The average salary and duties of a Merchant Marine Deck Officer

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The average salary and duties of a Merchant Marine Deck Officer
Deck Officer's play a key role in Britain's Merchant Navy. (Stephen Schauer/Lifesize/Getty Images)

The Merchant Navy encompasses the entire commercial shipping fleet of the U.K. This is a major industry which contributed over £5.6 billion to the national economy in 2011 and provided some 96,000 jobs in the same year. Merchant Marine Deck Officers play a key role in the merchant fleet and they work throughout the industry on vessels such as passenger ferries, oil tankers, container ships and cruise liners.

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According to the Government-funded National Careers Service, newly qualified Merchant Marine Deck Officers can expect to start their career on a salary of between £20,000 and £23,000 per annum. Depending on rank and size of vessel, experienced officers can earn up to £50,000 per annum. On top of the cash salary, Officers receive free food and lodging while at sea, and they may also be paid travel expenses for journeys between ports of embarkation and their homes.


You can start a career in the Merchant Navy from the age of 16 as a Deck Cadet although you'll need to be sponsored by a shipping company or recognised training organisation. Minimum qualifications are four grade A to C GCSEs, including English, maths and physics. You can also take the university route by studying for an industry-approved foundation degree, a Scottish Professional Diploma or a science degree. Those courses include hands-on training at sea. Whichever route you choose, you'll need to pass a medical examination which includes an eye test.


Merchant Navy Deck Officers form an important part of the team which runs a ship and their main duties include the safe steering and navigation of the vessel. In the modern era, Deck Officers need to use a variety of high tech equipment including global positioning systems and computer systems that monitor fuel use and speed. Deck Officers supervise junior staff, usually called ratings. On cruise ships, they may also be responsible for services to passengers.


Generally, there are four officer ranks on merchant vessels. The entry level after training is Third Officer which involves responsibility for safety as well as assisting the next rank up, Second Officer. The Second Officer navigates the ship and monitors information about weather and the ship's position, ensuring that the vessel maintains the correct course. The Chief Officer supervises operations on deck, loading and unloading cargo, and manages junior officers. The Master, also known as Captain, is in overall charge of the ship, its crew and any passengers.

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