About a century ago no one would have heard about a marine engineer, but today it is a profession which is as established as any other famous ones.
Over the last 100 years, engineering as a field of study has developed and diversified far beyond what could have been imagined prior to this period.
Not only that but it has also branched out into various specialised fields that have achieved great progress.
Most of these new fields are aligned to any of the basic engineering branches such as mechanical, electrical, civil, electronics, computers etc and have something or the other incorporated from them. One such branch is that of marine engineering.
Marine Engineering Job Description
A marine engineer is a professional who has studied marine engineering (sometimes also called maritime engineering) and is responsible for the operation, maintenance and repair of all major mechanical and engineered equipment onboard a ship.
There are several mechanical systems that help in the operations of any vessel like the propulsion mechanics, electricity and power generation system, lubrication, fuel systems, water distillation, lighting and air conditioning system etc.
These are all included in the technical responsibilities of a marine engineer.
Duties of Marine Engineers
Some of the important duties that people who have done marine engineering (maritime engineering) perform are:
Monitoring and maintenance of mechanical systems – Engineers of each rank on board ship is allocated specific machinery and systems for maintenance and monitoring purpose.
Machinery systems are divided among all engineers and it is the duty of each engineer to ensure his/her machinery is running at all times. Marine engineers are also required to look after the machinery on deck.
Proper record-keeping and planning maintenance – The engine room department works as a team to ensure the maintenance of all machinery systems is carried out according to the planned maintenance system. Precise record-keeping of various parameters is carried out for official paperwork and reporting.
Fuel oil bunkering – Marine engineers also handle the transfer of fuel oil to the ship from a bunker station or barge. It is usually the duty of the 4th engineer, who also takes regular soundings of the fuel oil tanks and report it to the chief engineer for planning bunkering operations.
Emergency breakdown and repair – The study of marine engineering also teaches how to deal with major maintenance and breakdown of machinery systems at sea. Though marine engineers are quite capable of the same, there are times when there might be a need for experts. In such cases, marine engineers are required to work with the experts to repair and resolve the issue.
Apart from the above-mentioned duties, a marine engineer on ships is required to follow all the instructions of the chief engineer, the head of the engine room department on the ship.
In the latter half of the 19th century, marine engines for propulsion arrived and revolutionised the sea travelling vessels. It was about this time that the marine engineer began to stamp his importance over the scheme of work and transformed from a ‘stoker’ to an engineer.
In recent years, there have been many new introductions to the marine technologies that have further enhanced the machines and the services like the fuel cells and magneto hydrodynamics etc.
Further research and development are also in progress and newer details emerge every now and then. It would thus be safe to state that marine engineering is a very dynamic field.
A marine engineer can opt for different types of vessels, depending upon his/her background training and expertise, which can be categorised to :
- Foreign going dry vessels
- Foreign going tanker vessels (oil, gas, chemical etc)
- Coastal trading dry and tanker ships
- Passenger vessels
- Dynamic position vessels
- Offshore platforms and ships
- Port assisting boats and ship (Tugs, barges etc)
In recent times, this field of study has caught on the imagination of many around the world. The interest was shown by students of various countries and the response at the concerned departments in the universities bears testimony to this.
The increase in the employment opportunities in this field has added to the lure of a job as a marine engineer. Both merchant navy and armed navy have immense opportunities for the students of this field.
In addition to this, various manufacturing industries and units that produce shipping equipment and machines also hire these professionals to work in their production houses.
In some countries, a marine engineer can switch over to an armed navy (after giving physical and medical fitness exams) as the technical qualification requirement are already achieved by a seagoing engineer.
Also, budding field jobs as trainers and teachers at various institutions are available, and suitable candidates are very much in demand. Judging by the developments and the interest, it would not be wrong to assume that this field of study would continue to leave an indelible mark on the world.
Marine Engineering Lifestyle
The life after doing marine engineering on board ship is demanding both physically and emotionally. Though most marine engineering graduates (also called maritime engineers) go onboard ships for work, there are a few who choose a shore job as well.
A marine engineer’s job on a ship is challenging as the engine room is a complex mechanical system with a hostile environment. Engineers mainly work in four-hour shifts and have to do additional hours of maintenance work.
However, during the time of emergency, the work hours can stretch for hours without any major breaks until the machinery/system is brought back to normal working condition and there is no threat to the ship of any kind.
When in a port, a marine engineer can go onshore, if time permits and after taking permission from the chief engineer and Captain.
With the advancement of technology, the amount of time a ship stays at the port has drastically reduced, leaving the ship’s crew with no time to go out on shore leave.
Marine engineers, just like any other ship’s crew, work on a contract basis. Shipping companies usually offer four to six months of a working contract, depending on the experience and rank of the marine engineer.
Jobs & Career Path after Marine Engineering
After doing a four-year marine engineering degree course, a candidate becomes eligible to work on ships (after pursuing required supplementary courses). A fresh marine engineering graduate will join a ship as a trainee or junior engineer for six months working contract.
After completing the training and the necessary sea-time, a fifth engineer is eligible to appear for class IV exams, clearing which he or she can join as a 4th engineer.
After gaining a good amount of experience and based on performance, a company will provide a promotion to the third engineer. On completion of the required sea time as a third engineer, one can give Class II exams to become a second engineer.
Similarly, on completion of necessary sea time and gaining a good amount of experience, a second engineer can give Class I exam to get promotion as chief engineer.
Do note that the promotion will solely depend on the company’s decision even if the marine engineer has the experience and certificate.
The process might also differ in the country and company one belongs to.
The above graph is a brief overview of the hierarchy and job opportunities for Marine engineering candidates. The Shore Job entirely depends on the capability/ experience of the candidate and the requirements of the shore company.
After marine engineering, a candidate has to do various advanced courses and management studies to opt for a shore job, even if he/she has sailed as a chief engineer.
Marine Engineering Books
If you are a student of marine engineering or just seeking knowledge on the maritime domain, there are some very popular marine engineering books written by some of the finest experts in the industry.
These books have been used for several years now by both maritime students and experienced professionals.
Some of the famous marine engineering books are:
– Introduction to Marine Engineering – D.A. Taylor
– General Engineering Knowledge (Marine Engineering) – H.D McGeorge
– Marine Auxiliary Machinery – H.D McGeorge
– Lamb’s Question and Answers on Marine Diesel Engines – S. Christensen
Marine engineering ebooks by Marine Insight
If you are a maritime professional looking for to-the-point practical knowledge of marine engineering, then check out marine engineering ebooks by Marine Insight. These ebooks are written by experienced marine engineers and can be read on any device.
Marine engineering Salary
The salary of marine engineer mainly depends on the type of ship he/she is working on, the shipping company, and the level of experience.
The salary structure can also vary based on one’s nationality and the country one belongs to.
For. e.g. marine engineers from India have salaries in the range mentioned below ( in USD$/month):
Fifth engineer – $350-800
Fourth engineer – $2500-4000
Third engineer – $3500-5000
Second engineer – $5000 – $10500
Chief engineer -$7000 – $13000
Please note that this is just a rough estimated range and varies according to the factors mentioned earlier.
A Guide To Become Successful Marine Engineer
Learn about the roles and duties of 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd and chief engineer on ships in our ebook series – A guide to become a successful marine engineer.
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