Job type

Merchant Navy engineer

£8k - £70k

Typical salary

12 – 54

Hours per week

Merchant Navy engineering officers maintain the mechanical and electrical machinery and instruments on board a ship.

More info

  • Work in a technical role maintaining and repairing equipment on commercial ships
  • You'll spend significant amounts of time at sea, and may have the opportunity to travel all over the world
  • Progress up through the grades and have the opportunity to progress to become a captain or move into training

As a merchant Navy engineer, you'll work aboard container vessels, bulk carriers, tankers, tugs, cruise liners and ferries. You may work on deck, in the engine room, the kitchens or the communications room.


Your day-to-day tasks will depend on what level of engineer you are.

As chief engineer you'll be planning engineering tasks and allocating staff. As second engineer you'll supervise the day-to-day duties of staff and engine crew. As third engineer you'll be helping the second officer and looking after electrical systems and machinery. As junior/fourth engineer, you'll be carrying out general machinery maintenance, often the first posting for an officer trainee. 


You may also be running maintenance checks on machinery and systems, responding to equipment failure alerts and repairing faults, maintaining fuel levels and stocks of spare parts, updating record management systems, and mentoring and supporting trainees.

You'll travel often and spend nights away from home, and your work may take place in cramped conditions, at height and outdoors in all weathers.

You'll need

For this role, you'll need the ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools, analytical thinking skills, thoroughness and attention to detail, good initiative, thinking and reasoning skills, excellent verbal communication skills, business management skills, and knowledge of engineering science and technology.

You can do a maritime mechanic intermediate apprenticeship which will cover both electrical and mechanical engineering work. You would then take further training to qualify as an officer after the apprenticeship.

You can directly apply to sponsoring shipping or engineering companies to train as an engineering officer. You will do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in marine or mechanical engineering. Your training will also include the Certificate of Competency which you need to work at sea.

If you've worked as a mechanical engineer elsewhere, such as in the fishing industry or Royal Navy, you may be exempt from some of the training to become an engineer. You'll still need a company to sponsor you.


With experience, you could become captain or chief engineer. You could also work towards chartered status with the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST). If you decide to work onshore, you could move into management, ship surveying, lecturing or research.