Marine careers are often plagued by misconceptions and myths. Merchant navy myths are especially widespread and prevalent. Because of this misinformation, many youngsters get disappointed after joining this merchant navy and quit it. For those in the industry, it is very important to dispel such negative views.
The reasons for such disappointments are fake promises by unscrupulous agencies, marine institutes, and training centers. These institutes entice youngsters with fake advertisements promising sure placements and high salaries.
People with no experience or knowledge of this industry get ensured easily by the lure of a promising career in shipping.
While it’s true that the Merchant navy offers high salaries but it’s not all that rosy. As with every industry, competition for jobs in the merchant navy is also very high. The jobs are also very challenging and often dangerous.
It’s important to know at the outset that a career in Merchant navy may look glamorous to the outsiders but it is fraught with risks, solitude, and hard work which are not everyone’s cup of tea.
The term “merchant navy” means a fleet of merchant vessels and commercial ships registered in the given country and are not used for military purpose. The ships and the crew of the merchant navy are a part of a country’s commercial shipping.
A career in the merchant navy is a challenging job. Sailing in an open sea is another sea-change in one’s life that no other career can match. Merchant navy jobs primarily include working on a variety of ships as officers, engineers, or ratings.
In Merchant Navy, the salary can range from anywhere between Rs.12000 to Rs.8 lakhs per month, and in order to grab the highest salary package you need to work hard for 8-10 years and gain some good experience.
This article will expose and debunk these merchant navy myths.
Myth #1: Sailing for companies is a permanent job
Fact: Sailing for companies is not a permanent job. The job is either in fixed contracts or year-round employment.
Explanation: The majority of the companies hire aspirants on the basis of round-the-year contracts with regular work hours. The contract mentions the duration of months you will be serving for the particular company. The contract period can last from 4 months up to 9 months depending on the rank and type of ship. You will receive money on the basis of your work and the duration mentioned.
After your contract expires you will have to search for another company providing contracts as the previous company will no longer be responsible for providing you jobs/contractors. You will receive almost the same range of money in every company you explore.
Myth #2: You get your regular salary even when you are on leave
Fact: You will not receive any salary after completion of your contract. If you are on round year-round wages then you will get salary during leave only for a specific period.
Explanation: There are only a handful number of companies that actually provide such facilities. The companies that opt for fixed contract periods will pay you salary regularly even on leave. The rest of the companies providing year-round employment will pay you the wages as per round-the-year contract terms.
For instance, if the contract mentions 5 months ON and 2 months OFF, then you will get 2 months for enjoying the paid leave. That’s how it works.
Myth #3: You will earn an excellent sum of money within just a few months of work as stated by advertisements
Fact: It will not be an easy walkthrough initially. It takes around 3-5 years to accomplish a good salary package and approximately 10-12 years to reach the highest position and bag the highest salary package.
Explanation: If you search on the internet and newspapers, you will not run short of advertisements exaggerating the salary packages the seafarer fresher earns at sea while working on Merchant navy ships.
While merchant navy careers are high paying compared to the land jobs, advertisements tend to mislead aspirants by claiming wildly inaccurate figures.
Over the past few years, merchant navy selection criteria and packages have gone through a lot of change and in order to earn the highest salary package, you will have to aim for the highest position, and for that, it would need at least 7-10 years.
Don’t fall for the fake promises because it will only end up hurting your expectations. Just like in any other field, the merchant navy also demands the workers to gain experience and rise in ranks to gain a good amount of money.
Myth #4: You can take your family along with you onboard ships anytime after you are appointed as an officer
Fact: Once you are at a management position or sailed for a comfortable period of time with a particular company at the operational level, you are eligible to take you, family, along.
Explanation: There are two sides to this myth, i.e. you are not allowed to take your family onboard ships straight away after you become an officer. You can take your family along when you are in a management position.
While many companies have a “No Family” policy, some ships allow senior officers (Captain, Chief Officer, Chief Engineer & Second Engineer) to bring their family on board.
But unfortunately, companies, in order to cut down on the expenses, are slowly eradicating such privileges. Such facilities will only get scarce as the companies try to minimize their operating costs.
Some people believe that Seafarers are free to take their girlfriends along but it is absolutely not true. Since girlfriends don’t have any legal status they are not permitted on board.
