Course: Merchant Navy Deck Cadet Programme

Study Level

Level 3

Level 4


Lowestoft Campus


3 years



Our Merchant Navy Deck Cadet Programme is a fully-sponsored course with training time both at college and at sea – all while earning a salary!

You will become a vital member of your ship’s management team and will be responsible for making decisions on steering and manoeuvring, controlling navigation and communications for the safety of the ship, crew, cargo and passengers. And at the end of the training you will have all the skills you need to gain employment as a fully qualified officer of the watch on any ship type around the world!

The course is split into five phases:

Phase 1 (at college): 23 weeks

Study various topics at Level 3 “Diploma in Maritime Studies: Shipping and Maritime Operations (Deck)” including but not limited to:

  • Maritime Sector Overview
  • Maritime Employment, Environmental and Health and Safety Practice
  • Control Operation of Survival Craft and Rescue Boats
  • Mathematics for Seafarers
  • Control vessel operations
  • Numeracy for seafarers
  • Nautical Science – an Introduction
  • Ship Construction
  • Assist with a Vessel’s Navigational Watch
  • Proficiency in Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting.
  • Proficiency in Elementary First Aid.

Phase 2 (sea and leave): 9 months

Practical on-board ship training lasts approximately 9 months.  During this time students are expected to complete six months approved seagoing service.

Students are expected to complete all first sea phase MNTB training record books tasks.

The MCA Training Record Book is used throughout your training to record completion of key tasks. Successful completion is a pre-requirement for sitting examinations.

Phase 3 (at college): 30 weeks

It will start by reviewing the student achievement during the first sea phase.

Study various topics at Level 4 HNC Nautical Science, including but not limited to:

  • Celestial Navigation
  • Chartwork and Tides
  • Marine Meteorology
  • Marine Cargo Operations
  • Ship Stability
  • Naval Architecture: Ship Construction
  • Marine Emergency Response and Communications
  • Marine Law and Management
  • Navigation Aids and Equipment Simulator Training

Phase 4 (sea and leave): 11 months

Practical on-board ship training lasts approximately 11 months where students are expected to complete six months approved seagoing service.

Students are expected to complete all MNTB training record book tasks.

Phase 5 (at college): 19 weeks

Completion of any outstanding academic studies and assessments, advanced short courses and preparation for the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency oral examination. “This will be a one-to-one interview with an examiner who will be an ex seafarer who will have gained many years of experience whilst working at sea”


To gain entry to the course you should have any of the following combinations of qualifications:

  • At least 4 GCSEs (minimum grade 4)/Scottish equivalent, to include maths, English and a science based subject.
  • Meet medical standards (ENG1).
  • Be the holder of an EEA (European Economic Area) passport and be ordinarily resident in the UK.
  • Be at least 17 years of age by the date they commence training.

All candidates will also need to undertake a Merchant Navy Medical examination and gain an unrestricted medical certificate.

However, where a candidate has an existing condition which might influence the candidate’s ability to obtain an unrestricted medical certificate, our advice would usually be for the candidate to obtain a medical certificate early in the process.


Assessments will be delivered in a variety of formats, from formal oral and written exams to open assignments completed outside the structured college environment.

An important part of the process will be ensuring you meet the stated deadlines to prepare you for your responsibilities at sea.


On successful completion of the programme, Cadets can gain employment as a fully qualified officer of the watch. When you reach Senior Navigation (Deck) Officer level, you’ll direct and supervise a small team of professional seafarers, including Junior Officers and Ratings. Becoming the Master (Captain) would be your ultimate goal.

You can also progress in Nautical Science by studying for a HND Nautical Science after Phase 5 and if you wish to you can then top-up to Bachelor’s degree in a Maritime related field.