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CAREER ADVICE
DaveSA
Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013 9:35 AM
Joined: 15/05/2013
Posts: 5


Hello, 

I am a student in my fourth year of Mechanical Engineering in South Africa. I graduate at the end of next year and have recently been doing some research into viable career options/paths and I've been enlightened about career opportunities as a Marine Engineer. 

My goal is to speak to as many people in various engineering sectors so I can make an informed choice as to which career direction I should follow. I'm an incredibly positive person and I would like to find a job for which I'm passionate about hence would like to end up in the engineering sector, opposed to becoming a financial manager for some bank (for instance) - and no offense to anyone in that position, just not for me. I've done a fair bit of reading about becoming a super yacht engineer however there seems to be little advice for those looking. 

Essentially my family is all over the world (so no particularly strong family obligations), I have a European Passport which may make visas easier, I have a huge passion for the sea, I am an incredibly hard worker (I realize the long hours and massive effort required to be a good yacht engineer), thrive off learning new skills which I can apply, love fixing products and components and really enjoy working with enthusiastic people to get the job done. I am entirely committed to gaining a long term employment relationship where I can learn as much as I can and contribute effectively to the yachts performance as a whole.  I do understand that having a degree may give you the basic engineering theory however the practical side can be incredibly different. I also tend believe that there is not enough practical engineering application/exposure at many universities which is unfortunate. So it seems understandable that it may be hard to find work as even an assistant engineer on a yacht. Essentially I wanted to ask if there any engineers working on super yachts whom love their jobs and can recommend this as a viable career choice. Or do many engineers pursue it for a few years then change into another field because of the time away or for whatever reasons? I'd also like to ask if anyone has any advice for me on this career path, perhaps even recommend particular courses that I should complete before I graduate in order to give me the appropriate beginner knowledge.  From what I understand the obvious courses to complete are the RYA power boat level II, MCA STCW 95, ENG 1 Medical, MCA Approved Engine Course (AEC). 

I am trying to organize relevant work to the industry in my holidays to perhaps give some industry insight and some practical experience. 

I realize I have asked maybe one too many question for a single post but any input or advice would be such an unbelievable help towards making an informed decision. 

Really appreciated and thanks in advance!  


captcary
Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013 9:44 PM
Joined: 17/07/2008
Posts: 26


Hi Dave,

I started in the marine field in 1985 and I have loved it.  Some times the sea can toss your cookies but the nice times are well worth it.  I have worked both deck and engine and they are both great.  It sounds like you are on the right track with the STCW but you should try for a little more than an AEC.  With a four year degree in engineering you should be able to get a little more but since I am a yank I am not positive.  You are right, practical is different from theory but sometimes I wish I had a little more theory.  Once you start the practical it will make you understand better.  Sometimes it is hard as an SA to find work.  Don't let that get you down.  As a yank it can be hard as well.  This industry is fickle and tough to understand.  Just start by getting daywork, getting on a boat and spending time doing it.  That will make you progress in the industry.  Good luck and fair sailing!  


DaveSA
Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2013 10:00 AM
Joined: 15/05/2013
Posts: 5


Hi and thanks Captcary, its nice to hear people say they love what they do, and I think with any job you settle into , there's always going to be something which 'rocks your boat'.  You mentioned I should try obtain more than an AEC, by that I'm assuming you mean MEOL, or do you mean other courses to make your CV look more attractive to Captains/employers? Thanks again for the advice - much appreciated!
mattsaffa89
Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 1:50 AM
Joined: 18/01/2011
Posts: 2


Hey Dave

I'm in a similar position to what you propose, having graduated last year with a B.Eng, and I am currently on a boat working as sole deck/eng with a very experienced captain on a newbuild, I have no marine engineering tickets at all (or marine engineering experience at all, I did do a season before studying though)

- SA with EU passport is spot on, we have a good rep (mostly) for being hard workers with "healthy work mentality" (according to my Captain, in the industry for well over 50 years, he hires Saffas despite the extra admin with passport hassle) 

- Your degree will help you very very little on a "I learnt 3 phase so now I can change that generators oil filter" level (as you no doubt know! haha) but the problem solving ability you probably developed (I know I did) studying Eng really does help, even if it isn't obvious. Generally, it will help lots when learning all the systems on yachts, which can be pretty complicated, but compared to anything you studied, are pretty basic and straightforward. 

