15 Advantages and Disadvantages of Joining Merchant Navy

29 April, 2022

15 Advantages and Disadvantages of Joining Merchant Navy.

Thinking of joining Merchant Navy? We are sure that you have heard about getting paid for traveling around the world in Merchant Navy, haven’t you? You might also have heard how you need to work only for 6-8 months and get paid for the entire year. Well, every profession has its own advantages and disadvantages, and so does Merchant Navy. In this blog, we’ll take you through all the advantages of joining the Merchant navy and also spread some light on the cons of this industry.

A majority of the candidates are attracted to joining Merchant Navy because of two advantages – Travel opportunities and high pay scale. However, there are a lot of other advantages that you can consider before joining Merchant Navy. Below are the 11 points that would help aspiring candidates in being clear about the advantages of the Merchant Navy. 

11 Advantages of Joining Merchant Navy

1. Work while you travel the world

Travel lovers find this particular point very attractive. When people think about joining Merchant Navy, traveling while working is the first advantage that comes to mind.  No doubt, you can travel around the world for free as the job is all about seafaring.

Working in Merchant Navy is very adventurous and you can travel to almost any corner of the world without having to pay money out of your pocket. You can get out and explore the area once the ship has arrived at the port. Exploration and related activities are dependent on the length of the ship’s stay in port.

2. Get lucrative pay packages

There are quite a few jobs in the world that pay as much to entry-level officers as the merchant navy does. The most enticing aspect of this occupation is its compensation packages and pay rates. The pay rates generally start from $1500 and can go up to $3000 per month, or even more for higher positions like the captain of the ship.

Note that this is notwithstanding the approximately one-year training term during which a stipend ranging from $300 to $800 is provided. The salaries given to mariners depend upon the standards set by IMO (International Maritime Organization) and ILO (International Labor Organization) laws. Though pay levels have a consistent pattern across the world, they vary by company and, more crucially, they rise with experience.

3. Get amazing tax benefits

Paying taxes is a responsibility that everyone is aware of. However, the income of a sailor is taxed based on his state of residency. People working in the Merchant navy enjoy the advantage of tax exemptions if they meet the requirements set by the government. A commercial marine professional must spend a minimum of six months on duty on board a vessel before being exempt from paying tax for the designated fiscal year.

These laws differ from country to country. According to Indian laws, if you are not present in India for 182 days, you are not eligible to pay tax. Thus, if your contract is for more than 182 days on a foreign going vessel, you don’t have to pay any tax.

4. Exposure to varied cultures

A merchant marine professional has the opportunity to meet and interact with individuals from varied cultures and nations. This allows the individual to comprehend and perform better as a team member while also learning the intricacies of diverse cultures and customs. This enhances adaptation and raises understanding about what works and what doesn’t in a foreign nation.

A merchant marine officer is highly adaptable and can easily blend in with individuals from all over the world due to their frequent contact with international colleagues. Even when a ship has a single nationality crew, interacting with port officials from other nations raises sailors’ understanding of cultures and customs. If you are a person who likes such diversity, you will love this work setup!

5. No requirements of fancy degrees

This is also a huge advantage if you wish to join the Merchant Navy. To begin your career on the sea, you don’t need to have higher qualifications. Even if you have completed your 10th or 12th, you can take up short courses like G.P. rating or Diploma in Nautical Science and begin your pre-sea training. 

As a 12th PCM student, you can also apply for degree courses that will enable you to work for officer-level positions early on. Right after completing your pre-sea training, you can begin your on-board training with any shipping company of your choice. Taking up a merchant marine job is the most viable option for people who do not want to or cannot obtain a higher college degree for various reasons.

Also Read: 4 Sponsorship Exams you must apply in 2023

6. Enhances professionalism

Working in the merchant navy teaches people how to work effectively as a team. People working in Merchant Navy must have excellent communication skills, tremendous adaptability, and the ability to follow and maintain strict discipline. When a person spends a significant amount of time on the high seas as part of a new team, these skills are refined even further.

While working in the merchant marine, a person not only grows professionally, but also personally. This level of professionalism involves a tremendous deal of responsibility towards the vessel and the crew; years of intensive training in the sector may make certain activities appear routine to a layman, but achieving that level of skill requires a lot of hard work over the years.

7. Gives an early financial independence

As stated earlier, people working in the Merchant Navy have the advantage of being rewarded with lucrative salaries. Young sailors are paid well in US dollars, which is greater than their counterparts onshore in other sectors. 

Most shipping firms provide outstanding packages, incentives, and perks that are equivalent to or better than any other industry in the world right from the start of their career. Aside from the high pay in the Merchant Navy, the shipping company pays for the cost of joining, travel, and flights at the time of sign-on and sign-off. Thus, if planned the right way, seafarers can achieve early financial independence. 

8. Long and pure vacations

Because the nature of the merchant navy profession demands extended periods of work, the holidays provided to merchant marine personnel are equally compensatory. This allows these professionals to experience the finest of both worlds – land and sea. After completing 6-8 months of contract on the sea, seafarers get 4-5 months of complete vacation. 

The holiday a seafarer receives is in its purest form—there is no burden of work while he is home, and he can enjoy his time with his family to the utmost. This, to an extent, compensates for the long periods spent aboard the ship!

