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 a collection of small units managed with a high degree of autonomy and significant responsibilities ( in relation to the ship, the safety of the crew and the cargo being carried), the seafarer’s job is multidisciplinary: engineer, producer and distributor of energy, fresh water or cooling, manager, multicultural team leader, captain, logistician, human resources manager, etc.

Our advanced maritime and related courses face the challenges of maritime safety and security, sustainable development, and trade. They consequently demand high-level training.

  • ENSM relies on experienced professors from the maritime sector or professionals who are experts in their respective fields of expertise. 
  • The Academy is equipped with specific educational tools, in particular simulators for navigation and engine room, as well as cargo handling simulators, dynamic positioning simulators, and even a steam plant, which is a unique educational facility in France today.
  • Most of our courses include several months of internships. For maritime courses, on-board interships are mainly carried out under the French flag, recognised 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 Academy’s priorities.

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

  • Training for Dual-Purpose Officers and Engineers, first-class merchant navy officers (O1MM). The programme lasts five years, with the fourth year mainly dedicated to seagoing experience.
  • Courses focused on sustainable development and blue growth: “Eco-Management of the Ship” and “Deployment and Maintenance of Offshore Systems”.

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

Learn More About Maritime Training and Careers

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

The Origins

While maritime studies at the University of Paris can be traced back to 1180, the establishment of schools for the merchant navy more generally dates back to the founding of the School of Hydrography in Marseilles by Charles IX in 1571.

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

Charles IX continued the vision of his father, Henry II, who wanted to increase the maritime power of his kingdom and had initiated a vast plan of port and naval construction.

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

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

In this context, during the 17th and 18th centuries, the teaching of hydrography (the study of marine or lacustrine topography for the production of nautical charts) and the “Art of navigation” spread throughout the territory, eventually encompassing more than forty schools. Teaching became more professional; teachers were selected by competitive examinations, trained in standardised teaching methods, and students were subject to examinations.

In Nantes, the teaching of the “Art of Navigation” dates back to 1625 (which became the Royal School of Hydrography in 1672). The schools in Le Havre and Saint Malo were founded in 1666 and 1673 respectively.

In the 20th century

More recently, in 1958, the four ‘hydros’ became the National Merchant Navy Schools (ENMM).

In 1965, France broke new ground by creating the First-Class Navigation Certificate (C1), the world’s first dual-purpose officer’s certificate, which gradually replaced the Master Mariner’s and Chief Engineer’s certificates. It allows the holder to work as a deck and engine officer on all the world’s oceans and on any type of ship.


In 2010, in addition to the Grenelle de la mer, it was decided to create a “Grande école” for maritime professions by merging the four former “Hydros” (École nationale de la Marine marchande) into the École nationale supérieure maritime (ENSM).

The ENSM is a scientific, cultural and professional public institution under the authority of the Secretary of State for the Sea and Biodiversity, attached to the Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion. Since 2011, it has been accredited to award an engineering degree to first-class navigation officers, giving them access to a wider range of careers.

In 2016, ENSM opened up to non-sailing courses, including maritime engineering.

The dual-purpose merchant navy officer course, which allows students to work both on deck and in the engine room, remains a uniquely French feature, contributing to the Academy’s reputation for excellence.