my experience as trainee marine engineer on board ship

My Experience as a Trainee Marine Engineer On Board Ship

If you want to join Merchant Navy as a Trainee Marine Engineer and are curious to know about your work and duties, you have landed on a correct page.

Today I am going to share my real-life experience as a Trainee Marine Engineer on board ship.

In the end, I will also discuss some PRO TIPS, which will help you become a better engineer and a better person in general.

Guys, as you all know, getting a job in the Marine Industry is no more an easy task,

The best way to secure a job is to get one in campus interviews.

With large numbers of Private Institutions and flooding of new candidates, more than 50% of newbies couldn’t make through campus interviews. Finally, they have to approach different companies to secure their first job.

Even I am not an exception in this regard. You can read “my first day on board a cargo ship” to have a closer look. I have shared an unforgettable experience of mine in that article.

Without wasting any time, let’s dive into my experience as a trainee marine engineer on board ship

Initial days on board

I joined my first vessel from Taiwan; it was a Self-discharging Geared Bulk Carrier with conveyor belts to discharge the cargo by itself.

We were on the port for four days, but I was not allowed to go ashore,

I didn’t have a local sim card either, so I used the internet from other crew members to contact my family and friends.

The previous junior engineer and I were staying in the same cabin, sometimes I used to sleep on the SOFA, and he on the Bed and vice versa.

According to the company policy, junior engineers, along with duty oilers are assigned night watches in the port, junior engineer’s watch was from 2000-0600 hours, and Oilers keep rotating their watch every 4 hours.

It was the second day when a heart-breaking incident happened in my life; it was 0600 hrs. When I returned from my night watch, I connected to the internet and saw a WhatsApp message of my brother “Our Grandmother is NO MORE.”

I cannot explain that moment in words; it was such painful and shocking news which I got just after joining my first vessel.

It took me a day to recover from the shock, thanks to all the other crew members who supported me during that time.

Expectations VS Reality

Before joining our first vessel, all of us have a lot of expectations about the type of life we will live on board the ship, but it doesn’t goes that way.

Here I want to add one disappointment I had to face after joining this vessel,

I was told in the office that the ship has satellite broadband to access internet while sailing, but I got to know that there is nothing like that; we have to make satellite calls to contact our family, which costs about Rs40 per minute.

For a guy with a salary of just 300 USD, the calling rates are very high. Although they had a system of email, but that was not convenient.

We have first to write a mail in notepad then pass it on to the second mate in a pen drive, then he will upload the mail in the system, and finally master will send the mail.

Now, imagine yourself in this situation if you are in a relationship, which was the case with me.

When I told her about the absence of Internet on board, she literally started crying on the call,

That was the first time in our lives when we had to live without talking for such a long period.

We didn’t have any other option to look for, so we mutually decided to face that time as an exam of our relationship.

Can you GUESS how we used to get in touch everyday despite those expensive calls?

I used to give her and my mother a missed call every day to inform about my wellbeing.

That sounds weird, but this is what I used to do to feel connected with them.

If you are a newbie, don’t stress out, Nowadays life is much easier on ships concerning communication. We have internet, cheap satellite calls, and email facilities on almost every foreign-going ships.

Let’s continue with the story

After four days of port stay, the first voyage of my life begins, we were sailing towards Richards Bay port in South Africa for loading wood chips.

As it was a UMS class vessel, the working hours were from 0800-1700 hours and 2100-2200 hours for a UMS round.

My daily routine was like- I used to wake up at 0700 hours (sometimes 0715) have a quick shower, breakfast, and report in the engine room at sharp 0745 hours.

Then we used to have a toolbox meeting to discuss all the planned jobs for the day, and the day begins.

For the first 2-3 days, the second engineer asked me to familiarize myself with the location of all the machinery in the engine room and trace the pipelines.

And after that, they started involving me in other jobs in the engine room.

As a newbie, you can expect your seniors to test your theoretical knowledge by asking you some basic questions. 

The same used to happen with me, the Second engineer, along with Third Engineer and electrical officer, used to ask me some questions during the tea break.

Sometimes I was able to answer them, and sometimes not; I had a great time with them.

My First Shore Leave

After 35 days of continuous sailing, we were about to reach our first destination: Richards Bay, South Africa.

I was very excited, as it was my first shore leave, and I was expecting to get a sim card to make some calls to my family and friends.

