Merchant Navy deck officers are members of the team responsible for navigating and steering the ship. They supervise crew members and ensure the safety of passengers and cargo. They may also work for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), which supplies the needs of Royal Navy ships at sea.
You could be:
using satellite and radar equipment to navigate and to steer the ship
controlling communication systems
ensuring the stability of the ship in port
using electronic equipment to plot and follow the ship’s course and assess weather conditions
checking and controlling speed and fuel consumption
overseeing the loading and unloading of cargo
supervising maintenance work and the mooring of the ship
checking that deck gear, safety and fire-fighting equipment are all in good order
keeping records, correcting navigational charts and ordering supplies.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
During training the sponsoring company may pay the cadet an allowance of between £5,500 and £15,000 a year as well as accommodation while attending college. Average starting salaries, when qualified, are £22,000 to £30,000 a year for a third officer, rising to £34,000 to £42,000 for a second officer. Chief officers can earn up to around £55,000 a year and masters (captains) can earn up to £80,000 or more a year.
While at sea, you would have free food and accommodation as well as some travel costs. On foreign-going ships, your earnings may be tax free.
You would work on the ship’s bridge for part of the time.
You would also work on deck in all weathers.
You would be required to work shifts (watches).
You may be away from home for long periods, but would have a good shore leave allowance.
You would live on board ship with the rest of the crew.
On larger ships you might have you own cabin and bathroom.
You would be required to wear a uniform.
In the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) you may work in combat zones.
In Scotland, there are a number of options to train as a Merchant Navy deck or navigation officer.
There are two institutions that run courses for training as a deck officer: City of Glasgow College and the University of the Highlands and Islands (NAFC Marine Centre UHI).
City of Glasgow College offers a range of courses leading to marine-related qualifications. See their website for details and entry requirements.
UHI offers the Merchant Navy Cadet Programme. See their website for details and entry requirements.
For many entry level cadet training courses at NC level (SCQF Levels 4-6) you typically need 4 subjects at National 4 including Maths and Physics or a science subject.
HNC (SCQF Level 7) or HND (SCQF Level 8) entry level cadet training programmes typically require 2 Highers including Maths and a science or technological subject.
You require sponsorship by a shipping company or agency and the programme involves spending time at college and at sea. The sponsoring company may have additional entry requirements to the colleges.
Some shipping companies have training programmes that lead to a degree. Entry requirements vary, but you would need some subjects at Higher.
You will have to pass a statutory medical and fitness examination.
Specific entry requirements for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) can differ from Merchant Navy shipping companies, including attendance of the Admiralty Interview Board. Full details are on the RFA website.
There is a National 4 Skills for Work course in Uniformed and Emergency Services which introduces school pupils to careers in the emergency services, the armed services and the Merchant Navy. There is also a National 5 Skills for Work in Maritime Skills.