i recently heard that currently merchant navy is over saturated with officers and crew is it true ? Sir then what about the future of current freshers

  58. Sir I am from chennai looking for best college with good placement for merchant Navy

    Can you suggest a college which is best for bsc nautical science

  59. @Amir: Best way is to join a college which has sponsorship option. However, please do know that the current job market condition is not that great for freshers.

  60. hello sir, i have done b.tech in cs, i have a one year work experience in Indian coast guard,
    can i join merchant navy for officer rank or sailor rank. any benefits fo my work experience because i have also done sailing in indian coast guard.??

  61. Can I join merchant navy after I’ve passed my 12th w eco commerce. Though I’ve finished my 10th with math sci

  62. Such a nice information one must know before chasing their dream to join Navy

  63. I was one of the lucky ones did 5 yrs at sea leaving as AB, applied to a local ferry company and started the following day.
    The company put me through all tickets and after 45 yrs retired master after the most enjoyable life home every night could not complain.

  64. Sir,
    What is the qualification for merchant navy
    And if we didn’t join any course after 10+2 we are eligible Or not. ?

  65. I did my 11 and 12 in commerce and now in 2nd year in BBA…. but i want to join navy.. CAN I join navy????

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