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Merchant navy

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Title: Merchant navy  
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Merchant navy

A United States World War II recruiting poster for the merchant marine

A merchant navy or merchant marine is the fleet of merchant vessels that are registered in a country. Seafarers on merchant vessels of various ranks and sometimes members of maritime trade unions, are required by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers to carry Merchant Mariner's Documents.

First World War; since then a number of other nations have adopted the title. The following is a partial list of the merchant navies or merchant marines of various countries. In many countries the fleet's proper name is simply the capitalized version of the common noun.


  • British Merchant Navy 1
  • Canadian Merchant Navy 2
  • Greek Merchant Navy 3
  • Indian Merchant Navy 4
  • New Zealand Merchant Navy 5
  • Pakistani Merchant Navy 6
  • Polish Merchant Navy 7
  • Swiss Merchant Marine 8
  • United States Merchant Marine 9
  • The International Maritime Organization 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

British Merchant Navy

The British Red Ensign.
A recent example of British Merchant Navy Officers, graduating at their 'passing out' ceremony from Warsash Maritime Academy in Southampton, with Former First Sea Lord Alan West, Baron West of Spithead, in 2011.

The British Merchant Navy comprises the British merchant ships that transport cargo and people during time of peace and war.

For much of its history, the Merchant Navy was the largest merchant fleet in the world, but with the decline of the British Empire in the mid-20th century it has slipped down the rankings. In 1939 the Merchant Navy was the largest in the world with 33% of total tonnage.[1] By 2012, the Merchant Navy—yet still remaining one of the largest in the world—held only 3% of total tonnage.[2] As of the year ending 2012, British merchant marine interests consists of 1,504 ships of 100 GRT or over. This includes ships either UK directly owned, parent owned or managed by a British company. This amounts to: 59,413,000 GRT or alternatively 75,265,000 DWT.[2] This is according to the annual maritime shipping statistics provided by the British Government and the Department for Transport.

Canadian Merchant Navy

Canada, like several other Commonwealth nations, created its own Merchant Navy in a large-scale effort in World War II. Established in 1939, the Canadian Merchant Navy played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic bolstering the Allies' merchant fleet due to high losses in the British Merchant Navy.

Eventually thousands of Canadians served in the Merchant Navy aboard hundreds of Canadian merchant ships, notably the "Park Ship", the Canadian equivalent of the American "Liberty Ship". A school at St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia trained Canadian merchant mariners. "Manning Pools", Merchant Navy barracks, were built in Canadian ports.

Greek Merchant Navy

The Greek maritime fleet is today engaged in commerce and transportation of goods and services universally. It consists of the merchant vessels owned by Greek civilians, flying either the Greek flag or a flag of convenience. Greece is a maritime nation by tradition, as shipping is arguably the oldest form of occupation of the Greeks and a key element of Greek economic activity since the ancient times.

Indian Merchant Navy

The birth of the modern Indian merchant navy occurred before independence from the United Kingdom, when in 1919 SS Loyalty sailed from India to Britain.[3] Since independence the Indian maritime industry has grown, but not up to expectations. Today, India ranks 22nd in the world in terms of total DWT ranking.

India currently supplies around 12.8% of Officers and around 14.5% of ratings to the world seafaring community. This is one of the highest of any country .[4]

New Zealand Merchant Navy

In December 1939, 3000 seafarers were employed 186 merchant vessels were on the New Zealand Registry (many larger New Zealand vessels were however registered in London for insurance purposes). Some foreign vessels were impressed, including the 4 masted barque, Pamir. New Zealand like several other Commonwealth nations created a merchant navy. Although some ships were involved in the Atlantic and North Pacific trade, mostly this involved domestic and South Pacific cargos. New Zealand owned ships involved in trade with the United Kingdom (84% of all New Zealand exports in 1939) and the majority of New Zealand seamen had served with the British Merchant Navy. Over the course of the war, 64 ships were sunk by enemy action on the New Zealand-UK route.[5]

Pakistani Merchant Navy

The Pakistan Merchant Navy was formed in 1947. The Ministry of Port and Shipping, Mercantile Marine Department and Shipping Office established by the government of Pakistan were authorized to flag the ship and also ensured that the vessel was sea worthy. All of the private shipping companies merged and formed the National Shipping Corporation (NSC) and the Pakistan Shipping Corporation (PSC) and as a result they had a common flag. Among these companies were the Muhammadi Steamship Company Limited and the East & West Steamship Company.

