merchant marine

the vessels of a nation that are engaged in commerce.
the officers and crews of such vessels.

1850–55, Americanism Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
merchant navy or merchant marine
the ships or crew engaged in a nation's commercial shipping
merchant marine or merchant marine

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Example sentences
The contents of the suitcase suggest the merchant marine, which would explain where he bought the coat and thread.
They came over on wobbling merchant marine ships, refugees with a few valises apiece that contained all they owned in the world.
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