Merchant Navy

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

Merchant Navy (or Merchant Marine) refers to the merchant fleet of a country, which varies in capacity. Seafarers on merchant vessels, who hold various military-like ranks and responsibilities and are sometimes members of various maritime trade unions, are required by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers to carry Merchant Mariner's Documents. King George V bestowed the title of the "Merchant Navy" on the British merchant shipping fleets following their service in the First World War, however a number or other nations have since adopted the title. The following is a partial list of the merchant navies or merchant marines of various countries.


British Merchant Navy

The British Red Ensign.

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

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.

For long periods of the last millennium, the Merchant Navy had the largest merchant fleet in the world, but it has slipped down the rankings. Today, there are 429 ships of 1,000 Gross Tonnes (GT) or over, making a total of 9,181,284 GT (9,566,275  tons deadweight (DWT)). These are split into the following types: bulk carrier 18, cargo 55, chemical tanker 48, container 134, liquefied gas 11, passenger 12, passenger/cargo 64, petroleum tanker 40, refrigerated cargo 19, roll on/roll off 25, vehicle carrier 3. There are also 446 ships registered in other countries, and 202 foreign-owned ships registered in the UK. (2005 CIA estimate)

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

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the World Factbook, the Greek maritime fleet is today the largest in the world, with 3,099 vessels of 1000 Tonnes or more (December 13, 2007) accounting for 18% of the world's fleet capacity. About half of the vessels fly the Greek flag and the remainder mainly flags of convenience. Greek vessels consist about half of total EU tonnage and created 7.6% of Greece's GDP in 2007 (about 17 billion euros).[1] Thus Greece is the largest shipping-nation in the world with a total of 141,931,000 metric tons deadweight (DWT).[30] In terms of ship categories, Greece ranks first in both tankers and dry bulk carriers, fourth in the number of containers, and fourth in other ships. In the 1970s Greece was even bigger with circa 5000 ships.

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.[2]

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 gross tonnage (GT) of 1,120,165 tons/1,799,569 metric tons 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 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-owned merchant ships and the men and women that crew them. The merchant marine transports cargo and passengers during peace time. In time of war, the merchant marine[3] 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 civilian 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[4] 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.

See also


  1. ^,id=72195832
  2. ^ Neil Atkinson, Ed, 'Hell or High Water, New Zealand Merchant Seafarers Remember the War' Harper Collins, Auckland, 2009
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Ships of 1,000 gross register tons (GRT) tons or over. Fleet statistics from the 2009 CIA World Factbook

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • merchant navy — BrE .merchant ma rine AmE n [singular] all of a country s ships that are used for trade, not war, and the people who work on these ships ▪ John worked as a chef in the merchant navy …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • merchant navy — noun uncount BRITISH the MERCHANT MARINE …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • merchant navy — (US merchant marine) ► NOUN ▪ a country s commercial shipping …   English terms dictionary

  • merchant navy — (also merchant marine) n the trading ships of a country and the sailors who work on them. The British merchant navy was very important during both world wars for the continued supply of goods to Britain from abroad, and many of its ships were… …   Universalium

  • merchant navy — BrE merchant ma.rine AmE noun (singular) all of a country s ships that are used for trade, not war, and the people who work on these ships: John worked as a chef in the merchant navy …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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  • merchant navy — /mɜtʃənt ˈneɪvi/ (say merchuhnt nayvee) noun 1. the vessels of a nation engaged in commerce. 2. the officers and crews of merchant vessels. Also, mercantile marine, merchant marine …  

  • merchant navy — noun Britain : merchant marine …   Useful english dictionary

  • merchant navy — noun civilian naval fleet dedicated to the sea transport of goods and merchandise …   Wiktionary

  • merchant navy — country s trading ships; crew that mans these ships …   English contemporary dictionary

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