Careers At Sea

What is the Merchant Navy?

We’ve told you about how to start a career in the Merchant Navy, but what is the Merchant Navy? 

The Merchant Navy is a term used to describe commercial shipping i.e. tankers, bulk carriers, ferries, cruise ships – but let’s look a little more into what the Merchant Navy do. 

Over 90% of goods are transported in the UK by sea. That makes shipping a vital part of our economy! 

Think container ships – these huge ships carry around 11,000 containers, each able to carry about 30 tonnes of goods. There are also tankers that work in the transport of fuel and other important resources.

But it’s not just goods, what about transport? Cruise ships and ferries carry people from shore to shore all around the UK and the world. Ever thought about research? Ships are used to survey environmental and coastal data and much, much more. 

We must not forget the smaller ships like tugs; these small ships do a very important job guiding and moving vessels into and out of ports and work much closer to the shore and often in emergency situations. 

Research, transport, support and travel – and that’s just the start!

A non-military service, the Merchant Navy is a part of a global economy that impacts our daily lives from the food we eat to the things we own and use every day. 

The Merchant Navy is part of the wider Maritime Industry that covers areas related to working at sea and ashore. More information on how the Merchant Navy connects to this industry can be found on the Career Map on our partner site Careers at Sea and Beyond (for qualified seafarers)

Find out where you could work and choose your role on board ship