Modern ships use the latest technology and equipment that the marine engineer has to understand, operate and maintain. The job demands a high degree of discipline, since a chief engineer will be in charge of a ship and cargo costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Machinery include the main propulsion plant, a power generating system, a freshwater generating system, boilers and turbines for pumping cargo and large cargo handling gears. This is different from the job of a deck officer, which involves navigation of the ship, receiving and discharging cargo and administrative work. A marine engineer can be assigned to a cargo ship, container ship, or oil and gas tanker. To work on a gas-carrying ship, one will be required to do a short certification course
What do they do?
Ships, perhaps the most ancient mode of transport used by humans to explore the earth, still have a romance about them that is unmatched by even the fastest aircraft. Modern ships are to their early-dawn cousins what the moon rocket is to the Wright brothers’ glider. It is the marine engineer who manages the enormous propellant power and the intricate machinery of a ship, helping it cross an ocean within days.
“During the four years of training for a marine engineering degree, a student would be educated in all engineering aspects of the ship, including construction, running, operations and maintenance,” says JK Dhar, principal, Lal Bahadur Shastri College of Advanced Maritime Studies & Research, Mumbai. But this being a life on sea, there is more to learn than just about machinery. “More importantly,” says Dhar, “the student would be prepared for the career ahead, which is highly paying but hard at the same time. This career will keep him away from his family in the initial years, while he is sailing round the globe.”
On these long voyages, patience and diplomacy are as important as hardcore engineering skills. “You have to be flexible, as everybody is homesick, maybe frustrated,” says Sairam Mohan, a Bangalore-based third engineer with Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. After eight years of sailing, Mohan, an alumnus of Vel’s Academy of Maritime Studies in Chennai, is thinking of options closer home, now that he has a wife and a child. His choices are power plants or coastal ships that largely connect Indian ports.
Months and months of living surrounded by water means not many women choose this career or go far in it. However, there are compensations — substantial ones at that. First, there is the pay, which is very high even at the starting level and then rises steadily as the promotions come. Then, there is the time off, which is four to six months in a year. Third, as a sailor, one gets to see the world.
For those who are not called away from the sea by family commitments, the top rung of the ladder is the post of chief engineer. “A marine engineer becomes chief engineer but not captain,” says Dhar. “To become a captain, one has to do a three-year degree programme in nautical science after Plus Two, then take an all-India entrance exam and subsequent exams conducted by the government of India. However, both the paths are parallel with respect to salary and career progression.”
A marine engineer normally sails for 15-20 years. After the age of 40, people usually take up shore jobs, which may be in shipyards, maritime universities or in management of a shipping company. Other employment sectors are banks, hotels and power plants. With the opportunities and rewards that this line offers, for a marine engineer, it seems, the sea is the limit.
Source: HT Horizons
. Mental strength, as a ship’s maintenance is literally a matter of life or death
. Resolute ambition, since career progression depends on regular, tough exams
. The ability to get along with people, since at sea, the crew is your family
. Physical fitness, as it could make a difference to the number of sailing years
How do I get there?
The Lal Bahadur Shastri College of Advanced Maritime Studies & Research, Mumbai, a central university, offers a four-year BTech degree programme in marine engineering.
The entrance qualification is Plus Two with physics, chemistry and maths along with IIT-Joint Entrance Examination ranking.
Other institutions also have degree programmes with the same Plus Two requirements and with some national-level entrance examination. They are affiliated to reputable universities in the country. The Marine Engineering & Research Institute in Kolkata, the oldest such college in India, offers a four-year BMarE degree through affiliation to Jadavpur University. A graduate engineer joins the ship as a trainee