Merchant Navy Rating

Job Description:

Merchant Navy ratings carry out a wide range of jobs to help the day-to-day running of a ship.

Job Category:
Aerospace & Defence

What you will do:

You could:

  • load and unload cargo
  • inspect and clean holds, tanks, cranes and winches
  • repair and paint the ship’s hull, fixtures and fittings
  • test fire-fighting and life-saving equipment
  • carry out routine mechanical and electrical maintenance
  • monitor equipment controls
  • prepare meals in the galley and serve food and drinks
  • clean cabins, corridors and decks
  • track stock and re-order supplies


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • observation and recording skills
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • problem-solving skills (creative skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Merchant Navy Rating, you typically don’t need specific GCSE (or equivalent) subjects. However, you will need to meet certain eligibility criteria and undertake training to work in this role. Merchant Navy Ratings work in various roles on ships, including deck ratings, engine room ratings, and catering staff. The specific requirements can vary depending on the rating position you are interested in.

  1. English Language and Mathematics: Good grades in English Language and Mathematics may be preferred, as these subjects are essential for communication, navigation, and basic calculations onboard a ship.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly

You can get into this job through an able seafarer (deck) intermediate apprenticeship.

Through this apprenticeship you can become a rating in one of the following areas:

  • deck
  • engine room
  • maritime catering

You can apply directly to shipping companies who advertise vacancies throughout the year.

Direct Application
You can apply directly to shipping companies or the Fleet Auxiliary.

Your training will combine college-based study with placements at sea to get practical experience of working on a ship. The length of training depends on your sponsoring company.

Employers will expect you to have good practical skills, enthusiasm for the career and the potential to complete ratings training.

You may also find it useful if you have qualifications and experience in:

  • catering
  • engineering
  • freight handling
  • navigation

Working Hours and Environment:

Typically you could work 53 to 55 hours a week, occasionally including evenings, weekends, or holidays.

You could work on a ship.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers, cramped, at height and you may spend nights away from home.

You may need to wear a uniform and safety clothing and use safety equipment.

Career Path & Progression:

You could move up through the Merchant Navy ranks of leading hand, petty officer and chief petty officer. With the necessary skills and experience, you could take further training to join the junior officer ranks.

You could also use your skills to move into onshore engineering or a hospitality and catering career.