Merchant Navy vs Indian Navy

Last updated on March 10th, 2023 at 11:16 am

Which One to Choose?

Indian Navy vs Merchant Navy: When planning to choose a career at sea, the age-old question arises, which one is better Merchant Navy or the Indian Navy? Though both these careers are often compared, there are quite some differences between the two.

There are two ways to join the maritime workforce- either through the naval services of the respective country or through the merchant navy. Comparisons are frequently drawn between the two, although both serve completely different purposes. The contrasts between them are numerous therefore we’ve made a list of differences between the two to help you decide your career path.

Merchant Navy

The Merchant Navy, as the name suggests is the term for commercial maritime services. It incorporates both shipping of cargo and people across oceans and around the world. In other words, it can also be said that merchant marine activities are not native or local to any one nation, but rather are spread across countries, around the world.
However, the merchant navy has to adhere to a set of rules and regulations framed by the governing bodies to ensure stability in the commercial activities carried out. Therefore, it is a purely commercial form of marine career, governed by both government and private shipping companies.

Indian Navy

The Indian Navy, on the other hand, refers to India’s maritime military wing. Naval ships are those which are used at the time of international crises to protect the water boundaries of a nation from getting infiltrated or attacked unduly. Every nation with a coastline possesses a naval service with their own code of rules and regulations. Thus, a career in the Navy involves services for the respective country through duty on warships. The President of India serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy.

Therefore, both former and the latter deal with ships but one is purely commercial, while the other involves a career in the defense forces which brings high respect and skills.

Differences Between the Merchant Navy and the Indian Navy


Merchant NavyIndian Navy
Individuals interested in enrolling for a career in the Merchant Navy need to have a basic high school certification with subjects like physics, chemistry, and math. Alternatively, individuals interested in applying for higher hierarchical positions need to have a graduate certification in science.The most important requirement to become a part of a country’s naval services is that the individual applying needs to be a citizen of that country. This factor forms the most important difference between the merchant navy and the Indian Navy in terms of the eligibility criteria. You can join as an officer, as a sailor, or as a civilian.
Following are a few qualifications required to apply-
Complete class 12 with Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.
Normal 6/6 vision is required but glasses may be allowed up to plus or minus 2.5.
One can take admission through an entrance exam, followed by a screening test and finally a main written examination.
After clearing the test, there is an interview round and a medical test.
The qualification required to join the Naval Academy is a graduate degree in science or a class XII certification with Physics and Mathematics as one of the subjects.
Check eligibility before applying to the naval services or read here.
The candidate must be an unmarried Indian citizen (male or female).
You also need to complete a ship-training course before employment. It is generally a short-term course where the candidates are taught basic security concerns of voyaging.
Candidates are also required to be unmarried to get chosen into the Naval Academy. The minimum age requirement for a candidate is 18 years when they apply.

Joining Process (Courses)

Merchant NavyIndian Navy
After 10th- You can pursue the following courses:
Near Coastal Voyage (NCV)
Commercial Diving
G.P. Rating

After class 12th – You are eligible to study the following merchant navy courses:
Diploma in Nautical Science (DNS)
B.Sc. Nautical Science
B.E. Marine Engineering
B.E. Naval Architecture and Offshore Engineering
B.E. Petroleum Engineering
B.E. Mechanical Engineering
B.E. Harbor & Ocean Engineering
B.E. Civil Engineering
B.E. Electrical & Electronics Engineering
B.Sc. Marine Catering
Electro-Technical Officer Course
UPSC Entry
National Defense Academy (NDA) & Naval Academy Examination- Candidates after the completion of the 10+2 (PCM) Examination or while in the 12th standard become eligible to appear in the examination. Upon clearing the examination, candidates join the NDA or Naval Academy as naval cadets.
Combined Defense Services Examination (CDSE)- Graduates are eligible to appear in the examination. Upon clearing the examination, candidates join the Naval Academy for the Naval Orientation Course (NOC).

Non-UPSC Entry
Candidates are short-listed based on marks secured in the qualifying 10+2, Graduate, or Postgraduate exams, at the Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defense (Navy) [IHQ of MoD (Navy)].
Candidates are then sent for SSB interviews.
Read in more details about all entries here.

Ranking structure

A ranking system helps create a professional work environment, which induces a smooth and efficient workflow.

Merchant Navy:

It is a job that requires an immense level of professionalism, as any mishap can have adverse consequences. The merchant navy rank system helps create a smooth and efficient working process. The hierarchy in the merchant navy gives rise to a structured framework.

The merchant navy ranks are universally accepted, as the sailors come from all across the globe. But, there might be some changes in the nomenclature as per the shipping company and work assigned to specific rank holders. Generally, the ship is divided into three departments, termed as –

  1. Deck department
  2. Engine department
  3. Catering department
deck department
Deck department
engine department
Engine department
chief cook
Catering department

Whenever a task is assigned either in the deck or the engine department the men are divided into two sub-divisions to accomplish it in the best manner, which are –

  • Officers
  • Rating rank
Officer rank
Officer rank
Oiler (rating rank) with CE Praneet Mehta
Oiler (rating rank) with CE Praneet Mehta

Read in more detail about all the Ranks in Merchant Navy in our blog.

Indian Navy:

Ranks in the navy, start at the lieutenant level – which is the lowest rank. The rankings in the navy differ in each country, thus making them unique to their country. Just like in the Merchant navy, every rank in the Indian Navy comes with great responsibility and honor.

