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Career as Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

Last Updated By Lam Vijaykanth on 29 Aug, 2022

How to Become a Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

About Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

Career as a Chief Officer Merchant Navy: The main function of the Merchant Navy is to trade goods from one place to another. It is the backbone of any country’s economy. More than 90% of the goods in the world are transported via ships. Merchant Navy as a career has gained a lot of popularity in the past few decades and candidates who wish to make a career in Merchant Navy have to go through extensive pre-sea training for one year, followed by onboard training and examination. Once the candidates are done with their training, they usually get appointed as either The Second Mate, The Chief Mate or The Captain. 

The Chief Officer is the head of the Deck Department. The Chief Officer is the highest-ranking officer in the aforementioned department. The sole responsibility of CO is to navigate the vessel. The merchant officers deal with practical challenges and confront them wisely utilizing their special skills. These officers are the leaders and managers who are expected to carry out practical tasks with their fellow brethren. Depending on the size of ship or vessel that chief officer is working, the role of the officers is defined. Do you want to become a Chief Officer? Are you looking to advance in your career as CO? Then, read this article, which will help you to achieve your dream 

Why should you select Chief Officer (Merchant Navy) as a Career?

Here are the reasons why you must opt for a Career in the Merchant Navy:

  • A Career as Chief Officer offers an exciting and adventurous profession.
  • Offers an outstanding salary
  • Makes you independent financially
  • Makes you the leader in life
  • Provides an opportunity to travel around the world and interact with different nationals
  • Can select one`s own working period
  • It is a secured profession/job
  • This profession promises you fast growth
  • Zero expense while on the board
  • Extraordinary food and accommodation facilities are provided on ships
  • Provides long vacations so that one can spend maximum time with family members

Eligibility to become Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

To become a Merchant Navy Chief Officer, it is important that candidates meet the following criteria. 

  • The candidate must be class 12th passed with PCM from a recognised board with an aggregate of more than 60% or a candidate must be a B.Sc graduate with more than 60% marks either in Physics, Chemistry. But, the candidate must have studied Physics for at least one year.

  • In both of the above-mentioned cases, the candidate must have scored more than 50% marks in English in class 12th.

  • The age of the candidate should not be more than 25 years.

  • The candidate must have perfect eyesight and no colour blindness. 

Skills Required to become a Chief Officer

To become an effective Chief Officer, one must have the following set of skills

  • Must possess Technical Skills
  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Leadership Qualities
  • Ingenious
  • Flexibility
  • Good Decision-Making Skills
  • Should be Team Player
  • Highly Motivated and Motivating
  • Aspire to inspire
  • Confidence
  •  Determination and Dedication
  • Vivacious and Energetic 
  • Broad Knowledge of Mechanical Equipment
  • Good at electrical systems
  • Must be as cool as cucumber, especially in difficult situations


    Types of Job Roles Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

    Stages involved in becoming a Chief Officer

    There are certain stages which be undergone by the aspirants before becoming the Chief Officer. A brief explanation about them is provided here.

    Applying and Selection

    • Candidates who fill the eligibility criteria, which are mentioned above, can apply for the position of deck cadet.
    • The selection process is based on the fulfillment of eligibility criteria.
    • The notification and selection process takes place during May- June or from November – December

    Pre Sea Training

    • Candidates must undergo 1-year pre-sea training in a Maritime-training institute ashore.
    • The candidates must pay the entire tuition fee, which will be around Rs.2 to Rs. 3 lakhs.
    • Bank loans will be provided if candidates require or they do not want to give a burden to their parents.

    On Board Training and Examination  

    • After the pre-sea training, candidates will be placed on board the ship.
    • On the ship, the training will last for six months.
    • After the apprenticeship, the trainee is eligible for the competency examination conducted by the Directorate General of Shipping.
    • Qualified candidates are eligible for the posts.


    After gaining some experience, a third officer can advance to become a second officer, but to become a chief officer, one must take exams after completing 18 months of sea time and then take another exam after another 18 months to qualify to become a captain of a ship.

    After completing the pre-sea training and clearing the examination, there are a number of Merchant Navy job profiles that one can opt for as per their interests and goals. Given below are some of the Merchant Navy job profiles:

    • Executive Officers/The Captain: It is one of the top-most level job profiles in the Merchant Navy and is regarded as the Commander of the ship. Their job includes navigating the ship and they are the representatives of ship owners. The Captain is entrusted with multiple job roles such as assigning organizational duties, navigation and maintaining discipline.