So, finally, we reached the port, and I got the sim card, I quickly set it up to get the network on my mobile phone,

As soon as my phone connected to the internet, WhatsApp messages and pending notifications from other apps started bombarding on the screen.

My phone got hanged and didn’t respond for the next 10 minutes; there were more than 10000 messages and notifications from all the WhatsApp groups, including personal messages.

My eyes became wet after opening the chat of my girlfriend; she missed me like anything. I was scrolling through her messages and found that she messaged me every day about her day, what she did, and how much she missed me and all.

That was when I felt fortunate to have a girl in my life who loves my soul and not my physical presence. That moment raised respect for her.

Then finally, I messaged her and my family members; I had a chat for a couple of hours, and then I went out for shore leave with other crew members.

At that time, the port of Richards Bay had free bus service from port to Seaman’s Club, so all of us went to seaman’s club, and then we went to a Restaurant named PORKY’s.

There we had Pizza, some bread, Pasta, soft drinks, clicked some cool photographs, and returned to the ship.

First Crew Change

When we live together with people for months, they become a part of our family, and leaving them all together is a heartbreaking incident.

After three months of sailing with second and third engineers, the time of their sign-off came, and I was very upset with that.

Although after three months, I knew almost everything on the ship (thanks to the second engineer who taught me well), but still, there was a fear in mind about how the next crew will be? And things like that.

At the time of their sign off, I was not even able to face them as my eyes filled with tears. Imagine the kind of attachment I had with them in just three months.

Finally, they disembarked the vessel, and the new crew took over the charge from them.

The next second engineer was from Myanmar; He, too, was an excellent engineer.

Here I want to include that there wasn’t any Fourth Engineer on-board that ship, so I was the only one to take care of the fourth engineer’s work also.

As the second and third engineers were new, my workload increased even further. For any doubts about anything or any previous record, I was the only answerable person for them.

Anyways, time went very fast with them, and our ship planned for dry docking.

I was very excited about that because the dry-docking of a ship is an experience that is not a daily routine job.

At the dry dock, the ship is taken out of the water and held on wooden blocks, and major jobs like ship’s hull painting, Main engine jobs, Boiler jobs, Propeller, stern tube, special surveys, and other related jobs are carried out which are possible while the ship is in water.

Story of my Sign Off

So we were in the dry dock, and I had already completed over seven months on board. I was literally tired from work at dry dock and desperately wanted to sign off.

I had already given my sign-off letter to the master twice, but nothing happens,

The main reason for my restlessness was that if I didn’t report in my college before 1st July, I would get a year back.

At that time, we have to complete our on board training during the 7th semester and report back to college to attend the 8th semester.

Despite so many sign-off letters, the company was not responding to my request. Then I finally contacted the technical superintendent of the vessel, who was my senior from DMET.

Being from the same college, he understood my problem and called the office to send my reliever as soon as possible.

After his call, my reliever came on board just after three days, and I finally get relieved on 23rd June, only 7 days before the last date of joining the college.

PRO TIPS for Trainee Marine Engineer

Here are some of the tips I would like to share with you; these will help you spend your time peacefully on board your first ship.

  1. Try to familiarize with the location of all the machinery in engine room ASAP,
  2. Start tracing the pipelines; I recommend to start with seawater lines, as they are big in diameter and easy to start with. Try to complete all the pipelines within a week if time permits.
  3. Whenever you get free time, start taking rounds of the engine room; while taking rounds, move slowly, and observe every machine and its related pipelines very closely.
  4. Try to be proactive in every task, take initiatives in learning new things, 
  5. Make a habit of writing your daily work done in your diary; this will help you a lot while preparing for class 4 examination.
  6. Never indulge in any wrong practice like fighting, arguing unnecessarily, be polite with everyone,
  7. Try to complete your assignments of TAR BOOK whenever you get time, don’t leave it to the last moment,
  8. Never lie to your seniors, Trainee marine engineers are there on board to learn, and mistakes happen while learning, never hide your mistakes from seniors because it may result in a severe accident.
  9. Before signing off, your goal must be to know the work of all the engineers, including their paperwork.
  10. Work hard, Party Harder.

Wrapping Up

So that was my story as a trainee marine engineer on board ship, 

I hope you enjoyed reading it, do share it with your friends and let me know your experiences in the comment section below.

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