In an Indo-Pak war of 1971 Pakistan suffered a great loss of its Merchant Vessels at the hands of Indians. On 1 January 1974 President of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto nationalized the National Shipping Corporation and Pakistan Shipping Corporation, and formed Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) with the intent of reestablishing the Pakistan Merchant Navy. Later, the Company was incorporated under the provisions of the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation Ordinance of 1979 and the Companies Ordinance of 1984 respectively.

Today Pakistan National Shipping Corporation is the national flag carrier managing a fleet of 09 vessels. The Corporation's head office is located in Karachi. A regional office based in Lahore caters for upcountry shipping requirements. The Corporation also has an extensive overseas network of agents looking after its world wide shipping business. Pakistan National Shipping Corporation also has several subsidiary companies.[6]

Polish Merchant Navy

The Polish Merchant Navy (Polish: Polska Marynarka Handlowa, PMH) was created in the interwar period when the Second Polish Republic regained independence. During World War II, many ships of the Polish Navy joined the Allied merchant navy and its convoys, as part of the Polish contribution to World War II.

After the war, the Polish Merchant Navy was controlled by the People's Republic of Poland and after 1989, by modern Poland. As of 1999, the PMH controls 57 ships (of 1,000 GT or over) totaling 1,120,165 gross tonnage (GT)/1,799,569 tonnes deadweight (DWT) including 50 bulk carriers, 2 general cargo ships, 2 chemical tankers, 1 roll-on/roll-off ship and 2 short-sea passenger ships.

Swiss Merchant Marine

Switzerland, despite being a landlocked country, has a civilian high seas fleet of merchant vessels, whose home port is Basel, on the Rhine. The first ships were purchased and operated by the government in order to ensure the supply of critical resources during World War II. After the war, a privately owned merchant fleet emerged, spurred in part by government subsidies that paid for the fleet's operation up until 1953. As of 2006, 26 ships (mostly container carriers) totalling 479,624 tons, operated by five shipping companies, fly the Swiss flag.

United States Merchant Marine

Seal of the US Merchant Marine

The United States Merchant Marine is made up of the nation's civilian-owner merchant ships and the men and women that crew them. The merchant marine transports cargo and passengers during peacetime. In time of war, the merchant marine[7] is an auxiliary to the Navy and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.

The people of the merchant marine are called merchant mariners, and are civilians except in times of war, when, in accordance with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 they are considered military personnel. As of 2009, the United States merchant fleet numbered 422 ships[8] and approximately 69,000 people. Seven hundred ships owned by American interests but registered, or flagged, in other countries are not included in this number.

The International Maritime Organization

Flag of the International Maritime Organization

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), formerly known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), was established in Geneva in 1948, and came into force ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959. The IMCO name was changed to IMO in 1982.

Headquartered in London, United Kingdom, the IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations with 169 Member States and three Associate Members. The IMO's primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping, and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping. IMO is governed by an Assembly of members and is financially administered by a Council of members elected from the Assembly. The work of IMO is conducted through five committees and these are supported by technical subcommittees. Member organizations of the UN organizational family may observe the proceedings of the IMO. Observer status is granted to qualified non-governmental organizations.

The IMO is supported by a permanent secretariat of employees who are representative of its members. The secretariat is headed by a Secretary-General.

See also


  1. ^ "Fact File : Merchant Navy". BBC. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Shipping Fleet: 2012". HM Government. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Neil Atkinson, Ed, 'Hell or High Water, New Zealand Merchant Seafarers Remember the War' Harper Collins, Auckland, 2009
  6. ^ "Company Profile". Pakistan National Shipping Corporation. 17 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  7. ^ Most English-speaking countries call their fleet the Merchant Navy. Terms similar to Merchant Marine are used in, for example, the French Marine Marchande and the Spanish Marina Mercante.
  8. ^ Ships of 1,000 gross register tons (GRT) tons or over. Fleet statistics from the 2009 CIA World Factbook

External links

  • Shipping Companies
  • Merchant Navy UK Education
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