7 Jobs Junior Engineers And Engine Cadets Hate Doing On Board Ships

Note: The following article has not been written to demotivate young engineers going to ships or to disrespect on board practices mentioned herein. The points mentioned are a result of a brief survey and depicts real practices carried out onboard ships.

Junior engineers and engine cadets are placed on onboard ships for a reason – to learn and enhance their engineering knowledge in the practical environment of ships.

After four years of rigorous training, when young engineers go on board ships, they are full of enthusiasm and zeal to excel in their field.

Unfortunately more than often, these junior engineers and cadets are not treated like they should be.  Most of them report that they are made to do various odd jobs, which are not even vaguely related to marine engineering. In the process, they lose the valuable training time they have been allotted on ships, leaving them with a weak base of technical knowledge and dwindling interest in sailing.

Marine Insight carried out a brief survey of about 100 junior engineers and engine cadets asking them what they didn’t like about the work they performed during their first sail. We have listed seven of the most common answers we have received in this article.

1.    Cleaning Engine Room Bilges:

This is one of the most common jobs that young engineers are asked to perform by seniors on ships. Engine room bilges must remain clean to avoid PSC detentions and junior engineers are their permanent cleaners.

Junior Engineer
Photograph by Joerge Dordas

Surprisingly, most of the senior engineers also see this job as a punishment for fresh professionals on board ships. Many management level engineers send junior engineers to bilges when they make a mistake or when they are not performing at par with their expectations.

There have been many junior engineers in the past who have spent half of their training time on ships cleaning bilges.

Some management level engineers also get an ego boast when they order juniors to go to the bilges whereas some believe that as they themselves have gone through such practices it is important that the juniors under them also go through the same.

No first time professional on ship wants to spend time doing shipboard job, which is not related to its academics or training requirements.  However, because of the fear of losing their jobs during these difficult times or because of threat from seniors, these juniors carry out the orders without repelling or complaining.

2.  Doing Paper Work:

Junior engineers are the new paper-work personnel on board ships. After a tiring day, they are often seen in front of computers, filling up important documents, which actually need to be attended by managerial officers personally.

It has become a common practice onboard ships wherein important documents and forms are filled up by juniors, followed by a final signature by a senior officer.

As most of the time of rest hours is spend in attending paperwork, juniors often do not get proper rest and time to solve their queries and technical problems.

Official documents have become extremely important under the ISM code. Senior engineers on board ships must take out time out of their busy schedule to attend to this work  instead of passing it on to the junior engineer, who would want to spend more of his free time gathering knowledge of the ship’s machinery rather than typing away in front of the computer.

3. Handling Provision

Ships take provision when at port. As the provision is to be handled by crane and arranged in the provision room, more manpower is required to handle this. As most of the crew members are busy handing various jobs when at port, juniors are often sent to the chief cook for assisting in carrying provision and arranging them in the store.

Often this is a long and tiring job, which requires a lot of time and effort. Young engineers would rather want to be in the engine room learning various procedures as most of the maintenance jobs are carried out when the ship is at port. Moreover, most of them have to report back to the engine room for assisting senior engineers, which exponentially adds to their fatigue level.

4.  Helping in Messroom / Accommodation Cleaning

Some ships follow a practice of sending selected crew members from each department, every few days for cleaning of certain mess and accommodation areas.

As most of the times all the experienced members of the engine room department are busy carrying out important jobs, junior engineers are often sent for this job.  Needless to say, the juniors have to carry out this job without complaining, wasting their important time and effort.


Junior Engineer 5.  Painting and Cleaning Jobs

There are times when after a major overhauling, the machinery needs to be painted for the upcoming survey or inspection. Junior engineers are often assigned with such paining jobs of not only machinery but also ship’s bulkhead inside the engine room. Often ,the job of engine room and engine control room cleaning is also assigned to juniors or they are asked to assist crew members for the same.

6. Garbage Disposal to Shore

Garbage collected over a period of time has to be discharged to shore reception facilities when the ship is at port. Junior engineers are often asked to carry out this task even when he is assisting any of the senior for maintenance work in the engine room. Most of the time he is also sent to take rounds of the whole engine room searching for garbage, scrap etc. and carry it to the open deck. A lot of time and effort, which can be utilised in gaining technical knowledge, is thus wasted.

7. Assisting in Pilotage Operation:

Many might not have heard about this practice but it has been prevalent on ships which have very short time between ports during any particular voyage. As most of the deck crew are either busy or tired of the deck jobs and cargo handling, junior engineers are asked to go to the bridge to carry out the role of “look-out”. Surprisingly, through the survey we found that several junior engineers have assisted in carrying out such procedures in addition to their daily working hours.

We know most of the senior officers and members of the maritime fraternity will argue on the fact that a few of the jobs mentioned above are compulsory for junior engineers. This is important so that the young professionals coming on ships have an idea as to how these jobs are carried out and it would also help them in future when then have to assign jobs to others.

Though we agree with this idea, we also feel that making juniors do these jobs on daily or weekly basis demotivates them in a certain way. The short training time they have acquired on board ships through hard work is extremely important to them to gain more knowledge and prepare themselves for future examinations. In order to make them better engineers of future, it extremely important that  they are motivated in the right way by giving them the respect and work they deserve on ships.

