Difference Between Indian Navy and Merchant Navy: Your Guide to Maritime Career Choices

  •  Content Writer : Gurleen Kaur
  • 29-02-2024

The Indian Navy and Merchant Navy represent distinct pathways within the maritime domain, each offering unique opportunities and challenges. While the Indian Navy serves as the maritime arm of the Indian Armed Forces, focusing on national security, defence operations and humanitarian assistance, the Merchant Navy operates as a commercial fleet engaged in global trade and transportation. 

With diverse objectives and operational frameworks, individuals aspiring to pursue maritime careers must carefully consider the differences between these sectors. Whether driven by a sense of duty and patriotism or enticed by the dynamic challenges of global trade, understanding the difference between navy and merchant navy is crucial for making informed career choices aligned with personal aspirations and professional goals.  

Highlighting the Differences Between Indian Navy and Merchant Navy 

Here are the major differences that aspirant must note while applying for their maritime careers as below: 

  1. Indian Navy vs Merchant Navy : Job Role
  • In the Indian Navy, job roles revolve around national defence, maritime security and humanitarian assistance. Personnel serve in various capacities such as naval officers, sailors, engineers and technicians, contributing to activities like defence operations, disaster relief and anti-piracy measures. 
  • Conversely, the Merchant Navy focuses on commercial shipping and global trade, offering job roles ranging from deck officers and engineers to ratings and stewards. 
  • Responsibilities in the Merchant Navy include operating and maintaining commercial vessels, ensuring the safe transportation of cargo and adhering to international maritime regulations. 
  • While the Indian Navy emphasises military preparedness and national service, the Merchant Navy offers opportunities for individuals seeking careers in global commerce, international travel and maritime logistics. 
  • Ultimately, the difference between marine and navy job roles in both sectors cater to diverse interests, skill sets and career aspirations within the maritime industry.
  1. Indian Navy vs Merchant Navy : Eligibility 
  • To join the Indian Navy, candidates must generally be Indian citizens who meet age, educational and physical fitness standards. Entry routes include the National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Naval Academy (INA) and direct entry schemes for graduates and postgraduates in specialised fields, with selection processes involving written exams, interviews and medical evaluations. 
  • In contrast, eligibility for the Merchant Navy varies according to specific positions and shipping company requirements. Candidates typically need educational qualifications related to maritime studies or engineering, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nautical Science or Marine Engineering, along with meeting medical standards set by maritime authorities. Additional certifications or training may be necessary depending on the role and vessel type.
  1. Indian Navy vs Merchant Navy : Pay Scale 
  • In the Indian Navy, pay scales are structured based on rank and years of service, with officers receiving Basic Pay along with various allowances such as Dearness Allowance (DA), House Rent Allowance (HRA) and Transport Allowance (TA). Promotions and increments are granted based on performance evaluations and tenure. Additional benefits such as medical facilities and subsidised education for children may also be provided. 
  • Conversely, pay scales in the Merchant Navy vary depending on factors like vessel type, rank, and shipping company policies. Officers and crew members receive salaries based on international standards, including Basic Pay, overtime allowances and bonuses for certain duties or voyages. While captains and chief engineers command higher salaries, junior officers and ratings receive compensation commensurate with their positions. 
  • Additional benefits may include insurance coverage, paid vacation time and retirement benefits, making both sectors attractive for individuals seeking maritime careers.
  1. Indian Navy vs Merchant Navy : Ranks Hierarchy 
  • In the Indian Navy, the ranking structure is defined by a hierarchical system reflecting seniority, authority, and responsibilities. Officers progress through ranks such as Sub-Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, Commodore, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral and Admiral, with promotions based on performance, merit and completion of required training programs. Each rank entails distinct duties and increased leadership roles. 
  • Conversely, the Merchant Navy also follows a hierarchical ranking system based on experience, qualifications and expertise. Ranks include Captain (Master), Chief Officer, Second Officer, Third Officer, Chief Engineer, Second Engineer, Third Engineer and Fourth Engineer, along with non-officer positions like Able Seaman and Motorman. Promotions are determined by competency assessments, experience and relevant certifications, with each rank carrying specific responsibilities related to vessel operations, navigation, engineering and crew management.
  1. Indian Navy vs Merchant Navy : Travel Perks 
  • In the Indian Navy, travel perks primarily entail deployment to various coastal and international locations as part of official duties, offering opportunities for temporary postings and training assignments both domestically and abroad. Personnel may receive allowances to cover travel, accommodation and related expenses during official duties and the Navy facilitates travel arrangements for personnel and their dependents during relocation or transfer. 
  • Conversely, travel perks in the Merchant Navy are inherent to the profession, involving frequent international voyages and port calls. Officers and crew members enjoy the opportunity to visit diverse destinations worldwide, experiencing different cultures and cuisines while receiving full boarding and lodging on the vessel. Port calls during voyages allow crew members to explore new cities, engage in leisure activities and interact with locals, enriching their travel experiences at sea.
  1. Indian Navy vs Merchant Navy : Job Security  
  • Job security in the Indian Navy is generally high due to its status as a government institution, providing stable employment, comprehensive benefits and retirement plans. The Navy offers long-term career prospects with opportunities for advancement and professional growth, although job security may be subject to military requirements, deployments and service obligations. 
  • Conversely, job security in the Merchant Navy is influenced by market conditions, economic factors and industry demand. While the industry presents opportunities for career progression, stability can fluctuate with changes in global trade, shipping demand and technological advancements. Qualified and experienced professionals typically enjoy greater job security, but contractual arrangements and employment terms may vary among shipping companies, impacting stability for crew members. 

Moreover, individuals should weigh these factors against their career aspirations and risk tolerance when considering job security in both sectors.

The difference between navy and merchant navy lies in their unique missions, job roles, eligibility criteria, pay scales, rank hierarchy, travel perks and job security. The Indian Navy focuses on national defence, security and humanitarian assistance, offering stable government employment with long-term career prospects. Conversely, the Merchant Navy operates in commercial shipping and global trade, providing opportunities for international travel, diverse experiences and competitive salaries, albeit subject to market fluctuations. 

Aspirants must carefully evaluate their interests, career goals and preferences to make informed decisions aligned with their aspirations in the maritime industry. Understanding the differences between the Indian Navy and the Merchant Navy empowers individuals to navigate their career choices effectively, ensuring a fulfilling and rewarding journey at sea. For more information, visit the official site of Guide Me Career to stay updated with the latest educational trends.