    • The Chief Mate: Their job is to assist the Captain and they are in charge of cargo planning and deck work. They also look after the managerial work at the ship.

    • The Second Mate/The Third Mate: They are responsible for the maintenance of equipment and assists in the cargo work.

    • Engineering Officers:  The job of the Engineering Officer is to supervise the engine room rating and performing practical tasks.

    • Third Engineer/Fourth Engineer Officer: They are mainly responsible for maintaining the engineering room auxiliary and to maintain the boiler room equipment.

    • Radio Officers: They operate, maintain and repair radio device in the ships. They also maintain electronic navigational aids like radar. They record weather reports, position reports and other related data. 

    Responsibilities of Chief Officer

    There are certain duties and responsibilities, which should be carried out by the Chief Officers.

    As a navigation or deck officer, Chief Officer must do the following duties:

    • The vessel is navigated using a variety of satellite and radar systems and equipment by CO
    • Examining weather and navigation reports, then take appropriate action
    • Coordinating and ensuring of cargo loading, storage, and unloading
    • Supervise passenger/colleagues' care and safety
    • Monitor the operation and proper maintenance of deck machinery
    • Maintain the ship's communication systems
    • Safety, firefighting, and life-saving equipment must be monitored and maintained
    • supervise the ship in order to maintain the highest levels of health and safety
    • keep legal and operational records like the ship's log
    • It is the primary duty of a Chief Officer to keep updating the developments in maritime legal, commercial and political matters

    As an engineering officer Chief Officer must be able, to do the following tasks

    • CO should operate and safeguard the ship's mechanical and electrical systems
    • Power generation and distribution systems, as well as refrigeration, ventilation, and pumping systems, should be looked after by Chief Officer
    • Another important duty is to repair and track the systems up gradation and equipment
    • carry out routine equipment inspections and maintenance programmes
    • CO must keep up with developments in the field of marine engineering


    Employment Sector/Industry for Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

    Merchant Navy officers can find a variety of employment opportunities in various shipping companies, oil and gas shipping firms and ports. Some of the top sectors that hire Merchant Navy officers are listed below:

    • Oil Companies
    • Shipping Firms
    • Cargo Companies & Agencies
    • Shipping Corporations

    Top Recruiting Companies for Merchant Navy Officers

    Some of the top recruiting companies that hire Merchant Navy officers can find relevant job opportunities are listed below:

    • Oil & Natural Gas Corp Ltd
    • Garware Offshore Services Ltd
    • Visakhapatnam Port
    • Hede Navigation
    • Poompuhar Shipping
    • Apeejay Shipping Ltd
    • Varun Shipping Co Ltd

    Planning to choose Chief Officer (Merchant Navy) as your career?

    Pay Scale/Salary of Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

    Job Profile

    Starting Salary per annum (in INR)

    Mid Level Salary per annum (in INR)

    Senior Level Salary per annum (in INR)

    Captain/Chief Mate




    Note: The above figures are an estimate and may vary from individual to individual and company to company.

    Books & Study Material to Become Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

    Aspirants planning to make it to a good Merchant Navy/Maritime Institute in India are required to clear entrance tests like IMU-CET. To be well prepared for the entrance exam, aspirants must have the best books for Merchant Navy and study material with them. This makes the preparation process a lot easier. Some of the best books and study material to become a Merchant Navy Officer are as follows:

    • IMU CET Question Bank With Study Material

    • IMU-CET Gateway to Maritime Education by TMC Foundation

    Pros of becoming a Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

    • Being in the Merchant Navy is one of the best jobs in the world if you enjoy travelling the world and for free.

    • One of the biggest advantages in a Merchant Navy job is that the pay scale and salary packages will always be higher than most of the other professions.

    • One of the other benefits is that Merchant Navy employees are exempted from paying taxes as they spend more than 6 months in the sea.

    • Since work in the Merchant Navy involves a lot of international travel, it helps you form better public relations and get the experience to work with professionals from different areas, domestically as well as internationally. 

    Cons of becoming a Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

    • One of the biggest disadvantages of being in the Merchant Navy is that you tend to miss out on little joys as you are at the sea for a long stretch. You miss out on festivals and celebrations with your family and loved ones.

    • Merchant Navy professionals have to face extreme conditions at times like harsh weather and raging sea.

    • Spending long periods of time on a  ship, away from land, is not something the human body is accustomed to deal with. This leads to several physical and health issues.

    Career path for Chief Officer (Merchant Navy)

    There are certain mandatory requirements that one needs to fulfill before joining merchant navy. Also there are multiple career paths through which can join merchant navy as per their choices and career interests.

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