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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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. The following is a partial list of the merchant navies or merchant marines of various countries. Additional details on transport in present-day nations and states are available.


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.

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 Register Tonnage (GRT) or over, making a total of 9,181,284 GRT (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 Two. 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 Ships", 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 BTS 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, famously including the 4 masted barque, Pamir. New Zealand like several other commonwealth nations created a Merchant navy. However 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 the trade with the UK ,(84 per cent of all New Zealand exports in 1939), and the majority of New Zealand seamen however served with the British Merchant Navy. Over the course of the war 64 ships were sunk by enemy action on the New Zealand to UK route. [2]

Polish Merchant Navy

Swiss Merchant Marine

Switzerland has a civilian high seas fleet of merchant vessels, whose home port is Basel, in Switzerland. 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

Simple English

Merchant marine is a term used in many places to talk about commercial ships and crews. A country's merchant marine is made up of all the ships owned by companies or individuals in that country which are used to make money. Most of a country's merchant marine is usually made of ships that carry things from place to place, like oil tankers and freighters. Other ships, like cruise ships and ferries, are also included because they are used to make money. When a country is at peace, its merchant marine works independently. Some countries, though, require merchant ships to work for their armed forces in times of war.

In the United States, "Merchant Marine" has a different meaning. The United States Merchant Marine (USMM) is a part of the military which is controlled by the government in both peace and war. When the United States is at war, the USMM is used to carry military supplies. In World War II, nearly one out of every twenty-six American merchant mariners was killed[1], a higher portion of men than in the Army, Navy, or even the Marines.



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