Ship duty engineer

A ship duty engineer


Ship duty engineers share responsibility for most of the content of the ship’s hull. They ensure operation of the main engines, steering mechanism, electrical generation and other major subsystems. They communicate with the ship chief engineer to perform technical operations.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to ship duty engineer:

duty engineer on a ship
ship engineering officer
maritime duty engineer
maritime engineering officer

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in marine engineering, marine technology, or a related field is generally required to work as a ship duty engineer. These programs typically include courses in marine propulsion, marine systems, marine mechanics, marine hydraulics, marine electronics and marine engineering design.

Many marine engineers also have an associate’s or a master’s degree in marine engineering or a related field.

In some countries, a license may be required to work aboard a vessel.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Ship duty engineer is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Ship duty engineer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to ship duty engineer.

ship assistant engineer
deck officer
marine chief engineer
aviation data communications manager
vessel engine tester

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of ship duty engineer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of ship duty engineer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

maritime water transport general manager
aerodynamics engineer
animal feed nutritionist
aviation surveillance and code coordination manager
aviation communications and frequency coordination manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of ship duty engineer.

  • Operation of different engines: Know the characteristics, maintenance requirements and operating procedures of various kinds of engines such as gas, diesel, electrical, and engines with steam propulsion plants.
  • Ship hull engineering: Understand the construction and engineering of the watertight body of ships where machines and engineering operations are carried out.
  • International maritime organisation conventions: Know International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions in order to maximise the efficiency and safety of international shipping.
  • Maritime transportation technology: Understand maritime transportation technology and stay up-to-date with the latest findings in the field. Apply this knowledge in operations and decision-making while on-board.
  • Principles of combustion engines: Basic knowledge and understanding of different types of engines and their construction and performance.
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System: The internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.
  • Engine components: Know the different engine components, and their operation and maintenance. Understand when repairs and replacement should be undertaken.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of ship duty engineer.

  • Operate diesel propulsion plants: Operate diesel and gas turbine propulsion plants including related machinery, such as auxiliary boilers, auxiliary engines, incinerators, air compressors, fuel and fuel oil purifiers.
  • Manage second level engines: Operate and maintain second level engines such as boilers and auxiliary engines.
  • Operate maritime communication equipment: Operate and maintain maritime communication devices; conduct periodic inspections of communication equipment.
  • Manage vessel engines and systems: Manage main engines (steam, gas or diesel), refrigeration systems, and any other equipment in the vessel’s engine system.
  • Moor vessels: Follow standard procedures to moor vessels. Manage communication between the ship and the shore.
  • Inspect engine rooms: Inspect engine rooms to detect the presence of any hazardous materials, and to ensure legal compliance. Inspect the construction of the rooms, the functionality of equipment, the adequacy of room ventilation, and the frequency of maintenance activities.
  • Operate vessel engine room: Operate and maintain the engine room of vessels. Operate the main engine room where the engine and propulsion machinery are located.
  • Apply vessel engine regulations: Understand the regulations regarding the vessel engines and apply those regulations in engine maintenance and operation.
  • Perform routine maintenance of ship engines: Perform routine maintenance tasks on all ship engine systems; monitor engines to ensure they function within standard operating parameters.
  • Provide support in vessel machinery systems: Provide support based on knowledge of maritime operations, vessel assurance, and machinery systems.
  • Prepare engine room for operation: Prepare and start main engine and auxiliary engines; prepare machinery in engine room prior to departure; know and follow starting procedures according to checklist.
  • Detect malfunctions in engines: Detect and effectively respond to machinery malfunctions. Take actions in order to prevent material damage; practice damage control.
  • Maintain vessel inventory: Keep an up-to-date inventory for a vessel, including information on spare components, oil and fuel. Determine the amount of fuel that will be needed for a voyage; ensure that sufficient amounts of fuel are on board at all times.
  • Manage safety standards for maritime water transport: Manage and maintain safety standards and procedures for maritime transport. Ensure that before dispatching any vessel, all regulations and standards are met. May also be required to operate as a member of an Emergency Response Team.
  • Perform bunkering: Perform bunkering, the process of supplying fuels to ships for their own use. Ensure sufficient amounts of fuel for the duration of the journeys.
  • Unmoor vessels: Follow standard procedures to unmoor vessels. Manage communication between the ship and the shore.
  • Maintain vessel engine room: Maintain the engines and engine room equipment of a vessel. Conduct pre-checks prior to departure and ongoing examinations during the voyage.
  • Evaluate engine performance: Read and comprehend engineering manuals and publications; test engines in order to evaluate engine performance.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of ship duty engineer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Principles of mechanical engineering: Understand principles of mechanical engineering, physics, and materials science.
  • Physics: The natural science involving the study of matter, motion, energy, force and related notions.
  • Mechanics: Theoretical and practical applications of the science studying the action of displacements and forces on physical bodies to the development of machinery and mechanical devices.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of ship duty engineer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Act reliably: Proceed in a way that one can be relied on or depended on.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Follow written instructions: Follow written directions in order to perform a task or carry out a step-by-step procedure.
  • Repair vessel mechanical systems: Repair mechanical systems of vessels while on-board. Ensure that vessel malfunctions are repaired without affecting the voyage in progress.
  • Write work-related reports: Compose work-related reports that support effective relationship management and a high standard of documentation and record keeping. Write and present results and conclusions in a clear and intelligible way so they are comprehensible to a non-expert audience.
  • Liaise with colleagues: Liaise with fellow colleagues to ensure common understanding on work related affairs and agree on the necessary compromises the parties might need to face. Negotiate compromises between parties as to ensure that work in general run efficiently towards the achievement of the objectives.
  • Use maritime English: Communicate in English employing language used in actual situations on board ships, in ports and elsewhere in the shipping chain.
  • Work in a water transport team: Work confidently in a group in water transport services, in which each individual operates in their own area of responsibility to reach a common goal, such as a good customer interaction, maritime safety, and ship maintenance.
  • Analyse work-related written reports: Read and comprehend job-related reports, analyse the content of reports and apply findings to daily work operations.

ISCO group and title

3151 – Ships’ engineers

  1. Ship duty engineer – ESCO
  2. Featured image: By U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seaman Remus Borisov – Public Domain
Last updated on January 17, 2023

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