9. Builds discipline

Punctuality and discipline are two highly crucial skills that a commercial mariner develops. Because the waters are inherently unpredictable, a sailor must be extremely careful, focused, and attentive to counter any situation, therefore significantly decreasing the consequences. These two characteristics are instilled in marine professionals beginning with their pre-sea training.

Professionals are expected to live a highly disciplined lifestyle in accordance with marine norms and to wear navy uniforms throughout their contract period. In real life, discipline goes a long way toward bringing about some pretty positive changes.

10. Temporary seniors and colleagues

In a contracting career like the Merchant Navy, you work with different seniors in each contract. The captain would not be the permanent boss of the deck crew. Likewise, the chief engineer of the engine crew would change with each contract or even mid-sail. 

In the Merchant Navy, you only have to put up with a poor boss for a contract, and chances are you won’t even have to work with the same colleagues again. On the contrary, if you sail with a good Chief Engineer or Captain, he will, too, change after a few months.

11. NRI Status

The Government of India grants NRI status to sailors who sail for more than 182 days. If a sailor embarks on a voyage (away from India) that lasts longer than 182 days, he or she might formally identify as an NRI. As discussed above, this NRI designation entitles you to income tax breaks as well as other financial perks. Thus, along with tax benefits, Merchant Navy also gives the advantage of obtaining NRI status. 

4 Disadvantages of Joining Merchant Navy 

1. Long periods away from friends and family

In the advantages of joining the Merchant Navy, we saw that seafarers tend to enjoy longer periods of vacations after completing a contract. However, even though long getaways are possible, the prospect of spending months aboard a ship, away from family, might not seem very attractive to a lot of people.

A typical office job allows you to come home every night, and spend every day with your family and friends. This is not possible for people employed in the Merchant Navy. As compared to earlier years, mariners now have better connectivity onboard to stay in touch with their family members, still, it’s usually very difficult to contact them while being onboard.

Also Read: How to handle long waiting period in Merchant Navy

2. Sacrificed social life

If you enjoy spending time with your friends and going to parties, you should not consider joining the Merchant Navy! Staying away from friends and family is definitely difficult and above all, it puts people at crossroads where it becomes really difficult to manage a career with a long-distance relationship. 

Presently, most ships have WiFi access, allowing you to chat and video call with your loved ones. It may virtually shorten the distance between you and your loved ones, but you will miss being physically present with them. Also, you will be able to get very little time to talk over a call due to long working hours. 

3. Constant examinations

This is less of a disadvantage and more of a fact. Regardless of the sequence chosen, the pre-sea training and subsequent tests are not a child’s play. Just like any other profession, Merchant Navy also requires a high level of commitment. After completing the pre-sea training and onboard training, individuals are required to pass the Certificate of Competency (COC) exams held by the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD). Along with experience, you will also have to give timely examinations in order to move up in your career path. 

4. Piracy and other risks

Armed guards are generally deployed aboard ships today when they transit through pirated locations, or adequate anti-piracy procedures are performed. While the number of piracy attacks has decreased along the Somalian coast, piracy incidents have increased significantly along the West African coast. 

As maritime organizations continue to implement new laws and standards to safeguard ships from pirates, sailors must be exceedingly cautious and watchful when their ship enters a piracy-sensitive area.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Merchant Navy a good career?

For the people who are enthusiastic about traveling the globe while working on a ship, Merchant Navy can be a very alluring career option. People employed in the Merchant Navy can get advantages of higher pay packages, tax benefits, exposure to different cultures, and much more. 

2. Does Merchant Navy pay well?

Merchant Navy provides attractive pay packages to sailors. In the initial training (after completing the pre-sea training), the Ordinary Seamen gets 200-300$ (12000-18000) per month. After 9 months of sailing, the candidate gets a watchkeeping certificate and also gets promoted to Able Seamen who earns around 1000-1500$. A further candidate becomes Bosun who earns around 2000-2500$. And if the candidate holds the required qualification he can be promoted as an officer where he can earn 3000-4000$.

3. Is Merchant Navy exam difficult?

In order to obtain sponsorship and clear pre-sea training, candidates have to appear for specific exams. The difficulty level is comparatively low as compared to exams from other fields. After beginning on-board training, sailors have to obtain certificates of watchkeeping, COC, etc. in order to move ahead in their career. 

4. Why should you choose Merchant Navy as a career?

There are a lot of reasons why the Merchant Navy is a career like no other. Some of them include the opportunity to work while you travel across the globe, getting high pay packages, obtaining tax exemptions, getting exposure to varied cultures, meeting people from different nationalities, and much more.

5. Is Merchant Navy a permanent job?

No, shipping companies operating in the Merchant Navy employ you on a contract basis. You are not bound to work for a designated number of years with a company. After your contract completes, it is completely up to you whether to enter into a new contract or not. 

Also Read: 3 Types of Hazards on Ship: Operational, Security & Safety


People with unbridled enthusiasm and zest for life can very well opt for a merchant marine career. It would be satiating without the person ever experiencing any regrets whatsoever in his profession of choice. The Merchant Navy can be one of the most rewarding careers yet challenging at the same time. 

It can be an amazing career option and if you intend to choose it, Rife is here to help! Contact us (give a call on +91 8160370087) or visit our office and we’ll guide you on how you can begin your career on the seas! To explore Merchant Navy courses and check your eligibility, click here.