No, my dear readers. It’s not easy. Out at sea, every day is something different. Something enjoyable and something strange. But each day is unique in its own sense. This is one such day. A day in the life of a fourth engineer on the ship.
The phone rings annoyingly nonstop until I realized I have to stop it from waking me up especially when I was dreaming of my sign-off date.
I check out the porthole to make sure if its 6 AM or 6 PM. Still dark! It’s been a month since I lost track of that.
I pick up the phone. “Wake up call, sir.” says my motorman.
“Thanks Dan” and I wearily start brushing my teeth and put on my boiler suit.
Reach the engine room and greet the junior and the motorman.
Signal the kid to take a round of the engine room and the daily MARPOL tank soundings.
Time for some nice tea!
After my daily cup of gluttony, I get down to business. Time to take one complete round of the engine room. After all, the responsibility of overseeing $20m + assets is quite something.
“Dan, quite a lot has accumulated in the bilges. Time to transfer it out.”
Dan gives me his “will-do-sir” look and heads off to do the job.
Grasping an air of relief, I sat down at the table and realised it was time for my bunker calculations. When the Chief Engineer comes down, he is going to get on to the bunker papers immediately.
Just then the chief enters the engine room. Speak of the devil! I get him to listen to how I am going to accommodate the bunkers in how many tanks and after some healthy inattention I get a response, “Sure V. We can do that”
With a huge relief that I don’t have to redo my plans, I sit down.
580 tonnes, which means that at least a million dollars’ worth of oil. I better be careful.
Something terribly wrong with the purifier.
The second engineer says that he wasn’t able to change the oil to different density yesterday. I immediately realized the problem and decide to open up the machine for overhaul.
After three hours of hard work, the purifier is back and running again.
Feeling good I head up to the cabin only to find the chief waiting there to thank me for a good job. Oh man! Just when I was aching to get some rest.
Invites me into his cabin for a drink. Oh well, a little socializing never hurt anyone.
After an hour of testosterone-charged talking, I return to cabin to prepare my bunker papers. Got a long day ahead.
Doze off without realizing it…
Bunker barge is here! Shoot!
Check all the papers are in ship shape. Prepare Gas testing equipment. Go! Go! GO!
Feeling very close to an NFL quarterback, I run back and forth, trying to get the Fitter and the Motormen to connect the hoses and scream a few ear-full at the junior to make himself useful. A Little tough love!
Chief asks me to go to the barge and get the soundings of their tanks.
Gulp! Iced deck and slippery cold railings notwithstanding, I stare threateningly at the 50 knots blowing wind.
An hour’s analysis of whether it’s safe or not to get to the barge takes place.
“I will go”, finally I decide to make the decision-making process easy. Can’t be that frightening, can it?
After a 10 m descent to the barge, I get to the Russian manned barge with a dog the size of a young cow. Thankfully, the barge master seems impressed by my bits and pieces of Russian and didn’t let his dog loose on me. Whew!
Finally, the paperwork and the formalities are done.
“Koroshan”, I yell out to the barge Captain in Russian, meaning “All is good”
Bunker commenced! A million-dollar worth of liquid black gold transferred over high seas and I am responsible for it!
Alas the bunker is over and round 2 on NFL quarterback running around has commenced.
Papers, papers and lamer Russian speaking continue to reign supreme.
Barge is finally ready for cast off. All’s well that ends well, I guess.
Chief seems pretty happy, but still, a bit annoyed at receiving a ton of oil less.
“Relax chief. I will make up for it”, I promise and get on to cast off the barge with the junior.
“There you are! Want to head to the city to grab a drink after this??” the second officer quips in from the deck, as we are casting the barge off. Pretending to contemplate an answer for that one, I thoughtfully answer her with a smile” Thought you’d never ask! “ 😀
Ah! The Life of a sailor!
If you have any questions regarding the life and duties of a fourth engineer on a ship, you may get in touch with the author on his website.
You might also like to read Duties of a 4th Engineer on Ship .
About the Author
Vikram has a Marine engineering degree from BITS, Pilani and sails around the world for a living. He is an English literature addict, compulsive blogger, amateur mountaineer, and a consistent traveller of offbeat destinations being his hideout of choice, usually on a motorcycle.
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