How to start a career in merchant navy?

How to start a career in merchant navy

Most time, we do receive emails regarding questions about “how to start a career in merchant navy?”.

On this article, we are going to give general details and steps to start a career in merchant navy.

Before I list the steps, note that your country’s maritime transport regulation body might have plus or minus (+/-) from what I am going to list here.

I will like to use Ukrainian seafarers certification regulation rules as a case study. To acquire maritime documents to become merchant navy or seaman, here are the steps :

1. You required a certificate from a recognized maritime institution

For you to join merchant navy officers level, you need to start by studying for four or more years to acquire high diploma ( BSc, masters degrees, etc) from any recognized maritime institution. Your field of study must be in relation to the field you would like to join ( deck or engine ).

This step mostly applicable to all countries but the difference might be the diploma level. On like UK, Nigeria, Ghana, etc. you can attend 6 months course + your degree to qualify for COC eligibility.

2. STCW certificate

Without the standards of training, certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW), nobody will accept you onboard. What does that mean?

This means you need to pass through this course, where you will be trained on the safety measures, know more about onboard watch keeping, etc. At the end of each course, you will be issued a certificate which you can present to the merchant navy companies for employment ( including you OOW ( if available) ).

This body amended their rules in the year 2010 tagged manila convention.

3. Cadetship or Trainee.

After you might acquire the two above mentioned points, the next step is to apply for an onboard ship practical, this rank normally called cadet.

This point is actually for those who like to join an officer’s level. According to the Ukrainian seafarers certification regulation, you will require up to 12 months of cadetship experience before you can sit for an exam for your Certificate of competency ( COC ). For the ratings ( AB, Motorman, OS, others ), this point and number one above are not necessarily required.

4. Medical fitness examination

Before you go onboard any ship, you will be examined for fitness.

Know more about medical fitness examination here

The certificate which will be given to you by an approved doctor or medical center will also be asked from you. Following the Ukrainian seafarers certification regulation, you will need to present a medical certificate of fitness before you will be allowed to take a COC exam.

This also applicable to other approved maritime countries.

5. Yellow fever certificate

For all merchant navy or seafarers, yellow fever certificate is a most have a certificate. Every country has there rules on how to acquire this certificate, eg in Ukraine through the hospital, in Nigeria at port authority area, etc.

This certificate shows that you have taken a yellow fever injection which protects your from this sickness at sea.

6. CDC and seaman passport

Continuous discharge certificate (CDC) and seaman passport are also an important certificate which required from everyone on who wish to join the merchant navy.

This is a booklet where all you sea experiences will be recorded, base on your performance onboard ship. Some countries like Nigeria , uses only CDC and that of international Passport. While in Ukraine, you need both CDC , seaman passport and international Passport. Among the two countries, your country might be alike.

7. COC and Watch keeping certificate

After you might have gotten all the listed above, you will be eligible for COC as an officer and watch keeping certificate as a rating.

This is a point which gives the difference between ranks. The ranking are base on experience and course level. See post about ranks here.


With the above listed points, you are set as a merchant navy, but base on your country’s requirements, you may need some other additional documents which are been attached to the list. Therefore it’s recommended you check with your country’s maritime transport regulation body to know more required documents. I hope this helps in your search.

Kindly note we assist all seafarers on documentation process. For any of the above mentioned documents, course, and marine job, contact us

If this helps you, share to reach friends who main need this information. You can also add your comment on additional points, or recommendation. We will be happy to hear from you.

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