SSTG Fact Sheets on Merchant Navy Careers at Sea

The following fact sheets provide more information about SSTG’s application and interview processes.

Academic Requirements

There are a number of different training programmes leading to qualification as a Deck, Engineer or Electro-Technical Officer in the Merchant Navy offering a variety of entry routes:

Foundation Degree   (Only available in England):

  • 48 UCAS points as a minimum in acceptable subjects at A Level (as measured on the 2017 UCAS tariff). 
  • For the Engineering and Electro-Technical Officer training programmes, the subjects should ideally include a numerate subject at A Level (e.g. Maths, Physics, Technological Studies). Acceptable alternatives include a National Certificate/Diploma in Electronic/Electrical or similar qualifications. 
  • Candidates must also meet the entry requirements listed below for the HNC programme.

Professional Diploma   (Only available in Scotland):

  • Higher Maths and/or Physical Science at grade C as a minimumAcceptable alternatives include a National Certificate/Diploma in Electronics/Electrical or similar qualifications.
  • Candidates must also meet the entry requirements listed below for the HNC programme.

Higher National Certificate and Diploma:

Higher National Certificate also known as HNC or AdC. Higher National Diploma also known as HND or AdD.

Candidates must hold at least four qualifications including mathematics, physics (or acceptable dual science or similar including physics), English and at least one other recognised subject, as follows:

  • GCSE’s Grades 9-4 or A-C, or 
  • National 5 awards Grades A-C (or Scottish Standard awards, level 1-3).

Visit the UCAS website to find out what your grades are worth.

Please Note:   The above should be considered as the minimum, with some colleges, Universities and Sponsoring Companies seeking candidates offering a profile of prior achievement in excess of the minimum requirements.

    Eyesight Requirements

    Eyesight testing is carried out as a routine part of every Seafarer Merchant Navy Medical examination.

    Different standards apply to Deck, Engineer and Electro Technical Officers and Trainees.

    Individuals who wish to go to sea are strongly advised to have their eyes tested by an optometrist before embarking on their career to ensure that, as far as possible, their sight is expected to meet the required standards throughout their expected time at sea.

    Colour Vision:

    Deck Officer Trainees and Ratings:

    Colour vision is tested by using the introductory plate, and all the transformation and vanishing plates. Candidates who fail the Ishihara colour plate test may apply to one of the MCA’s nominated Marine Offices, for their colour vision to be re-tested using a Holmes Wright B lantern.

    Electro Technical Officer Trainees (ETO):

    Colour vision is tested using Ishihara plates (as for deck department). Those who fail the Ishihara test may apply to any registered optician for confirmatory testing using the Farnsworth D15 test or City University test.

    Engineer Officer Trainees and Radio department personnel:

    Colour vision tested using Ishihara plates (as for deck department). Those who fail the Ishihara test may apply to any registered optician for confirmatory testing using the Farnsworth D15 test or City University test.

    Other personnel should be tested for colour vision, where relevant for the duties to be undertaken, using the Ishihara plates.

    Summary of Standards Required:

    • No person should be accepted for training or sea service if any irremediable morbid condition of either eye, or the lids of either eye, is present and liable to the risk of aggravation or recurrence.
    • Binocular vision is normally required for all categories of seafarers. Case by case assessment may be appropriate in certain circumstances.
    • In all cases where visual aids (spectacles or contact lenses) are required for the efficient performance of duties, a spare pair must be carried. Where different visual aids are used for distant and near vision, a spare pair of each must be carried.

    Deck Officer Trainees Sight Requirements:

    • Basic Visual Acuity Standard (unaided):   Better eye – 6/60.   Other eye – 6/60.
    • Higher Visual Acuity Standard (aided if necessary):   Better eye – 6/6.   Other eye – 6/12.
    • Near Vision:   N8.
    • Colour Vision:   Ishihara or Lantern 2 miles.
    • Visual Field:   No pathological field defect.

    Engineer Officer Trainee Sight Requirements and Radio Personnel (incl ETO):

    • Basic Visual Acuity Standard (unaided):   6/60.
    • Higher Visual Acuity Standard (aided if necessary):   Better eye – 6/18.   Other eye – 6/18.
    • Near Vision:   N8.
    • Colour Vision:   Ishihara or Farnsworth D15 or City University.
    • Visual Field:   Sufficient to undertake duties efficiently.

    Note:   For the full details refer to the regulations.

      Medical Requirements
      Every person wishing to serve on board a Merchant Navy vessel must be in possession of a valid MCA Medical Certificate, which is issued following examination by an approved medical practitioner.

      Seafaring is an occupation which calls for a high standard of health and fitness in serving seafarers throughout their career because of the demands of the occupation.

      The medical examination standards are established and clearly defined so that persons do not go to sea with an inherent condition which might cause difficulties during a voyage or that requires long term medication. This ensures that there is no jeopardy to the safety of vessels at sea, and to ensure a seafarer can safely undertake his/her duties whilst at the same time protecting his/her health.

