Ships engineer

What they do

Ship’s engineers are responsible for installing, operating, maintaining and repairing engines, machinery and other mechanical and electronic equipment aboard ships and offshore structures. They operate a ship's engine to control the speed of the vessel, according to orders from the ship's captain. Ship’s engineers also monitor and test the performance of the electrical and mechanical systems and structures of a vessel, including the hydraulics, ventilation, electrical generation and distribution, water and sewerage systems, and repair faults where necessary. When they are ashore they may be responsible for ordering spare parts, fuel and lubricating oil.

Working conditions

Ship's engineers often spend long periods at sea, where they work shifts which include working nights, weekends and public holidays. When they return to land, they generally spend a several weeks on shore leave. While at sea they work in all weather conditions, which can include stormy weather and rough seas. A ship's engine room is generally hot, noisy and dirty. Ship's engineers are also often required to work at heights and in confined spaces.

Tools and technologies

Ship's engineers use a wide range of hand and power tools, including spanners, sledgehammers, angle grinders, lathes, drills and hydraulic bolt-tensioning equipment. They may also operate cranes and other lifting equipment to move heavy machinery around the ship. UHF radios are frequently used to communicate with other crew members around the vessel. Ship's Engineers must also wear safety equipment including earmuffs, overalls, safety glasses, steel-capped boots and high visibility clothing. In emergencies they may also need to use fire extinguishers and other safety equipment.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a ship’s engineer, you usually need to gain a qualification in maritime operations.

The Certificate III in Maritime Operations (Marine Engine Driver Grade 2 Near Coastal) and the Certificate IV in Maritime Operations (Marine Engine Driver Grade 1 Near Coastal) are offered at TAFE colleges throughout Western Australia. To find a training provider near you, browse the Jobs and Skills WA website or visit the My Skills website

You can also undertake a traineeship in maritime operations – marine engine driving (Grade 2 or Grade 3). The maritime operations – marine engine driving (Grade 2) traineeship usually takes 12 months to complete and is available as a school-based traineeship. The maritime operations – marine engine driving (Grade 3) traineeship usually takes 6 months to complete and is available as a school-based traineeship.


Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Required registration and licensing

To work as a ship’s engineer in Western Australia, you will need to obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).