A career in the merchant navy, like any other career , comes with its share of pros and cons.
I'll make a list of the things that I would consider important when choosing a profession and leave it to your discretion whether to go for it or not.
Being away from family for extended periods of time (typically around 6 months a year ).
Very erratic work schedule with no fixed timing. Duty can beckon at any time. You're never completely off duty when you're onboard. If there's a job which requires to be done, it has to be done no matter how long it takes.
Duration of a voyage may be from a few hours to weeks, sometimes even more than a month. During this time, you'll see vast expanse of water as far as the eye can see. No land in sight.
Even though there are a lot of safety measures in place, accidents do happen while working onboard. There's no qualified doctor on merchant ships and we are trained to give basic first aid in case of a casualty. However, that is no substitute to being under the care of a professional doctor.
There's also the risk that the ship could sink because of getting caught in the path of a storm.
Fire on a ship can spread very rapidly and generally spells doom for the crew.
Hijackings, though on a declining trend are still very real and so is the threat.
You will miss out on important events, birthdays, anniversaries and even funerals. No matter how big your emergency or how important your presence at home, you can't go home till the ship reaches port and you're relieved of your duties. As I said, a voyage can last for weeks and you're stuck onboard till the ship reaches port.
High level of stress involved due to the nature of job and the level of responsibility. We carry dangerous cargo which can burn, explode and/or cause serious pollution to the environment.
In order to progress in our career, we have to give exams for every rank and that involves extensive studying.
The salary is quite decent and gets better as you progress in your career with the contract period becoming shorter.
The opportunity to see the world free of cost. Though it's limited to the port where your ship is calling and the duration of the stay in port but still, something is better than nothing :)
You will start earning at a time when your peers are either studying or struggling to get a job.
Your salary graph will rise very steeply and plateau subsequently. At 19 your monthly salary will be around 20 K, at 23 it'll be around 1.5 - 2 lakhs, at 28 it'll be around 5–7 lakhs. These figures are just my estimate and depend on the company, the type of ship and your experience.
When you're on leave, you're ON LEAVE. There are no pending jobs or deadlines to meet once you get off a ship. No boss to report to, no clients to please. You can do whatever you want. So it's like you're on leave for 6 months a year which is pretty cool.
You will learn to be self reliant and responsible at a very young age.
You will interact and work with people of different nationalities on a day to day basis thus, broadening your horizon.
You'll get to see breathtaking views of the ocean and the sky.
There's a certain peace in knowing that you're capable of handling emergencies because you've been trained for them…from fighting fires to providing medical aid and everything in between.
Ships nowadays, have internet onboard which helps us to stay connected with our loved ones even in the middle of the ocean.
There are many more points both, for and against, but these are just some off the top of my head.
Lastly, a career in the merchant navy is not for the faint hearted. It's nothing like an office job and every day brings new challenges and opportunities. It involves a lot of sacrifices by you as well as your family so think long and hard before you decide to plunge into the ocean.
For some, it's the worst career ever…for some, it's the best decision of their life :)