The French Maritime Academy (ENSM) provides higher education in maritime and related fields. It trains merchant navy officers and marine engineering graduates. The core values of the institution reflect those of seafarers, namely open-mindedness, curiosity, intellectual rigor, and a profound respect for people and the environment.

Given that a ship is composed of various units managed independently with significant responsibilities (concerning the vessel, crew safety, and the transported cargo), the maritime profession is inherently multidisciplinary. It encompasses roles such as mechanic, producer and distributor of energy, fresh water, or refrigeration, as well as manager, multicultural team leader, captain, logistician, HR manager, etc.

Our advanced maritime and related courses address the challenges of maritime safety and security, sustainable development, and commerce. Hence, they demand high-level training.

  • The ENSM relies on experienced professors from the maritime sector or professionals who are experts in their fields. 
  • The academy is equipped with specific educational tools, particularly simulators for navigation and machinery, as well as simulators for change management, dynamic positioning, and even a steam plant, which is a unique educational facility in France today.
  • Most of our programs include several months of corporate internships. For maritime courses, the internships are primarily under the French flag, recognized as one of the safest in the world.
  • Research development in the areas of safety, maritime security, human factors, and energy efficiency is one of the school’s priorities.

To support this high level of maritime training, the ENSM is accredited by the Engineering Titles Commission for 2 pathways :

  • The training of navigating engineers, first-class merchant navy officers (O1MM). The program lasts five years, with the fourth year mainly dedicated to navigation.
  • The pathways focused on sustainable development and blue growth, “Eco-Management of the Ship” and “Deployment and Maintenance of Offshore Systems”.

The ENSM is certified by Lloyd’s Register for its quality management system.

Learn More About Maritime Training and Careers

« Hydros » to the ENSM, Over 450 years of history !

The Origins

While maritime teachings at the University of Paris can be traced back to the year 1180, the establishment of merchant marine schools more commonly dates to the founding of the hydrography school in Marseille by Charles IX in 1571. 

This makes it the second oldest higher education institution in France after the Collège de France (1530).

Charles IX continued the vision of his father, Henry II, who aimed to enhance the maritime power of his kingdom and had initiated an extensive plan for port and naval constructions.

To strengthen the commercial and military power of the French kingdom, King Louis XIV, like other European monarchs, began to form a specialized naval force. He sought to modernize and regulate the kingdom’s maritime forces, expand arsenals, reinforce ports, and more.

For this purpose, he appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert as the first Secretary of State of the Navy. In 1681, Colbert authored the “Grande Ordonnance de la Marine,” which defined the maritime public domain and codified maritime transport practices comprehensively.

In this context, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the teaching of hydrography (the study of maritime or lacustrine topography for the purpose of creating nautical charts) and the “art of navigation” expanded across the territory, eventually encompassing over forty schools. Training became more professionalized; teachers were selected through competitive exams, trained in standardized teaching methods, and students were subjected to examinations.

In Nantes, the teaching of the “Art of Navigation” dates back to 1625 (which became a royal hydrography school in 1672). The schools in Le Havre and Saint Malo were established in 1666 and 1673, respectively.

In the 20th Century

Closer to our time, in 1958, the four “Hydros” became National Merchant Marine Schools (ENMM).

In 1965, France innovated by creating the “C1” first-class maritime navigation certificate, the world’s first multi-functional officer certificate, which gradually replaced the long-distance captain and mechanical officer certificates. It allowed for the functions of both deck and engine officer to be performed indifferently across all seas and on any type of ship.


In 2010, following the Grenelle de la Mer initiative, it was decided to create a “grand school of maritime professions” by merging the four former “Hydros” (National Merchant Marine School) into the French Maritime Academy (ENSM).

The ENSM is a public establishment of a scientific, cultural, and professional nature, under the supervision of the Secretary of State for the Sea attached to the Prime Minister. Since 2011, it has been accredited to confer an engineering degree with first-class officers, allowing for access to more diverse careers.

In 2016, the ENSM expanded to include non-navigational training in marine engineering.

The comprehensive training for merchant marine officers, which allows for roles both on deck and in the engine room, remains a French specialty contributing to its reputation for excellence.