Myth #5: You will get 100% placement and your seat is secured for the job.
Fact: Due to less demand for maritime professionals, institutes find it more difficult to secure a seat for you.
Explanation: No institute can guarantee 100% placement especially if the student’s performance is not up to the mark.
Don’t believe the advertisements stating such claims, they are only bothered about your admission fee and will display attractive ads to captivate students.
The most a maritime institute can do is provide you 100% guidance to look for placements. They can only promise you to be by your side while you flounder to secure a seat for the placement. In order to keep aloof from these frauds, you must research the universities beforehand, and if possible look for reviews given by the ex-students of the institute as they will state the truth. If needed, consult your family members and friends too.
After all, it’s your career, don’t let anyone mess around with it.
Myth #6: If you are sponsored you do not have to pay your fees
Fact: Most often what happens is that you get a sponsored seat on a ship as a trainee, not a sponsored course with the fees being paid by the college.
Explanation: Firstly, before drawing any erroneous preconceptions, you must skim through all the terms and conditions are given by the institute or company providing it. This will help to keep you from misleading assumptions and will save you time in the future. Sponsored in ships indicates that you are being sponsored a place for you on a ship so that you can comfortably complete your training which will in turn make you eligible to sit for exams and get a promotion.
Fact: You can join the navy even if you wear spectacles provided you qualify certain terms and conditions.
Explanation: You can join the merchant navy with an eye power provided you meet the following requirement: 6/6 vision in both eyes (with visual aids); you shouldn’t possess color-blindness. If you want to go for the post of Nautical Officer or Engineering Officer, use of corrective lenses is permitted but the maximum permissible limits are 6/12 in each eye or 6/9 in the better eye and 6/18 in the other eye, for Distant Unaided Vision.
If you meet the above conditions then you are eligible to join the navy. Rules may vary across different countries.
Myth #8: A plethora of shore jobs are available and you can easily shift to land jobs anytime you want
Fact: It is not easy at all to get a decent job onshore at the very beginning of a merchant navy career.
Explanation: In order to opt for shore job opportunities, you should have managerial experience of at least 2nd engineer/ chief officer rank for which you need to work for 8-10 years. If you are into marine engineering then shifting to a shore job will not be beneficial. If you pose an MBA qualification or have completed other advanced courses then it will prove out to be helpful for attaining better salary and higher options inshore jobs.
Myth #9: You will live a luxurious life and get to visit new countries every now and then
Fact: Seafarers get to visit new ports and countries according to the trading patterns but that doesn’t indicate that they have the luxury to roam around according to their own wish.
Explanation: There is a lot of workload onboard ships and by the end of the day after dealing with all sorts of tasks sailors are exhausted and need a good amount of rest. Due to early discharge at ports, there are ample restrictions as far as shore leaves are concerned which leaves little to no time to enjoy shore leave.
Remember, with higher positions comes more responsibilities. Captains and other senior officers have to be vigilant at all times and are often OOW. They are also responsible for safety and security, cargo operations, navigation, crew management, and legal compliance.
Myth #10: You must be a great swimmer as you are going to deal with seas
Fact: Seafarers do not need to know swimming.
Explanation: People have this idea that if you work for ships or any job that has to do with traveling across the oceans then it is essential for you to be a good swimmer in order to save others else in case of a mishap.
The truth is that you do not need to be a swimmer in order to qualify for any such post. Even if you are a proficient swimmer you can’t save people and swim for hours to get across the sea. There are ample safety measures like lifeboats and life jackets which are put into service when some sort of accident does happen.
So practically, being a good or bad swimmer will make no difference in the merchant navy. So go ahead and apply without any hesitation.
There are pros and cons in every sort of job you look for. In order to extract what’s true and what’s false, you need to do some research work before applying for the desired job. Try to ask your friends if they know anybody who’s already into the job you are willing you take.
Search for reviews of ex-sailors. It will help you know better about the policies of the company. Don’t feel disheartened upon reading the hard facts, it’s the ultimate reality and it’s better to be safe than sorry later.
Myths surely seem attractive, but will only end up breaking down your expectations in the long run. So choose wisely, it is your life, your career, not anyone else’s.
1) The Crew of Megayacht “Allegria” (2010). Photo by Suki Finnerty of YachtingToday.TV