Marine Engine Mechanic

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Marine Engine Mechanic


Consider the importance of ferries and cargo ships that transport goods and people. For instance, island dwellers depend on ferry systems to transport them to various ports on the mainland. When there are mechanical problems on board a ship, this could cause serious delays and hazards for passengers. Marine engine mechanics operate, inspect, test and perform corrective and preventative maintenance on marine equipment.

They work on surface maintenance but also on submarines and other vessels cooling and firefighting systems, and diesel support systems. Marine engine mechanics also maintain and repair the refrigeration and air conditioning systems, and the ventilation control equipment. They are responsible for maintaining every aspect of the boat, from small motor boats to huge oil tankers.

Marine engine mechanics work aboard ships or in shipyards. There is an element of danger involved in the shipyard, as mechanics have to climb and crawl into tight spots, and there is often heavy lifting involved. Marine engine mechanics deal with a great deal of sophisticated machinery and therefore have a broad mechanical and technical knowledge about boat parts, such as propellers, steam and gas turbines and other gears.
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  Interests and Skills  
Marine engine mechanics should have a natural affinity for mechanics, mathematics and electronics. Since imprecise calculations could cause major disasters and expensive mistakes, they must be able to spot potential problems before they happen and make quick decisions in emergency situations. Their jobs are extremely technical therefore they should be organized and methodical in their working habits. They need to manage both physical and mental challenges.

Marine engine mechanics must have good hand-eye coordination, be patient and attentive and be in good shape. Finally, they should have a love of the marine environment, a respect for the way the ocean works and a sense of curiosity.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Ensure that the main engines and associated machinery, electrical, refrigeration, air conditioning and cargo-handling equipment on ships are operating efficiently
  • Monitor automatic data recording equipment and analyze data to make adjustments as required
  • Carry out regular maintenance of the main engine and also repair defective auxiliary equipment
  • Stand engine room watches at sea and in port
  • Ensure that the operations of the vessel do not lead to pollution
  • Perform major maintenance work while the ship is in port
  • Marine engine mechanics may work on shore, when a boat is docked, or at sea on voyages. Those working on ships work in all weather conditions, which can sometimes be hot, noisy, dirty and dangerous. It is common for some mechanics to match days on work with days off. For example, if a marine engine mechanic works on a ship for two months, they will usually have two months off when the voyage is over. Those who work primarily on docked ships will work standard hours, except for when there is an emergency situation requiring longer hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Marine engine mechanics work in ships' machine or engine rooms and on other parts of passenger and cargo ships and ferries. Some work on shore in offices and get called onto docked boats for repairs. When doing these repairs, marine engine mechanics must adhere to a very tight sailing schedule, because it costs ships a great deal of money to stay in port. They work for both the public and private sectors on passenger lines and ferries, cargo ships, offshore oil and gas suppliers, warships and submarines. They may work through a union or get directly hired by shipping companies that need a mechanic on staff.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced marine engine mechanics may advance to become chief mechanics or managers. They may go to school and become marine engineers to start designing plans and underwater machines that are used for mapping shipwrecks and underwater imaging.

  Educational Paths  
Marine engine mechanics receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a marine engine mechanic, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the marine engine mechanic a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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