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The average salary of merchant marines

Merchant marines--men and women who serve in different capacities on commercial ships--are not part of the country's marine military. In fact, they aren't part of the military at all.

Additionally, because these jobs on ships are unregulated, salaries can vary considerably. However, there are salary minimums that are recognised internationally. Two organisations, the ITF and the ILO, set such salary criteria, and they do it for the benefit of the people who do this kind of work.

International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) Defined

About 4.5 million workers in 653 unions are represented by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

These workers can count on the ITF to represent them with international bodies like the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as well as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Additionally, in the interest of its members (whose dues allow ITF to be able to operate), ITF also concerns itself with other governing bodies that are pertinent to marine merchant jobs, safety and livelihood.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the ITF, headquartered in London, plays an integral role in the salary minimums established for its professional merchant marine members.

ITF Standard Wage Scale

In the ITF's standard wage scale agreement, a deck boy can expect a minimum wage of £512 a month. In addition, he can expect to make £20 in cash for each accumulated day's leave he earns but does not use during the year.

Steward's wages are £854 a month and they enjoy cash compensation of £34 per each day's leave earned but not used during the year.

Carpenter merchant marines can expect a minimum wage of £954 for a month and £38 in cash compensation for every paid leave day not used.

A monthly minimum wage of £1,489 can be expected by those who are chief stewards or electrical engineers by trade. Both types of marine merchants can receive £59 a day in cash compensation for each of their unused paid leave days.

But the greatest marine merchant salary goes to the ship's master, who can earn a minimum of £2,879 a month in addition to £115 per day for any unused paid leave she has accumulated.

International Labor Organization (ILO)

While the ITF sets the minimum standard wage requirement for companies who sign contracts with ITF for ITF marine merchant workers, it is the United Nations agency known as the International Labor Organization (ILO) that sets international labour standards for the merchant marine.

Those international labour standards include more than wages; they also include a minimum of two and a half days of leave per month, an eight-hour work day, and a 48-hour work week for general merchant marine workers (workers with more skills and rank receive even better benefits).

In addition, the ILO states that overtime pay should be 1.25 times the number of hours of overtime worked. And any day of rest or public holiday that is unable to be observed by the marine merchant worker because of the employer's need must be compensated with leave that equals 1.25 times the overtime hours worked during the day of rest or holiday, or 1.25 times the daily pay rate of the worker.

ILO Minimum Wage Scale

An AB (able merchant marine worker), can expect a basic monthly pay of £354 under ILO's wage scale, equalling £401 in total monthly compensation after leave time benefits are factored into the pay. However, projected overtime compensation brings this total up to £622 per month, according to ILO.

Stewards can expect around £531 a month (including projected overtime compensation); according to the ILO wage scale and masters a minimum of £2,096.


There are innumerable recruitment scams for becoming a merchant marine, so be wary of any job that seems too good to be true.

The ITF recommends that interested merchant marine workers who have doubts about the validity of the job offer check out the company online first. They also recommend that anyone who still has doubts contact them through their website link in order to verify if the company is one they do business with routinely.

It is not the practice of any reputable company to require a seafarer worker to pay for acquiring a job to work on a ship, nor is it expected of merchant marine workers to pay for airfare or any registration fees for such work. Beware of these scams perpetrated by suspect companies that advertise in online or in glossy magazines, generally from Nigeria or even the United Kingdom.