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Rotation Versus Full Time Engineers
Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:20 AM
Joined: 03/03/2011
Posts: 100

I would really like some good honest input from engineers and captains on this topic.  Feel free to post anon but please post your qualifications and relevant experience too.


I have 8 years in the yachting industry and currently hold a Y3 license.  Next month I am due to leave my current vessel after working pretty much flat out for the last 12 months. The interest in the work and technology keeps me going but I work to a level where I get close to burn out and eventually have to take a couple of months out to protect my sanity. Maybe I am just choosing the wrong boats to work but maybe not.

Is this why many engineers switch from full time to rotational?  How good is it actually to only work half a year. There are many variations of salary with rotation, from paid while on only, paid while on and off, paid while on with a retainer while off, paid a day rate - what is the norm in your experience. Also rotational periods, 2 on/off, 3 on/off, 4 on 2 off etc

Captains - how does the job share work with regard to quality of maintenance on your boats, do hand overs run smoothly, do you find it hard to find two engineers that compliment each other.  Do you look for different qualities in a rotational engineer than you do in a full time engineer, if so, what are they?

Are there as many rotational roles for sail as there are motor?  I see plenty of motor yacht roles but many of them appear to be on 20+ year old vessels - what kind of condition are these old boats in?  I much prefer big sailing boats but it looks like I will need to consider motor as a means to find a rotation.

Your thoughts and input are much appreciated

Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 1:52 AM
Joined: 19/10/2008
Posts: 38

Hello, I am a dually (Capt.. & Engineer),  it works all the time on commercial vessels for the routine and job is more forward.  On a Yacht it is totally different - throw-in assisting with parties and many extra duties engineers only do on yachts.  Then if something is close to repair so the job is delayed for the next on order are ID for what job?,  Or challenge the decision of how to repair the item the other engineer is working on.  All this bills up to very upset engineers and lower quality of job. 

Then there is always the Yachts it works "ok"...bottom line - it is pot luck - the engineers I know do not want anyone to work on their is called professional pride. They like a two week to one month relief so the augmenter does not have a chance to mess with their vessel.

Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 4:55 AM
Joined: 28/04/2011
Posts: 56

Almost all of the larger motor yachts above 70m+ and particularly those with Chief Engineer (Unlimited) CoC's operate some form of rotation, ranging from 2:2 to 4:2 at the worst end of the spectrum. 

 I have yet to see an issue with quality and pride simply because of rotation. The rotations between the different engineers are staggered and working as a close team continuously returning to the yacht, you will of course have a professional interest in achieving the best possible standard.

 If a yacht wants to keep it's Engineers/Officers for the long term with good retention, they need to offer conditions that will appeal to these professionals. If someone has a family and children and a lot of experience, the only way to prevent them leaving is to provide them with suitable conditions such as rotation.


Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 6:12 AM
Joined: 04/09/2010
Posts: 7

I have been a captain on boats without an engineer for 6 years, and the. A captain with engineer(s) for 10 years.
We started on pne boat having a full time engineer, and then made the transition to rotation.
I would say most engineers want to have a family, and once the kids start arriving, it becomes obvious that they cannot be away on a boat forever.
For engineers who make the switch from full time to rotation (we pay for time on and time off at the same rate, i.e. the engineer is entitled to 6 month's holiday per year), they are shocked by how little they earn compared to when they were working full tme - expect the salary to be around 75% of a full time salary.  This can be hard when the engineer already has commitments such as repayments for a house, car etc., and their wife gets pregnant again.!
If you are going to do rotation to give yourself a break, rather than be forced to due to family commitments, then you can get used to the routime before you have to do it.
Problems often arise between the two rotational 'halves' - it is important that you both have respect for each other.  Although there is a tendancy to not communicate with the off rotation engineer, trying to respect his time off, experience shows that tis is better to update them with what has been happening on board.  This keeps the off-rotation engineer in the loop, where he can comment, if he wishes.  It is always better to go back to work knowing what is happening, than not.
It is easy for one engineer to blame problems on the other, and so it is important to find some common ground in their way of working.  Ideally, they should work together for a week or two at the beginning of employment, then for a few days at rotation changeover, to bring them together.
We do 2 months on, 2 months off.  In our opinion, this is ideal.  However, the actual schedule is agreed between the engineers, with the captain approving it.  This allows flexibility, and ofr instance, means that the two can take turns at spending Christmas on board etc.

Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 9:30 AM
Joined: 29/07/2008
Posts: 12

Zenith wrote:

 If a yacht wants to keep it's Engineers/Officers for the long term with good retention, they need to offer conditions that will appeal to these professionals. If someone has a family and children and a lot of experience, the only way to prevent them leaving is to provide them with suitable conditions such as rotation.


You said the truth! I never stayed as engineer on board a vessel(commercial or motoryacht) more than 9 months! For young people which like to stay onboard for the salary ,this is a sacrifice! Sooner or later ,they will realize this sacrifice was a mistake.This is not life to stay 11 months onboard ,1 month off and after, again.But where is your life?Your family and friends? 

I hope all owners and yacht managers will  understand what I said.In our life ,money shouldn`t be the main target. An outsider asked me :why so long period should stay on yacht? This is a jail( paid) period? He said to me he observed the life of crewmembers is not easy ,all time on duty,strict rules to follow, etc.I was thinking he was right.The problem will not be solved if vacancies for engineers/officers are filled easily in these conditions(non-rotational )If people accept ,will be difficult to change something.

Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 2:16 PM



Hello, I am unlimited chief engineer, and also chief officer, worked on commercial passengers ships and now yachts. From my point of view, rotations for officers (at least, but should be fore everyone) is the only professional way to go, and already applied on all commercial ships big or small (cruise, passengers, tugs, tankers, etc…)

Other ways applied on yachts like 1 month off/year appeared to me like middle age slavery when I discovered it ! The reason for having at least equivalent time off on rotation is very simple: when you are on board 7days as Engineer, you work during the day of course, but you are also on duty during every single night! Meaning if something goes wrong, you will wake up and solve it! So in other words, the rest you’re having on board shouldn’t be considered as leaves as long as you are obliged to stay at your working place. So for 7x24 hours spent at work, being entitled to 7x24 hours at home, is nothing but natural, with full salary of course.

Then about how to work at two engineer on one vessel, that’s a matter of working culture. If you write down everything, no problem.  And after a few rotations, you should be humble and tolerant towards your colleague, as you will face same issues as him! Then lazy guys remain lazy guys, rotation or not..

Us, engineers with enough qualification are fortunately in a position to ask for this kind of rotation on yachts, hoping it will influence with time other departments, as this should not be considered as a privilege but as a reference. Especially on yachts, where there is little risk to compromise the financial balance of the business.

I found it always shocking to see so much money exposed outside with so poor social conditions inside! I mean that social conditions on a yacht are sometimes worse than on a fishing boat, and often worse than on civilized cargo ships (container, tankers, etc..)

Then remain two aspects: the case of backpackers deckhands and stews who are happy to sail 12 months once in their life and go back home. Good for them, but they don’t help much in making the business more pro. And a difference should be made between them and career seamen (and women).

And last aspect is salaries, which are higher than on commercial ships, but that’s another debate.




Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2013 9:24 AM
Hello, only who can change that is management. They need to present professional seaman and permanent rotation to their clients(owners).
Posted: Monday, May 27, 2013 2:10 PM
I am a captain with +10 years exp. I myself rotate. In my experience we get 90% all year plus added perks like business flights etc. Its a 3 on 3 off, depending on charters it sometimes changes and we then add / subtract to even out on the next one. The only way it works is to have mutual respect for the others ability, and to run all major decisions by each other in order to discuss the best outcome. That's why you get paid even when you are off, so that you can be available. I find that a weekly update email to the off party keeps them in the loop sufficiently, and having been off and wondering where the boat is and what its doing it is nice to get an update. The captain can ensure that this is done by getting CC'd in. That way there is also a history in case the 2 engineers implode and new ones need to be hired. Having a strong 2nd engineer helps a great deal with the whole handover process, as he would have been privy to most work that went on, and as such it is important to have someone who knows what they are talking about. Don't rely on the second for the handover as he is there to assist, not the whole just ask the 2nd he knows what we did, that's laziness. The key to a successful rotation is accurate and honest handover notes, 4-5 pages usually tends to cover it. All parties also need to be honest as far as routine maintenance is concerned and as such a set in stone maintenance schedule needs to be set up by both engineers in partnership. Obviously things happen outside of a set schedule, but hey that's yachting. All you need is 2 equally qualified guys with a love of the job and as long as they respect each other and don't take the piss it works exceptionally well. Yes I am talking from experience.