Engine Crew Structure On Board Merchant Vessels

As mentioned in the previous article for the deck department on board merchant ships, everyday living aboard is set on precise rules and duties. Every crew member carries out his rank tasks so as to keep the ship operations running safely and efficiently.

The engine crew is accountable with using, maintaining and restoring, when demanded, the propulsion and support system. This department is also responsible with the repair and routine maintenance of additional systems, such as: lighting, lubrication, refrigeration, air conditioning, separation, fuel oil, electrical power etc.

As stated by the vessel’s hierarchy, the engine officers are the following: Chief Engineer, Second Engineer, Engine Watch Officer, Electrician Officer and Engine Cadet.

The first officer also in charge of the engine department is the Chief Engineer. He assumes total control of the engine room and has to be sure that every single system and equipment works by the book and is investigation permanently. He also maintains up-to-date inventory for spare parts, additional fuel and oil and delegates the tasks for the officers under his command. To become a Chief Engineer a seafarer must first be a Second Engineer with no less than 2 years sea time experience.

After the Chief Engineer, in control with the engine room is the Second Engineer, who also has a management level position. He helps the Chief Engineer to maintain the ship running efficiently, is in charge of overseeing the day by day maintenance and operation in the engine room and prepares the engine room for arrival, departure or other operations. He answers directly to the Chief Engineer.

The Engine Watch Officer position is generally held by the Third or Forth Engineer and it is an operational level position. The Third Engineer is usually in charge with the change of boilers, fuel, the auxiliary engines, condensate and feed systems. The Fourth Engineer is the most inexperienced officer, who has jobs assigned by the Second Engineer, and some of his duties are: engine watch, air compressors, purifiers and other auxiliary machinery.

Another officer working in the engine room is the Electrical Engineer, in charge with supervising and ensuring the maintenance and good functioning of all the electrical systems and machinery. The Electrical Engineer responds directly to the Second Engineer and to the Chief Officer and must have proper training to do this activity.

Some merchant vessels include among its crew members an Engine Cadet or Electrical Cadet, who receive structured training and experience on the ship and learn to become an engine or electrical officer.

In addition to the officers, the engine department crew also has ratings, such as Motorman, Fitter, Electrician, Pumpman and Oiler/wiper.

The Motorman is the engine rating who keeps watch and helps the engine officers when it comes to doing maintenance duties. He also participates in maintaining and repairing the principal and auxiliary engines, pumps and boilers.

On board vessels, the Fitter undertakes every day maintenance and engine cleanup jobs and also specialized in manufacure, welding or repairing.

The Electrician on board a merchant vessel is the rating working on the electrical devices and systems, electrical wiring and high voltage panels.

Mostly on tanker vessels we can also find a Pumpman, responsible with the liquid cargo transfer system, pumps, the stripping pumps, filters valves, deck devices involved with the liquid cargo transfer etc. His main job is to maintain the liquid cargo system on a tanker running adequately.

The Oiler or Wiper on board is the rating responsible with cleansing the engine areas, machinery, lubricating bearings along with other moving parts of the engine and helping out the engine officers in the general maintenance of the machinery to ensure that the oil temperature is within standards and oil gauges are running properly.

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