- My case is rather rare it would seem, as usually the captain would handle the engineering stuff on a yacht this size (30m range) or at least hire someone with experience, I don't know exactly, but I gather that he was more after someone with a good attitude and strong technical ability (and possibly low salary expectations!), my point is that I would guess you would start out as a engineer or deck/eng below a an engineer or 2 on a larger yacht, but getting something in the smaller range (yacht size wise) would mean having quite a lot of involvement in all of the systems, so you would therefore learn a lot more than if you were on a larger yacht. (This point might not be that valid and is a bit wandering.. Ja)

- Career choice, maybe. I'm doing it as a second 'gap year' as I enjoyed the first season so much, the money is really great and it's one of the few international jobs for us on SA passports.. However I don't consider it as a career for me, I don't see much future in it and your possible future opportunities are laid out rather plainly in the people you meet and where they are a few years ahead of you. In saying that, I find the prospect of earning good money and working towards tickets further down the line and working your way up the ladder a pretty decent career path, perhaps just a bit linear for my liking.. (Although compared to most Eng jobs in SA, it is a pretty legit), as for what the job is like after a couple of years, I obviously have no idea, and at this stage it is all pretty overwhelming and exciting, no doubt it becomes relatively predictable as you get into it.

-Getting into the industry is pretty damn difficult, but I'd say in your case you stand way above most new crew (with zero/minimal yacht experience and a list of stcw etc tickets) as having an engineering degree shows that you are smarter than most and are technically minded, unfortunately that still doesn't help too much, and there is very little you can do that effectively improves your 'hire-ability' other than actually getting a decent engineering ticket, which usually takes at least 6 months experience or something like that.. I'd say you are more likely to enter the industry as a deckhand, or with luck a deck/eng.. The engineering tickets all need some experience, besides the AEC, which apparently isn't really very in-depth. I guess that is definitely worth doing as it is the necessary first step in the direction of getting the rest of your tickets. Do all the courses you mentioned, and perhaps some sort of vac-work that involves servicing marine engines. I often wonder what kind of work would be a sure-fire help to entering the industry, but in terms of entry level deck/eng, there isn't much you can do in a short amount of time that would give you much of an idea!

Anyway, this is all just my 2c worth, I am by no means an accomplished yacht engineer, having pretty much only just completed my months trial period, so take everything I have said with that in mind! But I figured I am possibly of the few saffa engineering graduates working in the yacht industry so perhaps my insight will be of use!

If anything I'd recommend going for it, I'm typing this while on anchor watch in the Atlantic (2:43am and gusting 35 knots), and I know for sure that I'd far rather be here than stressing my nut studying for June exams or working for Sasol in Secunda!


Henning_1
Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 10:28 PM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1061


Yacht engineering? Go for Naval Architecture with a mechanical engineering degree, although some sea time would be helpful in those regards.  A yacht engineer is more of a maintenance mechanic's position, although it gets pretty interesting in the build and refit phases.
Anonymous
Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013 8:46 AM

Go to a marine school, get your marine engineering certificates of competency and then go onto a yacht.

You're future proof should you wish to pursue larger yachts, and if the time comes to leave the industry, you have the commercial sector. There's also shore-based work in the maritime industry as a superintendent or project manager etc.


DaveSA
Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 3:26 PM
Joined: 15/05/2013
Posts: 5


@mattsafa89 - Thanks so much for the reply bud, haha I had such a laugh at your last line as it seems all of the people I know who have graduated Mech Eng have ended up in these odd locations working in mines or plants in places I'd rather not be (Secunda being one), and also because I'm right in the middle of exams, 3 more left 'til the holidays and as you said I am stressing my nut haha. It is fairly demotivating hearing you reckon it might be too linear as a career choice, as I have this image in my mind that most land based jobs are the jobs/careers that are the entirely linear ones(I shouldn't stereotype I know!)!?(also by linear are you implying not stimulating?)As I said all my mates who are now in industry loved what they studied but hate the jobs they have. This too is why I'm exploring my options as from my point of view, SA has very limited exciting Mech Eng career prospects, average salaries and hence most of the guys end up in finance/management to try make a decent buck or two having lost all motivation and enthusiasm about engineering. So I am having somewhat sleepless nights at times thinking about where I see myself as an engineer in 5-10 years down the line. 

Thanks however for the advice, really is appreciated, I have a few contacts in the industry, one of whom said he might be able to organize a position for me! I reckon my best bet is to essentially test the waters and see if it takes or not! It would be cool to keep in touch mattsafa89 to grab your opinion from time to time, could I grab your email address?

@Henning 1 - thanks for the input!I have seen your posts on a couple of these forums, just wanted to know what your involvement in the industry is or was (positions etc)? So essentially do you reckon that a postgrad in Naval Architecture might be a good career choice  - challenging and stimulating?Ill try do some research into the industry but from what I know that would involve design and manufacture of marine equipment and vessels?

