I used to work on ships as an engineer. Right now I am converting to shore based, yet maritime related yob, so ask away while I still remember what does a ships' engine room look like and what working in one was like ;) proof: https://ibb.co/qNtVTYS

Comments: 681 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

shoeinthefastlane210 karma

Do you get to radio up to the bridge and say "I'm givin' her all she's got capt'n"?

turtleturtle777210 karma

OFC. Few times I called the bridge ( yes ships have their own phone system) to reduce the speed because engines were not handling the load well. Sometimes I had to be quite assertive about that.

Jack_Chieftain_Shang181 karma

Is it true that a steam leak can cut a guys arm or head off clean?

Edit: fixed

turtleturtle777391 karma

I fixed too many steam leaks in my life for that to be true. BUT! The steam you are talking about is super heated steam which is ~ 500 Celsius and 60 MPa.

That kind of steam was used mainly on older ships ( build in '70) it is so because of the Oil Crisis that happened then. Ships had to run on coal. That means main propulsion was steam turbine. A kind of turbine that needs super heated steam.

On modern ships the steam is used mostly to heat IFO and it has much lower parameters ~ 0.7 MPa 170 Celsius. This is the steam I know. It is not entirely safe but the difference between that and super heated steam is huge.

I reckon a good jet of super heated steam might cause significant damage, but would it cut through a bone srsly I don't know. Annoyingly I tried to find a vid of that on yt few times before but to no avail.

However what makes super heated steam dangerous is the fact that a jet of it is invisible.

I heard stories from older engineers that when you work in such engine room, you walk with a plank and use it to "scan" for possible leaks that might be ahead.

Jack_Chieftain_Shang81 karma

Thanks a lot, that was an interesting read!

I just heard some military stories, they said that it’s invisible too and that’s the dangerous part, walking about with a plank is brilliant. Not really an environment I’d like to work in. However thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case with nowadays stuff.

turtleturtle77782 karma

Well the steam is sort of coming back. It is with the Gas carriers ships. Those are huge thermoses where a liquefied gas is poured @ -163 C. During the voyage it gets hotter and evaporates. Not to rise the pressure in the tanks which would eventually lead to explosion the evaporated gas is burned in boilers. Boilers produce steam, steam goes to the turbine turbine drives the propeller.

Ch3mee44 karma

The steam is invisible, but a high pressure steam leak makes a deafening racket. I mean, it's loud. Like, jet engine loud. You definitely know when there's a leak.

turtleturtle77794 karma

That's true but ships' engine room is not a quiet place itself, what is more it is a closed metal box so the sound bounces around everywhere. As I stated before I never worked with the deadly super heated steam, but I had some hi press ( 30 MPa ) air leaks. Those are very loud too. We could hear the noise but couldn't determine its source . We had to follow the pipelines with a string on a stick to act as sort of flag to indicate the position of a leak.

KDY_ISD151 karma

What are your thoughts on nuclear power for civilian naval applications? Would you be comfortable with big Malaccamax tankers having reactors instead of traditional power plants?

TractionJackson156 karma

Not OP, but nuclear will never happen with civilian because no one would insure it.

turtleturtle777202 karma

Well that, and what is more there were some nuclear ships and it turned out that to make a nuke ship cost efficient it would have to trade for many years. Too many to keep the reactor in a good shape . Also environmentalists strongly opposed the idea ( duh!). Nuclear propulsion is only good for subs - since it is quieter than internal combustion engine, and doesn't need to be refilled so often.

DaRealRxb123 karma

Do you get seasick? I've heard that if you're prone to seasickness you can get used to it by sticking it out for a few days on a boat, have you seen this?

I ask because I'm considering spending a week on a boat and I'm prone to it!

turtleturtle777227 karma

Yes you can gain seasickness resistance. But a week is too short. There are levels to it too. Let's just say that after some time you get used to the current conditions. If the rolling is constant and then there are few days of bad weather ( ship wobbling 30 deg each side) only the strongest will remain unaffected. By strongest I mean the crew who have the longest service time.

Try ginger, it helps and doesn't make you dizzy.

wolf866879 karma


Just to let you know, one hour notice for engines. By the way can you put the second genny on? I want to start the fire pump for the anchor wash. Thanks.

turtleturtle77792 karma

Ok just remember to turn off the pump, so it doesn't run all fucking evening like last time ;p

aphovasse78 karma

Would you recommend this as a career? How is the pay? Do you have a family and were you away a lot?

turtleturtle777180 karma

The money/rank chart:

  • Cadet free/~300€ / month
  • wiper, oiler ~ 1500€/ month
  • 3rd engineer ~3500€/ month
  • 2nd engineer ~ 5500€/ month
  • chief engineer ~ 10000€/ month

You get paid only while on the ship, but that may vary depends on the contract. Those figures are medium range. Depends on kind of the ship.

