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All hands on deck

The merchant navy is made up of civilian officers and crew who transport cargo as well as passengers in non-combatant commercial ships.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:00 IST

The lowdown
The merchant navy is made up of civilian officers and crew who transport cargo as well as passengers in non-combatant commercial ships. Merchant vessels move 90% of the world’s goods, from crude oil, LPG, LNG, kerosene, petrol, coal and mineral ore to wheat, vegetable oil, rice, crockery, shoes, cars, yachts and other products.

The global industry boasts a combined fleet of about 40,000 vessels. A major pillar of the merchant navy (the other being engineers), navigation or deck officers manoeuvre ships across the world

Clock Work
3.30am: Get up, have coffee
4am: Duty starts. Check directions, etc
8.30am: Breakfast at officers’ mess
9.30am to 11.30am: Oversee ship maintenance; do paperwork on fortnightly/ monthly maintenance
11.30am: Tea break
12pm: Resume work
12.30pm: Have lunch
1.30pm: Rest
4pm: Resume navigational watch
7 pm: Dinner
8 pm: Work or indulge in recreational activities

The payoff
Monthly pay packages while on a foreign ship:
Deck cadet (trainee): $350 to $450 (R16,284 to Rs20,936 a month);
Third officer: $2,000 to $3,000 (Rs93,058 to Rs1 lakh plus a month); Chief officer: $5,000 to $6,000 (Rs2 lakh to Rs3 lakh a month);
Master (captain): $7,500 to $9,000 (Rs3 lakh to Rs4 lakh a month) for bulk carriers. Average monthly pay
on Indian ships: Fresh deck officer: About R1 lakh plus a month; second officer: Rs2 lakh a month; Chief officer: Rs2.5 lakh a month; Captain: Rs3 lakh plus a month approximately

Skills/TRAITS
. Be physically tough
. Show leadership qualities
. Aptitude for people and material management
. Be adaptive and willing to share space with people from different cultures/countries
. Ability to condition mind to be strong as one has to deal with long absences from home

Getting there
Candidates should have completed Class 12 with physics, chemistry, maths and English, with a minimum of 60% marks (with at least 50% in English). After this, opt for the three-year BSc nautical science programme by clearing (a) the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) (followed by a medical exam and counselling) to enrol at one of the institutes offering the degree; (b) the common entrance test of Indian Maritime University, which has affiliated institutes and centres across the country; (c) entrance test of private institutes. To work as a deck officer on a merchant ship and for promotions, you need to clear exams held by the Ministry of Surface Transport. More details, including medical requirements, are available at dgshipping.com

Institutes and URLs
. Indian Maritime University, Chennai, (with affiliated institutes across India)
www.nipm.tn.nic.in
. TS Chanakya, Mumbai
www.dgshipping.com
. Tolani Maritime Institute, Pune,
www.tolani.edu
. Applied Research International, New Delhi
www.ariworld.com
. International Maritime Institute, Greater Noida
www.imi.edu.in

Pros and Cons
. A very well-paying job
. An adventurous job profile
. You get to travel throughout the world
. Immense international exposure
. Not as many job options on shore, as there might be for engineers
. Tough, back-breaking work
. Sailing for days can get a bit dull
. It is a very sought-after profession