Becoming a Yacht Engineer: Skills, Education, and Experience

How to Become a Yacht Engineer

Becoming a yacht engineer can offer an exciting and rewarding career. You could be fixing blocked toilets, troubleshooting false alarms or even helping crew with personal items such as their phones and laptops.

Strong organizational and time management skills are essential for yacht engineers. They also require extensive technical ability and a high level of reliability.

Qualifications

A yacht engineer is responsible for the operation, maintenance and repair of the mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic, pneumatic and, in some cases, structural systems and appendages found on modern yachts and superyachts. A yacht engineer’s duties may also extend to maintenance of lifeboats, tenders and toys as well as deck equipment such as winches and davits.

There are several routes to becoming a yacht engineer, some will join from an engineering cadetship with their national Marine School whilst others will start on the Yacht certification route. The first level of this is known as the ‘Approved Engine Course’ (AEC) and this is typically a 4 day course.

A yacht engineer is expected to be self-sufficient in completing basic maintenance and repairs, as well as effectively assist the chief engineer on more advanced projects and troubleshooting. Strong organizational and time-management skills are highly important to have in this role. Being able to use software programs to help with planned and preventative maintenance is desirable as well.

Education

Whether they’re unblocking toilets or working on the yacht’s main engine, a yacht engineer is crucial to keeping the vessel operational. They need to be adept at strategizing and reasoning logically in the face of complex, varied problems.

The first step to becoming a yacht engineer is to complete an engineering cadetship with your national maritime school and become an EOOW (Engineering Officer of the Watch). This will allow you to gain plenty of sea time, usually on vessels over 3000GT and an ‘unlimited’ ticket, which will put you at the forefront of opportunities to work on superyachts.

From there, rising through the ranks is a natural progression that requires the right attitude and extensive technical ability. Many yachts employ software programs to aid planned maintenance, record failures and repairs and keep track of inventory so a keen eye for planning and organisation is essential. Also, as engineers are often called upon to make decisions in difficult situations, a history of leading effectively will look extremely good on any CV.

Experience

The engine room department aboard a yacht is a diverse and highly complex environment. Engineers are responsible for all mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic and structural systems on board. They plan, oversee and execute all maintenance, repairs and inspections. They also manage inventory and keep detailed records of all activities. Depending on the size of a yacht and its utilization, it may require a single engineer to more than five engineers.

The role of chief engineer is the highest engineering position on a superyacht, taking responsibility for all engineering operations and coordinating with shore-side engineers. On smaller vessels, the 1st engineer will take a more managerial role, assigning duties and overseeing the team.

The 4th engineer is the entry-level position and works under any engineer above them in the hierarchy. Typically new to the industry and eager to learn, the 4th engineer often splits their time between sea experience and courses on land to progress. They’re likely to assist with menial tasks like cleaning bilges, unblocking toilets and basic ‘handyman’ tasks, while the senior crew will take care of more complex maintenance, repair and inspection work.

Skills

The role of a yacht engineer requires a highly skilled and technical employee, capable of managing the engineering systems onboard. Depending on the type, size and usage of the yacht the Engineering department (be it a sole Engineer or a team of 6+ Engineers) are responsible for all mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic, pneumatic and in some cases structural systems and appendages found on modern yachts and superyachts.

Engineering staff must also have strong communication skills to be able to clearly convey maintenance protocols and safety concerns to all crew members. They must also be able to think strategically and logically to solve issues that occur onboard.

For those looking to get into this field the best way is through a yachting cadet scheme which will allow you to gain seatime quickly and secure you a ‘unlimited by tonnage’ ticket opening up the world of private and charter yachts. Other ways to enter the industry are by dockwalking and working as part of Deck crew, or by taking the MCA Approved Engine Course (AEC 2) which allows you to work on smaller vessels assisting full time Engineers.

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