      An ENG1 Medical is a routine examination which comprises of: details of medical history; the assessment of blood pressure, heart rate, reflexes, etc; and a urine test.  The examination will generally take about ½ hour.

      Frequency of Medical Examination:

      • Seafarers below the age of 18 shall have a yearly medical examination.
      • Seafarers 18 and over shall be examined at intervals not exceeding two years.
      • An approved doctor may issue a certificate for a lesser period if they feel it necessary that the candidate be re-examined in a shorter time-scale than referred to above.

      A fee (approximately £ 115.00) payable to the medical practitioner at the time of the medical examination. This fee will be reimbursed to you once you commence training.

      Examinations are usually conducted by appointment only and you should make your own arrangements with the most convenient practice for the issue of a Merchant Navy MCA ENG1 medical certificate.

      Note:   For the full details refer to the regulations.


      • MSN 1839 (M): Merchant Navy Medical and Eyesight Standards: Application of the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) (Medical Certification) Regulations 2010.
      • MSN 1815 (M):   Countries whose Seafarer Medical Certificates are accepted as equivalent to the UK Seafarer Medical Certificate (ENG1) from 01 July 2007.
      • MGN 219 (M):   Seafarer Medical Examinations: Guidelines for Maritime Employers and Manning Agencies.
      Making a Successful Application

      The following guidance has been prepared for candidates who are considering making an application to the SSTG and should be read by every candidate before completing the online application process.

      Eligibility Requirements

      Make sure that you meet all the eligibility requirements for the programme you are applying for. Regretfully we are unable to consider any applicants that do not meet the specified programme entry requirements.

      Please note: The requirements specified are the ‘minimum requirements’. Higher qualifications are desirable and may in certain cases be required by some companies. You will not be accepted for training if you do not meet the required standard in full. Requirements will vary for Electro-Technical Officer Cadets, Engineer Officer Cadets and Deck Officer Cadets.

      If you have any doubts about your eligibility you are advised to contact our recruitment team to discuss your position before applying.


      Consider carefully who will be reviewing your application and what they may see as important. They will be looking for:

      • A Professional Approach: The role of a Ship’s Officer is a responsible position with crew members lives, cargo worth millions and ships worth hundreds of millions at stake. Do what you can to make your application look and read as ‘professional’ as possible.
      • No Abbreviations (or ‘Text Speak’): Do not use abbreviations as they detract from the ‘Professional’ approach that you are aiming for.
      • A Complete Application Form: Do not leave blank spaces as these do not generally leave a good impression. If a question is not relevant or not applicable, say so. If you do not have a passport say ‘No’ or ‘Not Held’. Most of the time almost anything is better than leaving a blank space which may leave the impression of a lack of attention to detail.

      Your Personal Statement

      This is a very important part of your application and gives you the opportunity to provide us with additional information on why you think we should consider your application ahead of others. At times of over-subscription your application is being considered against the many hundreds we receive each month and this is the opportunity to make yours stand out.

      We cannot take information into account if you do not tell us, so consider carefully what achievements you have and how they demonstrate what you think we are looking for. Navigating large vessels requires accuracy and attention to detail, engineers need to be resourceful and have a mechanical aptitude. How do your prior achievements demonstrate what we are seeking in candidates and does this come across clearly in your personal statement?

      We do not lay down hard and fast rules about the format or length of your personal statement but as a guide it should be approximately 250 words. Don’t miss this opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself as a potential candidate.

      Personalise Your Application

      Try and include responses within the application that will make it clear to the reader that your preference is to secure sponsorship from the company you are applying to, and not their nearest competitor.

      The reader is likely to have many applications to consider and saying you have always wanted to work on container vessels, when sending an application to a tanker company, is one of the fastest ways to get to the bottom of the pile!

      Stand By Your Application

      Whilst we do ask for that little bit extra and for you to stand out from the crowd, you must also be carefully not to go overboard (excuse the pun!).

      Making statements that could not possibly be true will not impress. Those statements that do impress are likely to be the subject of close scrutiny should you make it to the interview stage.

      We expect candidates to present themselves well without saying anything that is untrue.

      And Finally….

      • Spelling: This is not everyone’s strength but there is simply no excuse for spelling mistakes to be included on an application form. Draft what you want to say and get someone to check it for you (as a last resort, getting a computer to check it for you is better than nothing, if it’s set to UK English!).
      • Grammar: As per spelling mistakes, there is simply no acceptable excuse for bad grammar.

      We hope that this information has been useful. To all candidates who take the required time to prepare a well-presented application and aspire to reach the highest standards, we hope that you will have done enough to secure an interview with us.

      Whether you obtain sponsorship from SSTG for a career at sea or choose to pursue an alternative career, we wish you every success for the future.

      Making a Success of your interview

      The following guidance has been prepared for candidates whose applications are being considered by SSTG, and should be read by every candidate who is invited to attend a Microsoft TEAM interview.

      How can I best prepare for the interview?

      If you are to be successful you will need to demonstrate during the selection process that you know something about the career you are applying for and have the necessary motivation to undertake the training as well as the aptitude to succeed.