I was away for 4-6 months. No family.

If you are young and want to have lots of spare income ( you spend nothing onboard) and lots of free time ( at least 2 months between contracts) this job is for you.

However sometimes the work can be super hard. Temperatures in ER can reach 60 Celsius never falls below 35. And all the overhauls are a major pain.

Edit: spelling

anarchocynicalist136 karma

I gave this job a little consideration years ago. How hard is it go get into? Where would you recommend I apply?

turtleturtle77778 karma

I worked in the cout de azzur. Then I discovered I hate Frenchman. Maybe try Caraibian. I can't tell you much about the yachting I was working on tankers mostly.

KilrBe321 karma

I was seriously and will am, considering not engineer, but a Yacht crew of something. A channel made it's way here last few weeks of a guy who works on a Pvt Yacht, and did day in life. I got almost hooked instantly. Free vacations, see the world, live on luxury, see beautiful women.

Your AMA today reminded me of this, I got no family, no friends, no girl, I am seriously considering a job that allows me to travel ASAP. I am ready to get out and explore the world, with even a basic entry level job into a new field.

Have any recommendations where to look or start?

turtleturtle77722 karma

Try crewing agencies that hire ppl as crew for yaths. You might find a job in the caraibian or cout de azur. If not they might direct you in what training facilities you can get the certification and training.

capercanuck153 karma


I'm a Chief Electrical Engineer aboard vessels. Upon retirement I'm considering short contracts abroad. Probably nothing longer than 3 months.

Have you done any short contract in the Caribbean or Europe?

turtleturtle77736 karma

Are you working on the yachts ?

capercanuck139 karma

Nope, large vessels (64000 hp).

turtleturtle77775 karma

Then I suggest yachting. Contracts are short and getting paid for sunbathing onboard luxurious yacht is was fine with me... at least for some time.

WhiteLookingGlass16 karma

why did you give it up? Sounds like the life

turtleturtle77732 karma

It was boooooooring.

a_hegemon44 karma

Roughly how many ports have you visited in your career and which port-town/city was the most fun?

turtleturtle777101 karma

I have lost the count of how many ports I have visit. More than 100 for sure. Roughly these are the countries I have visited while working onboard : Russia, Finland, Norway, Germany, Poland, Denmark , Belgium , The Netherlands, Spain, France, Itally, Slovenia, Ukraine ( pre war) Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Togo, India Singapur, S.Korea, US( Texas), Canada( Ontario) more or less.

The most fun was the St Eustatius island. Tiny twin island where one is a volcano and the other hosts petroleum product storage facility. The people over there were super nice the place itself was astonishing.

Right now you probably are thinking that petrol close to volcano is not a good idea, but it is inactive. Inside there is intact jungle with it's own ecosystem. The whole crew took a tour around the island.

But what I liked the most was the off the grid feel of the place.

VcSv33 karma

Is it difficult to find jobs in the field? Also, is it possible to switch industry you work in from nautical to automotive for example?

turtleturtle77758 karma

It is super easy to find a yob in maritime engineering because nobody wants the yob - it's hard, provided you have experience. Employers don't want to hire cadets.

Switching to shore job as an automotive mechanic might be challenging since the engines of a ship are very different to the ones under the bonnet.

Currently I am switching to shore based job maritime related - I will be carrying out training for future engineers.

sheto15 karma

How do u enter this field? you are saying employers want experience , how do i get experience in maritime engineering ? i'm still studying ME but i like the idea of working on the sea and visiting many places,

darealesco16 karma

The engineer on a ship is more akin to the engineer on a train ie you don’t need an me degree for the job.

turtleturtle77743 karma

That. But there are maritime universities that give you a degree. Because of that it might be easier to find a yob. Ships are getting more complicated. I'd say it's more like working in a power plant than a train.

obstinatetuba3031 karma

What kind of work did you do, as in what all parts of the ship were you responsible for?

turtleturtle77777 karma

Well the scope of responsibilities varies, depending on rank.

When I was a cadet my responsibilities were close to none but for keeping my area clean. However I was not just mopping the floor.

There are some ranks in the Engine Room hierarchy like the mentioned before cadet, Wiper, oiler , motorman - these are of the support level. It means exactly that, your responsibility is to help those of operational rank like : 4th engineer or 3rd engineer. While doing so you gain experience needed to advance in career. Learning is one of the responsibilities too.

Guys at operational level are responsible for pretty much everything that is not main propulsion.

