4 Ways To Become A Deck Officer in Merchant Navy

The Merchant Navy is a lucrative and an enjoyable line of work that demands a great deal of hard work right from the day you step into a maritime academy, whether it is nautical science or marine engineering.


As is with choosing any stream of education, selecting a career in Merchant Navy also requires a considerable amount of time devoted towards research so that a prospective individual is able to choose a course that best suits his needs. Some might aspire to become deck officers whereas others might be interested in engineering knowledge.

With a plethora of maritime institutes offering a variety of courses, it is natural for a candidate to get confused, and in the process, make a wrong decision.

There are myriad of maritime institutes all over the world and it is natural to be spoiled for choice. However, it is necessary to understand that not all of them offer the path to becoming a Deck Officer in the way that it is imagined.

The role of a Deck Officer in merchant navy is indispensable on board and it is important for a prospective Cadet to know what a deck officer does on board ships.

A Deck Officer works in the execution of a variety of tasks- namely navigation and maneuvering of the vessel, handling of all safety equipment on board, and handing cargo, communications, and safety.

All of this seemingly daunting work is designated, divided, and handled among the Trainee Cadet, 3rd Officer, 2nd Officer, Chief Officer, under the supreme supervision of the Captain of the vessel.

The prerequisites to join a maritime course pertaining to the Merchant Navy are generally kept low, except the physical fitness and medical requirements. However, it is advised that an interested individual inquire with the respective institute offering the course in order to get the exact criterion.

The following courses outlined are those that will help an individual a great deal in determining what’s best for a chosen path to becoming a Deck Officer.

1. B.S. Nautical Technology

This is a 3+1 years course that is available only in India. The degree in question here is offered by the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, and is offered in two of the institutes in India. The first 3 years of the merchant navy course is spent in the institute where a variety of subjects are taught extensively. The final year is devoted to an internship on board a vessel as a deck cadet for a minimum period of 12 months.

The internship period is extremely crucial as the degree is only conferred when an individual finishes his sea time.

The 2nd Mate license is obtained after finishing the mandatory sea time, upon clearing the MMD (Mercantile Marine Department) examinations. There are a total of 48 subjects covered in the study period of 3 years, a detailed list of which can obtained from the website/brochure of the institutes concerned. Following are the institutes in India that offer this merchant navy program to become a deck officer:

- Tolani Maritime Institute (TMI), Pune

- RL Institute of Nautical Sciences (RLINS), Madurai

2. B.Sc. Nautical Science

This is a 3 years course that is available in India. In the UK, this is a 4 years course. However, the method incorporated in the completion of this course varies between India and the UK.

In India, a deck cadet spends his entire 3 years in a Maritime Institute and gets a degree after the course ends. Following that, he seeks employment and gets on board a ship as a Trainee Deck Officer. In the UK, work and learning are incorporated together within the course, with the core modules and work based learning divided aptly within the four years of study. There are a host of Institutes offering this merchant navy program, the notable ones being:

- Academy of Maritime Education and Training (AMET), Chennai

- Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Liverpool

3. HND Nautical Science

HND stands for the Higher National Diploma. This is a 2 years course that is conducted between an Indian Institute and one in the UK in liaison with each other. The first 39-40 weeks of the course is spent studying at an Institute in India whereas the next 39-40 weeks is spent at an Institute in the UK.

Deck cadets must sail for a minimum period of 15 months after the completion of the course. Thereafter  a 3 months 2nd Mate Preparatory course must be undertaken at the deck cadets’ respective Institute. Upon clearing the examination conducted by the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency), the Cadet is awarded the 2nd Mate UK license to become a certified deck officer. The notable HND courses of merchant navy are conducted by:

- AMET University, Chennai in collaboration with South Tyneside College, UK

- International Maritime Institute, Noida in collaboration with Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, Scotland

4. Diploma in Nautical Science

This is a 1 year course under the Indian Maritime University. Prospective deck cadets undergo a year long period of study followed by a sailing period of a minimum of 36 months. There are many merchant navy institutes offering this course. It is advisable to check the Directorate General of Shipping and the Indian Maritime University websites for institute approvals and course details.

In the United States, the Merchant Marine is a civilian auxiliary of the US Navy. The system followed in the US is a very intensive one. Candidates should refer to one of the Academy websites for a methodical procedure with regard to the US Merchant Marine.

Check the list of best maritime colleges of the United States for more information

The most important aspect of choosing the right merchant navy Institute and course to become a deck officer is to ensure that the course is approved by the respective Government Authority of the country. It is also advisable to know the nation issuing the Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC) to prevent any confusion later on.

In addition to the above mentioned courses, several shipping companies also conduct sponsorship programs for deck officers.

Choosing the right path to becoming a Deck Officer in merchant navy can play a vital role in having a solid kick-start to the career. Apart from good memories and an unforgettable college life a proper institute, catered to your requirements, can help an individual develop the right attitude towards this line of work.


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