@Anonymous  - it seems there is this incredible division of opinions on which qualifications to shoot for but from my understanding there are two ways of gaining engineering qualifications, the yacht tickets (Y4 down to Y1) and the  VQ commercial route whereby you ultimately gain a C/Eng Reg III/2 unlimited - is my understanding correct? The latter allowing to work in the commercial side of things should you want to leave the yachting industry, and work on offshore industries.

Thanks again guys, have a good weekend.


Henning_1
Posted: Monday, May 27, 2013 5:37 AM
Joined: 01/06/2008
Posts: 1061


Hey Dave, no worries. I come from charter schooners in California over 25 years ago. I have a double digit IBNA membership number. I ran on Westward back when she was operating with the worlds oldest Atlas Imperial, a 1927. It was a way cool engine to run. I come with 25 years since as captain and engineer through many vessels and many shipyards in basically every end of the maritime sector I've been in since, which is most of them lol.

Yeah, if you have the mind to earn your stamps as a mechanical engineer, you now can have some fun and make it pay in the building and marketing as a naval architect. Don't let me discourage you from getting some sea time though, you should have significant sea time if possible. Design and building is where the fun and money is. Thing is you need to get the experience with the effects of form and function in the face of the sea in order to be able to design well. That's also why this stuff is usually done by teams of people.


mattsaffa89
Posted: Monday, May 27, 2013 9:57 PM
Joined: 18/01/2011
Posts: 2


Post your email or your surname and Ill find you on Facebook?
DaveSA
Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 7:54 AM
Joined: 15/05/2013
Posts: 5


davhavz@hotmail.com - thanks
Anonymous
Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 9:29 PM

Hi Dave, you've had good advice so far from the replies. To educate yourself some more look at the MCA website as to how to get a Y engineering certification. Or a Commercial Eng certification depending on what passport you have. To get a commercial  maritime engineering certification in SA you'll have to do some years at Technicon (as well as seatime aboard commercial vessels). You might find Technicon not so strenous after varsity . Contact SAMSA for more info. With SA's lack of shipping I would not recommend that route.

To do an AEC is a waste of money as you can educate yourself and the certificate has very little value. Same for MEOL. A Y4 should be your first goal if you decide to go the Y route, and for that you need seatime so you have to get on a yacht and learn the ropes, and systems. Again, you can look at the MCA  website and see what is required to submit an Notice of Eligibility (NOE) so that you'll get some recognition for your 4 year degree and get some seatime credit. (You'll be judged to a standard equivalent to a British apprenticeship.)

Should you want to practise engineering as a profession you should also get your Pr.Eng in SA, or Chartered Eng in the UK. or PE in the USA. Check with ECSA as to how to go about it, but essentially you have to work a number of years in some industry and then submit a work report verified by other Pr. Eng's. (But perhaps not a Secunda. I did mine while at ESKOM, many years ago). Getting a degree is just the start of a working career and nowadays one often has more than one career, so keep an open mind and you might find other opportunities that appeal to you more than being a CE on a yacht. I got my ticket out of SA by doing a capt licence and then running smaller (30 m) yachts while learning the boats and insdustry. This was before Y engineering certifications was required. Subsequently I also got my Y eng certifications, giving me more options than just being a capt, as there are way more licensed capt's than boats out there. I've been working on yachts now for about 13 years and still enjoy the technical aspects of it, as well as the traveling. Next step for me might be project management, keep on doing the present job, or winning the lotto and retirement.

Good luck with the exams and your career(s).


DaveSA
Posted: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 10:47 AM
Joined: 15/05/2013
Posts: 5


@Henning 1 - sounds like you've certainly had a exciting career! Its good to hear that the field can be somewhat two fold with experience needed on yachts to gain a systems functionality/practicality understanding should you want to go into the design and manufacture side of things!

@mattsaffa89 - Thanks again, I'll keep you posted with any progress I make!

@Anonymous - thanks! I've done a fair amount of reading on gaining these qualifications either the Y ticket or commercial route. I believe the next logical step (once I graduate) is to get a Naric certificate equivalency the send in these documents to the MCA for a certificate of comparison  indicating which courses may be of help (exemptions) in obtaining either the MCA Y licences or STWC95  CE commercial licences. From what I understand there seems to be more opportunity associated with gaining your certifications as CE through the commercial route ( opportunities in offshore industries - oil rigs/clean energy R&D etc) - is my understanding correct? As you said most routes require sea time and I think it'd be best to try get onto the boats and get a feel for things before I make any further decisions! I also wanted to ask your opinion about how you feel about the future demand of engineers in this field, I'd like to gather together a vague sort of forecast  (if at all possible)- as you said there are more captains out there than boats!

Thanks again for advice and your time guys!  - Dave


 
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