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Merchant navy officer: Salary and conditions

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  • Starting salaries upon qualification for junior officers are in the region of £25,000 to £28,000.
  • Training salaries for cadets are fall between £8,000 and £16,000 with all tuition and on-board food and accommodation included. Shore-based accommodation costs are deducted.
  • Progression up to the rank of captain or chief engineer can lead to salaries ranging from £36,000 to £80,000+, depending upon the type and size of ship. Salaries on foreign-going ships (i.e. at least 183 days per year out of the UK) may be tax free.
  • Qualification as a Merchant Navy officer can lead to opportunities throughout the marine industry.
  • Work is based at sea, on board ships that operate year-round. Shifts are usually four hours 'on' watch/duty and eight hours 'off'. Although extensive travel is part of the job, opportunities to go onshore can be limited due to ship-board responsibilities and rapid turnaround times in port.
  • Onboard living conditions are usually of a high standard, with good leisure and other facilities. Due to such close living and working conditions, being able to work well within a team is important.
  • Weather conditions may make working uncomfortable, for instance the heat of the Persian Gulf in summer or the North Atlantic in a winter gale.
  • A high proportion of female officers are working in the Merchant Navy at all levels.
  • The long periods of time spent away at sea can have a major impact on family life, hobbies and interests. However, most companies provide a generous holiday allowance on a one-for-one basis, for example two-months' paid leave after a two-month voyage. Tour lengths vary from company to company.
  • Merchant Navy officers are subject to the Merchant Shipping Act. The Act sets strict limits on blood-alcohol levels and drugs are forbidden. Random testing for alcohol or drug abuse is common.

Salary figures are intended as a guide only.

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Written by AGCAS editors
September 2015

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