Posted on 4 September 2017 by Nick Chubb

This time of year hundreds of you will be packing bags and leaving home for one of the country’s many nautical colleges to start a Merchant Navy cadetship. If you’re one of them, read on for our guide to successfully getting started on your journey to the OOW ticket.


First things first, you know nothing. You may have grown up around boats, been on a sailing team, been a sea cadet, worked on yachts, or have friends or family who’ve been to sea, but none of that means anything in the real world and there is no room for an ego. No matter what your prior experience is, the MN cadetship has been carefully designed to take you from zero to OOW and teach you everything you need to know. Forget any pre-conceived notion of what being at sea is like, commercial shipping is a unique and extremely complex industry. Your lecturing staff are all highly experienced seafarers, they’ve been there and done it, listen to them carefully and they will do everything they can to help you succeed.


Your time at college isn’t just about learning how to use parallel rules or change oil filters, it’s a great opportunity to get involved with a whole range of other stuff. It’s likely your college will lay on some sort of adventure based training (particularly in Phase 1), and there may be chances to take on extra courses, or volunteer with a local RNLI station, Coastwatch station, or Sea Cadets unit. If your college is affiliated to a university you will also be able to use all of their facilities too. As well as the college and community make sure you get involved socially with your peers and cadets in other phases. It’s a massive cliché but it’s true: the friends you make during your time at college will be friends for life so make sure you make some.



The Merchant Navy takes people on from all sorts of different backgrounds and different life stages. When you start college your training allowance could be a massive step up or a massive down in terms of income depending on what you were doing previously. Either way, if you manage your finances carefully, your allowance should be enough to live comfortably during your entire cadetship. It might take a couple of lifestyle adjustments to get there, but make sure you live within your means.


There’s no such thing as a stupid question. In three years’ time, you will spend an hour sitting in an oral exam with a surveyor asking you everything from how to tie basic knots, to what to do in a hurricane. If you don’t understand something, ask. It’s much easier to ask those questions during Phase 1 than it is to ask them during the closing stages of your course.


Just as you’re getting used to the comforts of college life you will be picked up and put on a ship and have to start again from scratch. Even though you will have spent the last few months learning about ships, it’s best to go in with a “you know nothing” attitude and leave your ego ashore. Ships can be highly dangerous, and everyone on board knows more about how to stay safe than you; listen to them and do what they tell you. Everything written above counts just as much at sea as it does at college. Make sure you get involved and ask plenty of questions, and keep an eye on your spending when you get a run ashore.

Marine Society

The next three years will be challenging but incredibly rewarding, don’t forget that Marine Society is here to support you along the way; from information, advice and guidance, to books and supplementary courses, we will do whatever we can to help you get ahead in your career. Good luck and enjoy it!