Miracle Workers

8 August 2008 By Chief Engineer Gordon Winchester

The role of engineers on board superyachts has developed tremendously in recent years and, as the fleet size expands, finding and keeping good engineers is increasingly difficult.

Today’s engineer has to be multi-disciplined -- “a jack of all trades and master of none.” He or she must be fully up to date with all the latest technology, while still being capable of fulfilling the variety of responsibilities expected.  

Demand for the service of qualified and experienced superyacht engineers is at an all time high. While yachts need to be selective in the choice of engineers they hire, engineers are becoming equally discerning when it comes to making an important career move.

In fact, it does yacht engineers an injustice to suggest that they are entirely mercenary. Contrary to popular belief engineers do not move from job to job at the drop of a hat; most are cautious when leaving one job to accept another.

It’s fair to say that most engineers look for salary and rotation improvement, but they are often prepared to compromise on both, provided an offer is at least equal to their present package and commensurate with the current market.

It’s not wages (or the lack thereof) that cause many engineers to leave one yacht for another – the primary reason engineers switch jobs is poor engine room design and difficulty in keeping the plant fully operational.

With a varied scope of skills, the chief engineer is always in demand, which leads to a rather complex job description.

Think your job is tough? Consider some of the responsibilities of the engineer. Here’s just a sample:

The chief engineer not only has to service, repair and maintain all of the vessel’s machinery and equipment to a reliable standard, but he must also oversee the safe bunkering of fuel and oils on board the vessel and advise the captain on fuel consumption.

Anti-pollution control also falls under the chief engineer’s domain. He has to ensure the prevention of pollution at sea and the monitoring of water discharge from machinery spaces; also, of course, the vessel’s boats and water toys.

A chief engineer is responsible for the supply of safe and palatable drinking water for use by all crew and guests. Most yachts do not carry electricians, so engineers have to ensure the constant supply of electrical power to all necessary equipment, at the correct voltage, frequency and in a safe manner.

As a prominent member of the yacht’s emergency team, the chief engineer will be expected to service, maintain and regularly test all fixed installation fire-fighting appliances, making sure all engineering staff receive adequate and safe training in the use of all emergency equipment. He or she has to service and maintain the vessel’s lifting equipment so the boat’s water toys can be launched and recovered safely and efficiently.

If that’s not enough, the chief engineer has to organize and oversee the safe dry docking of the yacht and maintain logs to prove that the necessary engineering maintenance work has been carried out.

Engineers must have a working knowledge of bridge navigation and communications equipment because they are the ones who have to repair it when it fails and threatens to delay an eagerly awaited departure from port.

Yacht guests will call upon the engineer’s talents as television repairmen or audio specialists when the entertainment system fails to live up to their expectations.

It should be pretty apparent that a quality engineer’s work is never done, and that’s just fine for most of them. It’s pride in a job well done, a smile of thanks and, of course, a rewarding paycheck, that brings the most satisfaction.