      Take the necessary time to study our website. Information is provided on the range of programme options, the entry requirements and background information on what the role of a Deck, Engineer or ETO officer in the Merchant Navy involves. However, you need to do more than just read the content. You need to evaluate why you consider you would be suitable for the post applied for, and how you might demonstrate why you would suit a career in the Merchant Navy. For example, do you realise the implications of living and working on board ship and how would you cope with the time away from family and friends.

      What should I wear to the interview?

      You should remember that the Merchant Navy is a disciplined service and many companies will expect you to wear a uniform with pride at appropriate times. Look smart and present yourself in a manner befitting a representative of their organisation.

      Whilst we do not expect you to present yourself for interview in a designer suit, or even buy a jacket if you do not already own one, we do expect you to be smartly presented and make a good first impression.

      Do I get any choice on the ships I can train on or the College I will attend?

      Yes and you will need to give some prior consideration to the type of ship you would prefer to serve on and the college you would like to attend as your preferences will be discussed at interview. Please bear in mind however that at certain times of the recruitment cycle there will be less choice than at other times. You should also realise that some companies offer fewer opportunities and some vessel types are more popular with candidates than others. This will influence how likely it is that we will be able to consider your application for your first choice of ship type. Opportunities will vary for ETO Officer Cadets, Engineer Officer Cadets and Deck Officer Cadets.

      Similar considerations apply to the college you would like to attend with different training establishments offering different entry levels and start dates.

      Documentation required before a TEAM interview will be booked

      Copies of documentation and certificates required for a SSTG interview.

      Please send the documentation with dates and times you are available for interview. Photos or scanned copies are acceptable. References can be sent at a later date.

      • A copy of your passport. If you are applying for a new passport please state in the email.
      • Evidence of residency in the UK. This should be an official letter showing your name and home address, it could be a bank statement, correspondence from your school or former employer, NI number letter, etc. Please note driving licences are not eligible as proof of address.
      • Your academic qualification certificates. Please note provisional results are not accepted as proof of academic qualifications.
      • Two personal references. These can be obtained after the interview. The references can be sent direct or via the applicant to: Referee’s contact details will not be accepted.

      Also the following items, if applicable:

      A discharge book.

      Eng 1 Merchant Navy medical certificate.

      Merchant Navy certification previously obtained.

      Documentation relating to marine training previously completed.

      The above is required before an interview can take place.

        How long should I allow for the interview?

        The standard SSTG interview will usually take up to an hour but for most applicants the interview time is likely to be a little shorter than this.

        What should I expect?

        The interview will be carried out by one of our recruitment team with the aim of finding out more about you as a person, your qualifications and previous experience and the reasons why you would like to be considered for a career at sea.

        At the same time the interviewer is trying to assess whether you have the academic aptitude to succeed, the personal qualities to cope with a lifestyle at sea and the motivation and determination to see through a three year training programme.

        Why will I be asked to sign a declaration confirming the information provided about previous education undertaken and any police cautions or convictions?

        Under government funding rules the cost of undertaking a higher education course or degree programme can be considerably more for candidates undertaking a second qualification at the same, or lower level, to a previous qualification already held.

        We need to identify the actual cost of the sponsorship you may be offered in advance and are unlikely to be able to cover any tuition fees at the full economic rate.

        Candidates completing sea service as part of their training will often be required to meet the visa requirements for any country that the ships operated by their sponsoring company are likely to visit or transit past. Cautions or Convictions can affect an individual’s likelihood of obtaining visas from certain countries and any such difficulties need to be identified at the time of application so that you will only be considered by companies where this will not be an issue.

        Will I be advised the result of the interview before the end of the TEAM meeting?

        No. The sponsorship you are seeking will typically be a package worth in excess of £70,000 which is a considerable investment. We will therefore need to carefully assess over the days following your interview the attributes demonstrated during the interview process before making a final decision. You will be advised within 7 days of the result of the interview.

        Why might I not be offered sponsorship?

        Even good candidates may not be offered sponsorship at the end of this process. We only have limited funds and training places available and we may not be able to offer you sponsorship for any number of reasons.

        We recruit candidates on behalf of a wide range of companies and whilst this widens the number of opportunities which you could be considered for not every company will wish to sponsor candidates on every programme, at every college, or on any particularly intake.

        Every candidate who is not offered sponsorship is welcome to reapply after six months, although no guarantee can be given that the result of their application will be any different.

        Has this guide been useful?

        We hope it has and for candidates who take the required time to prepare we do not expect the process to be too daunting.

        Whether you obtain sponsorship from SSTG or choose to pursue an alternative career, we wish you every success for the future.

        Whether you are applying as a Deck, Engineer or Electro Technical Officer, these fact sheets should tell you all you need to know to guide you through the process of obtaining sponsorship with the SSTG.

        Start Your Career

        Our experienced team of recruitment and training officers can provide you with help and guidance on roles and vacancies – and support in applying for sponsorship.

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