What is the Difference between Merchant Navy and Defence Navy?

Differences Between Merchant Navy & Navy

1. The Basic Difference
Merchant Navy, as the name suggests, is the term for commercial marine services. Such commercial activities include both shipping of cargo and people across various destinations in the world. In other words, it can also be said that merchant marine activities are not indigenous or native to any one country but are spread across nations, worldwide.
Merchant marine as it is known synonymously; however has to adhere to certain rules and regulations framed by governing bodies to ensure stability in the activities carried out. To sum it all Merchant navy is a purely commercial form of sea career and is governed by both private and governmental shipping companies.
Defence Navy, on the other hand refers to nations’ maritime military wing. Naval ships are those which are used at times of international crises to protect the water boundaries of a nation from getting infiltrated or attacked unduly. Every nation with a waterline has its own navy service with its own code of rules and stipulations. Thus, a career in defence navy would involve services for the respective country through duty on war ships.
Both merchant navy and defence have deals with ships. While the first one is purely commercial, the second one involves careers of high respect and skills.

2.   Eligibility
Both merchant navy and navy have their own set of eligibility criteria for entering the maritime services. Individuals interested in enrolling for a career in merchant marines need to have a basic high school certification with subjects like physics, chemistry and math. Alternatively, individuals interested in applying for higher hierarchical positions need to have a graduation certification in science.
The most important requirement of joining a country’s naval services is that the individual applying needs to be a citizen of that country. This factor forms the most important difference between merchant navy and navy in terms of eligibility criteria. Most of the navies of the world have their own entrance and screen exams for choosing the right candidates. However, both merchant and defence navy have the same requirements as far as the fitness and medical condition of the person is concerned.

3.   Pay Scale
This is one of the most talked about topic among candidates planning a career at sea. In the merchant marines, the pay scales depend on the standards set by international institutions like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The pay-scales are set as per the hierarchy of the jobs in merchant marines and each individual is entitled to receive the same.  Merchant marine is already famous for high salary packages and a glamorous life on ships.
By contrast in the navy, the pay-scale depends on the position of an individual and his total work experience. The pay-scale is set as per a nation’s laws and differs from country to country.
It is to note that though the salary of merchant navy officers is always a talk of the town, a career in defence navy is something that comes with highest level of respect and pride.

4 .  Ranking structure
Both merchant marine and navy have their individual hierarchical system. Jobs in merchant navy can in the technical department or pertaining to the deck zone or in the servicing area. Individuals with the right aptitude and skill-set can join in any one of the three specialised criterions.  Moreover, sometimes the ranks of professionals also depend on the company and type of the ship. But the basic structure remains the same.
Jobs in navy on the other hand, start at the lieutenant level  which is the lowest rung in terms of ranking. The rankings assigned to navy servicemen differ in each country, thus making them singular in their own right. Just like in Merchant navy, each rank in Defence Navy comes with great responsibility and honour.
Jobs in navy and the merchant marine require a huge level of commitment and dedication on the part of individuals as both have extended periods of service. In the case of the former, the threat of infiltrators looms large while in case of the latter, the requirement of commercialisation makes shorter trips impossible. In spite of their differences, however, the most common similarity between the two maritime services is that they offer high levels of satisfaction to the individuals engaged in the professions.


For those who want to have a career at sea often have one question in mind Merchant Navy or Navy? Though careers at both these fields have almost the same base, there are several differences that are to be known before choosing a career at sea.

Both merchant navy and navy have their pros and cons, but ultimately it’s the individual who has to decide according to his or her interest and inclination before choosing one. In this article, we will try to explain the main differences between merchant navy and navy and what can one expect from a career in each one of them.

Getting into the maritime workforce can be done in two ways either through the naval services of the respective country or through merchant marine services. But while both are marine services, the differences between them are many and need to be clarified in order to decide a career path.

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