Marine Repair technician

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Marine Repair technician


Do you ever stop and 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 repair technicians to the rescue! Marine repair technicians 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 fire fighting systems, and diesel support systems. Marine repair technicians 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 your little motor boat at the cottage to a huge oil tanker that ships fuel from the Middle East to the gas pumps in North America.

Marine repair technicians 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. They get very dirty having to squeeze into small places and under hard-to-reach areas and there is often heavy lifting involved. Also they run into some pretty gross things, like human waste and hydraulic oil, which often get caught in the bilge that they must clean out. They 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.

Marine repair technicians are born troubleshooters and very creative problem solvers. For example, if you are out in the middle of the ocean and something breaks, it is up to the repair technician to come and fix the problem with the tools he or she has. You cannot step off the boat to the nearest hardware store to pick up the extra nails and wrench you might need. Therefore, solutions must be creatively and innovatively arrived at from time to time, including making new tools or parts.
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  Interests and Skills  
Marine repair technicians 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 or 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 repair technicians must have good hand-eye co-ordination, be patient and attentive and be in good shape. Finally, they should hold 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 analyse 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 repair technicians 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 repair technicians to match days on work with days off. For example, if a marine repair technician 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 overtime hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Marine repair technicians work in ships' machine or engine rooms and on other parts of passenger and cargo ships and ferries. Some work onshore in offices and get called onto docked boats for repairs. When doing these repairs, marine repair technicians 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 an engineer on staff.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced marine repair technicians 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 ancient shipwrecks and underwater imaging. The possibilities are endless.

  Educational Paths  
Marine repair technicians 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 states to become a marine repair technician, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with 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 from state to state, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position however wages are about 50% less of what an employer pays the Journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their state industry training and apprenticeship office awards the marine repair technician 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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