The electronic control systems in use today enable many ships' engine control rooms to remain unmanned at night. As a newly qualified Engineer Officer, you will be rostered to attend to alarms that may sound whilst the engine room is unmanned. The engineer's responsibility is to investigate the cause of the problem and to ensure that any faults are rectified as swiftly and effectively as possible.
Routine maintenance checks are completed on most systems and equipment throughout the day. Some systems such as generators may be duplicated to allow maintenance cycles to be implemented. Other equipment may have to be operational throughout the period the vessel is at sea. This means some maintenance tasks, repairs, or upgrades of systems and equipment can only be carried out whilst the ship is in port.
The operation of merchant ships with small crews makes it common for many specialist tasks to be completed by shore crews who may sail with the vessel for short periods. Overseeing the work carried out by such riding crews and ensuring their safety is an additional duty and responsibility of the Engineer Officer.
The head of the Engineering Department, the Chief Engineer, has overall responsibility for the functioning of the engine room and all mechanical equipment on the ship. They will maintain records of all engine parts and repairs, be responsible for calculating fuel and water consumption and requirements and coordinate operations with shore side engineers and specialist riding crews.
The Second Engineer is directly involved in engine maintenance and assigns duties to engine room ratings and prioritises work according to the Chief's requirements.
The Third Engineer will often have specific responsibility for maintaining certain equipment within the engine room and throughout the vessel.
The Engineering Department may also have a small number of ratings who will have direct responsibility for general routine maintenance and other tasks associated with some of the more basic technical systems.
Updated: April 2016.