Do you know about any other practices junior engineer or engine cadets hate to carry out on board ships? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. In recent days while in the high risk areas apprentice engineers are sometimes bound to do security watch on the bridge on 6 on and 6 off basis while the deck is fenced with barbwire, there is no job for deckhands although it found they only do a 4 on and 8 off normal bridge navigational watch . Even then most of the times the engine cadets has to spend all this 6 hours having security watch standing outside under hot weather ,the deck crews spend this whole time inside the air conditioned bridge which leads the cadets to be mentally immortalized. things become even worst when there is an emergency in the engine room right after the security watch and the cadet is called upon immediately..

  2. in fact one area which i to do don’t liked during ma engine cadet ship is that sometime i used to put on the gangway and security watches. This watches normally was additional duty for me which used to hamper my shore leaves. I understand the necessity of team work inboard ship but extra duties as gangway watchmen where you can watch the city but cant visit is really a matter of ponder of I.M.O

  3. While I understand that juniors only have so much time to learn their trade and their specific ship, what i am hearing sounds like a bunch of whining from individuals who will gladly lord it over the crew when they get a chance. it reminds me of the Canadian Coast Guard Engineers T-shirt that said… The future belongs to those who are willing to get their hands dirty. suck it up and get on with it!!!

  4. Though the article points out important facts. It is important to note that what cadets have also to learn is the dignity of labour, which is the main cause of them quitting the sea.
    Nowadays we are having consistently short manning and in such cases the seniors do not have much of a say.
    Though the columnist has written a disclaimer, it does not prevent juniors from becoming biased.
    The writer must in turn write articles that soothes and encourages the cadets to do their best.

  5. Not only this.personel conflict, ego, jealous so so many things that come between senior and juniors. Subordinate s will do bcoz they afraid of senior appraisal. Some Manning offices only lisen and care of this unprofessional senior report. They never make enquiry of the mentioned subject. The only thing ship need company make ammendment to do appraisal on both sides. I mean junior to senior and vice versa. Not only seniors.

  6. At Sea and on board ships, irrespective of colour or creed, young and old, one has to fully familiarise himself with the ships’ routines from day one. Secondly comradeship and respect to your crewmates irrespective of rank , has to be adhered to. Gone are the days when a ship is in port for a long time where one can have proper shore leave.
    I have spent a 30-year career and went right through the ranks, believe me guys I wish I was younger, I will go back to sea, no matter what. The mercantile marine is a good career.

  7. Pls I need a placement as an engine cadet.I have my neccesary documents if am accepted I will be grateful.thanks

  8. i have done all above n in addition i was paid if extra hours, the last one was part of contract to use me if required.But still got good supportive seniors both crew n officers will take rag or broom if the work was too big for me……..Then i thought i will be supportive to my juniors

  9. To be a fully functioning member of the crew, you must be utilisable in a variety of rolls. The idea that you are only on board to work the one roll, solely for furthering education is ridiculous. If you want this, then you should be onboard as an UNPAID INTERN. At the end of the day, if you are not willing to do something yourself, then you have no right to ask someone else to do it for you. Potential future engineering OFFICERS should be MORE than aware of the leadership roll into which they are entering, and that at sea they may be called upon to preform tasks outside of their usual roll. This is BASIC RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. While I am sure there are vessels where what is said in the article can be taken to the extremes, and is reflected accurately, Harvey Heaton in the comments is quite right in saying it sounds like a lot of whining.

    I was under the impression that these are all part and parcel of the roll being undertaken. You’re welcome to stay on land if you disagree.

  10. Good day all, please Mr Joseph Amato can i have your phone number because i need to ask some questions concerning Maritime Courses

  11. Good daysir,
    I am.preparing for class 4 exams..may i know which books to refer for preperation.

  12. @Faisal: Not at all. During the start of every profession, everyone has to do hardship. However, on ships, the basic learning starts with cleaning your own mess. An officer who can perform all the work on his own, no matter what type it is, he will lead by an example.

  13. Iam a TME and I have 9 months contract in which company told me to work 3 months in deck side and 6 months in engine.

  14. Due to shortage of manpower, junior Engineer who is on-duty is sent to poop deck to attend to Winch during Mooring Operation joining deck crew. Sometimes if the vessel is taking too long to be moored, the Junior engineer overlaps to his time of duty where supposedly must be his time off.

  15. @Junie: This is how companies are trying to save pennies risking the safety of life and ship. Rather calling it “Shortage of Manpower” (we have an oversupply of seafarers), we should call it “Shortening the manpower”.

  16. Garbage disposal is only once or twice per month job on most of the ships. Cleaning the bilges the same, depends on the standard of maintenance in the engine room. If engineers do not rectify leakages ofcourse they are cleaning daily. Paper work is part of any officers job onboar you are an OFFICE-er… 😀 by nature… means paperwork… in between all this jobs enumarated in this article you have weeks and weeks to attend to actual maintenance jobs inside engine room. I saw plenty times cadets just doing their cleaning fast and after that not showing any initiative to ask to assist on a particular job for his training. Engineers have themselfs plenty jobs to carry out against time all the time.. they are not professional teachers to take by the hand to teach you. It is up to you to ask to be envolved every where in order to aquire the necessary knowledge… so stop wining guys… 🙂

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