Following is a table provided by the Indian Government, listing all the ranks for the officers and sailors in the Indian Navy-



RankBadge / InsigniaRankBadge
AdmiralAdmiral Badge Admiral Insignia Master Chief Petty Officer Ist ClassMaster Chief Petty Officer Ist Class Badge 
Vice AdmiralVice Admiral Badge Vice Admiral Insignia Master Chief Petty Officer IInd ClassMaster Chief Petty Officer IInd Class Badge 
Rear AdmiralRear Admiral Badge Rear Admiral Insignia Chief Petty OfficerChief Petty Officer Badge 
CommodoreCommodore BadgePetty OfficerPetty Officer Badge
CaptainLeading Rate BadgeLeading RateCaptain Insignia
CommanderCommander BadgeSeaman Ist Class 
Lieutenant CommanderLieutenant Commander BadgeSeaman 2nd Class 
LieutenantLieutenant Badge  
Sub LieutenantSub Lieutenant Badge  
MidshipmanMidshipman Badge  


salary in merchant navy

Merchant Navy:

The factor that attracts most people to the Merchant Navy is the pay scale, the job offers. The pay scales are set according to the standards set by international institutions like the ‘International Labour Organisation’ (ILO) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

The Merchant Navy has a reputation for offering high pay scales set as per the hierarchy of the jobs. Added with the officers having a glamorous lifestyle on ships. The compensation can range from anywhere between INR 12,000 to INR 8 lakhs every month. This amount may vary from organization to organization, city to city, rank, etc. For example- A Junior Engineer earns somewhere around INR 30,000 every month while on board vessel, with free stay and boarding.

With promotions and an increase in rank, your salary increases significantly. A Chief Engineer may earn anywhere around INR 6-8 lakhs or more, every month. While a Third Officer earns around INR 50,000 every month along with free boarding and cabin while onboard. A Captain’s salary package ballpoints somewhere around INR 6-8 lakhs for every month, while onboard.

Indian Navy:

While in the Indian Navy, the pay scale directly depends upon the rank of an individual and his total work experience. It’s the nation’s laws as per which the pay scale is set.

Pay Scale of Officers
SUB LIEUTENANT1056100-177500
REAR ADMIRAL14144200-218200
VICE ADMIRAL15182200-224100

It is to be noted that though the salary of merchant navy officers is always the talk of the town, a career in the defense navy offers the highest level of respect.

Term and Nature of Service

Both the professions possess extended periods of service. Therefore, require an enormous amount of dedication from the mariners and the naval officers.

Merchant NavyIndian Navy
The Merchant navy is a contractual job.Indian navy is a permanent job.
The seafarers are recruited based on year-round contracts with regular working hours with the no. of months specified in the contract. The contract period can range anywhere from 4 months to 9 months, determined by the rank and type of vessel you are working upon. Due to the need for commercialization, shorter trips become impossible to exist. Once your contract expires, you are required to find another recruiter.In the case of the Indian navy safeguarding all of our marine borders, from the threat of infiltrators results in longer trips. In contrast with the Merchant Navy, the length of sail can range anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. Additionally, the Indian navy also provides medical insurance, pension fund, and job security.

Bringing Family on Ship

Merchant navy officers can bring their family on ship.

Merchant Navy:

Merchant navy officers can bring their families on ship.

One cannot take their family onboard immediately after completing training as an officer. You can only take your family with you when you’re at a managerial position. A lot of companies have a “no family” policy, while some ships allow senior officers (Captain, Chief Officer, Chief Engineer, and Second Engineer) to bring their families onboard. But sadly, over time to cut budgets, companies are gradually removing these privileges as these facilities become scarce when companies try to minimize their operating costs.

Indian Navy:

Indian navy sailors and officers cannot bring their families on the ship, as warships are not made to accommodate families.

Area of service

merchant navy ships

The Merchant navy ships go all around the globe.
While the Indian navy carries out its duties mostly around the Indian coast.

Difference based on Ships:

indian navy ships
A warship

The fleet in the Merchant navy includes tankers, passenger ships, and carriers in addition to cargo liners used to transport cargo and passengers.

While in the Indian navy their fleet consists of warships, utilized in situations of combat and emergencies.


Despite their differences, the most common similarity between the two maritime services is that they offer a high level of satisfaction to the individuals engaged in the professions. Both Merchant Navy and the Indian Navy have their pros and cons but ultimately, it’s the individual who has to decide according to his/her interests and inclination before choosing the right career.

Hope this article helped you bring more perspective on the two.
See you soon onboard!

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parmar Ravi
parmar Ravi
1 year ago

Excellent sir ji

Praneet Mehta
1 year ago
Reply to  parmar Ravi

Thankyou Ravi, glad you found it helpful 🙂

Praneet Mehta
10 months ago
Reply to  parmar Ravi

Thankyou and your welcome Ravi 🙂

1 year ago

Nice blog sir

Praneet Mehta
1 year ago
Reply to  Vishal

Thankyou Vishal, hope it helped!

Anoop Singh
Anoop Singh
1 year ago

Sir agar aap is pr YouTube video bna de to axa ho jaye

Anoop Singh
Anoop Singh
1 year ago

Awesome blog 😘

Praneet Mehta
1 year ago
Reply to  Anoop Singh

Thankyou Anoop 🙂

Ajaj Ali
10 months ago


Yallangouda Patil
9 months ago

Super information

Praneet Mehta
9 months ago

Glad you found it helpful!

Aman Chaudhary
9 months ago

Marchant navy

9 months ago

Merchant navy

Lakhan singh naruka Lakhan singh naruka


Vikash patel
Vikash patel
8 months ago