Planning to join merchant navy? Merchant navy is a unique career choice, but then there are certain things that you should consider before making it your career. The list of why merchant marine is a very good career option (or not so good one), is very long but with the help of these top eight points, knowing why to opt for marine careers and what to look out for before joining the merchant navy will become genuinely easy.
1. Right Qualification
As with most professions, the right qualifications are necessary for this job too. Owing to the specialized nature of the work on board ship, it is mandatory to have the right skillset for this line of work as well. Respective streams for respective work on board require a very focused skill set to be applied practically. Therefore, the right institute is also to be taken into consideration as there are many to choose from. Different countries have their own merchant navy rules and academies so it becomes necessary to enroll in the appropriate Institute as required by the nation’s merchant marine laws to get the required qualifications.
2. Choose the Right Job
As mentioned above, the right stream must be chosen by an individual commensurate with his interest in that specific area of study followed by work. Merchant marine offers a lot of job options – from technical to non-technical professionals. Radio officers, captains, able-bodied seamen, chefs, first mate and second mate are the kind of jobs that are available to the interested people. You are the best judge of your capabilities, so choose your stream accordingly. Some positions come with high responsibilities and you should be ready to deliver your best.
Related Read: A Guide to Merchant Navy Officer Ranks
3. Health and Fitness
The sea tests human endurance, both physically and mentally. It is important to be fit physically as well as to have the right mental constitution to be prepared for any situation onboard. You wouldn’t be selected if you are not fit. Since the merchant navy men have to be on the water for a major portion of the year, their health and fitness become a major concern. Fitness is an aspect that not only pertains to an individual but also the others on board ship; seeing as all work on board is teamwork and one job affects another. Therefore, lax performance in one area can put the other areas to risk. Safety being of paramount importance, it is not prudent to have unfit people on board.
Do note that health and physical fitness tests are carried out at regular intervals of time. They are conducted every time before boarding the ship and if any complication arises, the candidate will not be allowed to join the ship. Passing the test during the time for admission in the course does not ensure you are fit for sea life. There are some tests which are carried in between the course (hearing compatibility test etc.) which if failed will lead to termination of the course.
4. Almost Negligible Social Life
The fourth aspect involved is about the amount of time spent offshore. If you are a social animal who likes to mingle with friends on every opportunity you can find, then better stay away from Merchant navy. The life at sea is a lonely one and takes a toll on your social life; some prefer it and some don’t- whoever tells you otherwise is lying outright. With the extent of work and lack of free time to pursue social interests, ship life can get quite hard for a person.
Modern ships have internet and satellite phones which virtually reduce the distance from friends and family; however, it is no replacement for the usual social life on shore and more than that, the work leaves little to no room to engage in long conversations over the phone! It is also prudent to remember that this aspect is more than negated by the all the new places that one gets to discover (subject to time available). If the person is adventurous, then the time period could go to the person’s advantage but if the person has a shy personality and needs emotional anchorage from friends and family then marine careers could be disadvantageous as it could lead to homesickness and unnecessary problems due to the person’s inability to adjust to the job.
Related Read: 12 Main Reasons Seafarers Quit Sea Jobs
5. Personality and Attitude
Seeing the same lot of people over months can automatically harbor resentment within an individual; if not resentment, then plain boredom! Men of strong mental constitution tend to keep it together throughout their contract by having a positive personality with the right attitude towards the work at hand as well the people he’s working with. Being a part of the merchant navy will allow a person to not only meet new people but learn lots of new things about different cultures of the world.
If you feel you are not the kind of person, who can compartmentalize his or her mind, then better give this career a miss. This is why it becomes important before joining merchant navy to know what type of a person one is and whether merchant navy will suit the person or not. Have some time to yourself and then decide.
6. Job surety and high income
Opportunities on shore have increased many times over for merchant navy professionals who are willing to put in the time. While the power/command and the pay on board cannot be met fully on shore while starting out, putting in the years on shore or starting the right business can garner equal or sometimes, even more, income than at sea. As far as seafaring jobs go, with the cyclical nature of the shipping industry, we are in the bust cycle at the moment which has caused a slowdown in jobs and recruitment; there is job crunch in the seafaring industry especially at the entry level (junior officers).
Candidates who cleared the required courses are finding it difficult to get a ship for completing their sea-time and training so that they can appear for competency exam to become officers. A qualified seafarer past his training phase on board gets paid rather well but the initial stages are hard (for deck/engine cadets and trainee ratings). The entry-level candidates earn as much as any land job person, and hence it is only when you pass the exam and have a COC, then you get a good salary flowing into your account.
7. Tax-Free Income
Most of the amateur seafarers remain confused about the taxation system for the income earned, which leads to non-filing of tax returns. The income earned on a foreign going vessel, seafarer may not always be tax-free (a general assumption). You need to complete the required sea time in a financial year to claim a tax-free income else you will be considered under the tax slab for paying the income tax as stated by the government of the country. For example, for Indian citizens, the tax earned on income earned from a foreign country is not taxable is the individual remains outside of the country for more than 183 days.
8. Family onboard
It is natural to want to have family on board. A merchant navy officer can take his/her family on board ship only if allowed by the company or when all the norms of the company are complied with. Here “family” for a married person means only the wife and kids and not parents. Parents are not allowed to go along with the seafarers. An entry-level officer will have a lesser chance to carry his immediate family than a management level officer, which again depends on the number of supernumeraries (family members) already present on a ship and the lifeboat capacity. Sometimes, the trading route also determines if family carriage will be allowed. For example, in HRA areas such as when passing the Gulf Of Aden, the family carriage is not advisable.
Apart from all these points, it is also necessary that an applicant who wants to join marine careers does not have any past criminal record. If a person does have any such record, then he or she will not be eligible to join merchant marine.
Merchant navy is a lucrative career option and for the person who follows all the necessary steps needed to be primarily taken, it is one of the best career options of today’s times. However, as with every field, there are few drawbacks attached to this as well. So choose the career of merchant navy wisely in case you are planning to.
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