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How rich are seafarers?-Merchant Navy Salary !!

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Dear All,

We talked about the lure of the world in the last post, lets discuss the next part which is again a very important motivation for kids to join merchant navy. This will also give you an idea on life of a seafarer

There are two schemes to join merchant navy, and we are talking about only main fleet (all types of cargo vessels) and offshore vessels and would keep cruise liners out as it’s different sphere as you could join the vessel out of the marine department as well.

Seafarer Jobs can be in two main streams i.e. either he/she can be an officer or a rating.

For officers you need a little higher education than ratings and they go through a different career progression unless a rating wants to switch over to the officer category.

For entry into the Merchant navy we are required to go through a pre sea to get trained and to get the CDC (Seaman book), however recently in India government has started issuing CDCs based on

completion of basic courses

The cost of the Pre sea course has a big variation based on which institute you are doing pre sea from.


Deck cadets- there are 2 courses a 1 year course and a 3-year course

From USD 3500 to USD 7500 for a 1 year course and USD 4000 per year for the 3 years’ course

Engine Cadets-Again here, there are two course,1 is for 1 year(GME) and other for 4 years(Btech)

GME course-The requirements is graduation in mechanical Engineering –hence please add the course fees + this 1-year course will again cost you USD 6000

Btech in Marine Engineering –the requirement is HSC and the course fees per year is around USD 4000 per year for the 4 years course.

Now after you complete the pre sea course-there are consultancy firms who assist you in getting placements where you need a consultation which could be very high sometimes up to 2000 to 3000 USD.


There are 2 Pre sea courses for ratings 1st is the GP rating for Deck and Engine department and other for the galley department

Both the course are for 6 months and cost around USD 4000

After the pre sea course and you joining your 1st ship can take anywhere between 6 months to a year based on which institute you did your pre sea or you got your CDC without the pre sea course etc.

We assume on an average you get your vessel after 1 year after your Presea-your expenses for a year

After that you join a ship, and you start earning USD or any other currency based on which company you have joined, the vessel trading patterns etc.

The starting wages per month ranges as below

1) Deck cadets-USD 200 to USD 500

2) Engine cadets-USD 300 to USD 600

Sea time requirements for total earnings calculation-

Deck cadet with 1 year Presea-18 moths of sea time required on vessels more than 500 GT, if the vessel is offshore vessel and small extra sea time would be required –So safely assume you would be onboard 20-22 months.

Deck cadet with 3 years course-12 months so assume you would complete around 15 months for various reasons.

Engine cadets all need 6 Months-Hence you can take around 8 months onboard.

Next comes the 1st professional exams for becoming 3rd officer or 4th Engineer and from here the you will start experiencing the real life of a seafarer

On an average for candidates to clear the exams as applicable is around 12 to 18 months,and you need to do lot of courses and exams (written and orals)

The average cost of clearing can range from USD 3500 to USD 8000 depending on what’s your life style and which country you are doing your exams.

Then you would again require to wait for your 1st posting as 3rd officer or a 4th Engineer for an average 6 months and again some consultancy fees of couple of 1000 of USD.You need to consider this in your costing.

The salaries as 3rd officer and 4th Engineer can range anything between USD 500 to USD 1500 starting-again depending which company, what vessel type trading pattern etc. etc.

Salaries of officers keep increasing after that to maximum of around USD 18000 per month for master/CE again these figures are subjective and depends on various scenarios, like vessel type, company, trading patterns, how long you have been in a company etc.etc.

The duration to reach these ranks Master /CE again is subjective as the always the fire reduces after to complete the 2nd mate exams or class Iv as you start seeing money and priorities change. However, my suggestion is that you need to focus on career till you clear your master’s exams or Class 1 if you are in the engine a good estimate after class iv in 10 to 15 years’ years you should become master/Chief Engineer again depending on priorities etc.

Now coming to the rating side

The 1st 2 contracts are always mostly as trainee’s salary around USD 200 to 350 after which you get your watch keeping certificate and grow further, increasing your gradually every contract up to USD 1800 to USD 2000 depending on you rank, company, trading pattern, vessel type etc.

The contract duration of officers and ratings

Officers from 3 to 6 months

Rating 6 months to 12 months (maximum as per MLC)

Other common facts on merchant navy salary as below:

Most of the companies around the world pay for only the period on board, hence if you are doing 6 months a year your salary is halved calculating for full year. There are very few companies pay salaries round the year however the salaries are lesser than the normal salaries hence its almost the same.

In India there is rule that the seafarers are required to sail a minimum 184 days in foreign waters in every financial year keep your NRE status that is you need not pay taxes for that year. In case you don’t sail for more than 184 in a given Financial year you would need to pay around 30% of your earning as tax depending on your investments to save tax.

I think I have covered a major portion of all seafarers earning curve to the best of my knowledge. Even though the post seems to Indian specific most of the world’s seafarers go through a very similar curve in their careers.

Tell me your thoughts in comments and share it if you liked it!

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