Transport & Logistics

Merchant Mariner/Rating

Merchant mariners or ratings perform maintenance duties and assist in the day-to-day running of merchant ships.

  • Entry-level education

    VET qualification

  • Job outlook

    1 2 3 4 5

What does a Merchant Mariner/Rating do?

Merchant mariners or ratings perform maintenance duties on deck and in engine rooms, and assist in the day-to-day running of merchant ships. In this role, you might also be known as an able seaman/woman, integrated rating, or deckhand.


Work activities

As a merchant mariner / rating you might:

  • work on deck and in the engine room
  • load, unload and secure cargo
  • inspect and maintain deck equipment, rigging, cranes and winches and safety / lifesaving equipment
  • repair and paint the ship's hull, fixtures and fittings
  • test firefighting and lifesaving equipment
  • participate in safety drills
  • monitor equipment controls
  • steer a vessel under the direction of the officer of the watch
  • clean cabins, corridors and decks
  • monitor stock and re-order supplies.

You would also help deck officers with navigational and watch duties, and with anchoring the ship when coming into port. You could work on container vessels, bulk carriers, tankers, tugs, cruise ships and ferries.


Key skills and interests

To become a merchant mariner / rating, you would need:

  • to enjoy working at sea and in all weather conditions
  • good teamworking skills
  • a responsible and safety-conscious attitude
  • the ability to work unsupervised
  • good practical mechanical skills
  • catering and customer care skills (for cooking and stewarding jobs)
  • a good level of physical and medical fitness
  • to be able to work in confined spaces.

Working hours and conditions

Working Hours

You would normally work shifts, known as 'watches'. On a large ship, you would normally work a set number of hours on duty followed by a set number of hours off.


Merchant mariners / ratings may spend long periods at sea. Your on-shore leave between voyages would also vary.

Conditions on deck could be cold, wet, windy and rough, and below deck it could be very noisy, hot and cramped.


How to become an Merchant Mariner/Rating?

Entry Level Education

To become a merchant mariner / rating, you usually have to complete a VET qualification in maritime operations (integrated rating). Traineeships may also be available with large shipping companies.

You will need to complete nine months of sea time on board a seagoing ship prior to being awarded a Certificate of Proficiency in Integrated Rating by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

Merchant mariners / ratings must be over 18 years of age at the time of completing their qualifications. In order to serve on board a ship, you also need to qualify for and obtain an AMSA Certificate of Medical Fitness.


Job outlook

  • 1 2 3 4 5

Employment of merchant mariners/ratings and water transportation workers in general is expected to show some positive growth over the next 3-5 years.

Significant changes are occurring in the mix of industries (mining, petroleum livestock, grain etc.) and countries (China, Asia, Europe, USA etc.) served by merchant shipping. On balance, global economics and trade developments, along with continued growth in the cruising sector, will sustain positive growth.


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