While I was working on a product tanker as a 3rd engineer my responsibility was to maintain uninterrupted operation of following machinery:

steam plant ( including oil fired boiler and economiser boiler [ that one uses Main Engine exhaust as a source of heat]),

power plant ( usually consisting of 3 generators , running on Diesel oil or Intermediate Fuel Oil [ IFO for short]), Fuel preparation plant - since ships' engines run on IFO - a residual fuel that is a byproduct from the process of distillation of crude oil. It is a fuel of the lowest quality, it has viscosity of honey and is equaling sticky but doesn't look or smell as good ;p. Because of that it needs to be heated to ~120 Celsius filtered few times then spun in a centrifuge in order to remove finest impurities and water. Only then it can be feed to engine. Yes IFO is a pain especially when you need to clean it.

I was also responsible for sewage treatment plant - meaning adding living bacteria every now and then, making sure the blowers do blow the air to the sewage mixture in order to help the bacteria digest well ... shit.

The chemicals - there are many chemicals used in every engine room. Some are making the cooling water in the system less corrosive, some are specialised heavy duty cleaning agents like for example a copper sulfide ( I think...) powder that is injected into economiser boiler in order to lower ignition temperature of carbon deposits inside its heat exchanging parts to make heat exchange as efficient as it should be. So the stock and requisition of chemicals was my job too.

Spare parts - I had to keep a good stock of spare parts to every machine that was under my care. This was always a pain. Every time I have arrived on a ship the storage was a mess, and parts for upcoming overhauls were missing :/ .

I will cut this now, this post is getting a bit long. I don't want to exhaust the topic so soon.

JDub816 karma

Question about the bunker oil or IFO. I always thought it was heated and then just burned with particulates and all. If you're filtering/centrifuging it what are you doing with the unburned leftovers? Where do they go and how are they disposed of?

turtleturtle77710 karma

The unburned leftovers are solid impurities and water, that a centrifuge ( also called a separator) has separated from the fuel . It is called sludge. It can be burned inside ships incinerator - designed for that purpose or it can be discharge to the shore for processing.

flare2000x28 karma

This is one of the coolest AMAs I've seen!

What does one do to avoid becoming too bored on a long voyage?

turtleturtle77757 karma

Plays games. Reads books. Exercise. Those 3, a lot. Some of the crew like to pass the time by drinking but IMO this job is hard enough. There is no reason to make it more difficult with all the drama, drunks provide.

Ah almost forgot. One does masturbate.

SwissCanuck10 karma

It’s obvious English is your second/third/... language, but wanted to let you know you’re smashing it mate. I’ve both learned a lot and have laughed out loud several times. Not because of mistakes, because you drop a perfectly hilarious phrase here and there. Thank you! :)

turtleturtle7778 karma

Yes because it is just like you said. I speak many languages, but not on a perfect level.

I am glad you enjoy.

Thatlookedlikeithurt23 karma

What’s the food like?

turtleturtle77730 karma

The worst.

FreshPrinceofMN13 karma

Seriously? Care to elaborate?

turtleturtle77740 karma

Let's just say the cook was always an asian who didn't know how to cook western food but tried his best. Every time.

E_Snap8 karma

You would think they would just tell them to make what they know how to make... Hungry people will eat what's in front of them.

turtleturtle77762 karma

Dude. Not. True. Some things taste worse than hunger.

RecursiveParadox23 karma

Hey there, fellow industry person here. I'd be curious to know what sizes of MVs/MTs you work on and what routes.

Also, were you working on the PSV when the bottom fell out of the market a couple of years ago?

turtleturtle77725 karma

30k m3 tankers, all over the Europe.

I dropped out from PSV - I didn't like the crew over there and since PSV are sophisticated vessels where everything is automatic, and shore service is called to rectify every malfunction the engineers of that ship had less experience than me. It felt as if I was regressing.

kwirl10 karma

for those of not 'in the know' what is a 'PSV'?

turtleturtle77712 karma

Platform supply vessel

StarkBell22 karma

What type of engineering degree did you get?

turtleturtle77745 karma


reefoflettuce18 karma

Does this require a specific engineering degree? Like what type of engineer are you? Where did you go to school? How long have you done this?

I live in the states. Are the requirements the same?

turtleturtle77730 karma

The requirements are global. There is an UN branch called IMO ( international maritime organisation) that issued the STCW Convention - a manual for all the training requirements. You don't need a degree to work on a ship, you need training and proper certification.

FreshPrinceofMN12 karma

Do you know about how much it cost to train and get certified?

turtleturtle77719 karma

About 10k €. Less than that actually.

bg-j3817 karma

My office looks out onto a very busy port so I see tons of container and tanker ships coming and going. Sometimes they sit in anchorage for a few days out in the bay. I always wondered, do you guys get to leave the ship during that time? Or do you just have to sit out there in the middle of the bay until it's your turn to dock?

turtleturtle77714 karma

We have to stay. Leaving the ship on the anchor without crew would be irresponsible. And of course some of the crew could go on the shore but water taxis are crazy expensive.

ShownFurcotte16 karma

Can you explain the pros and cons of an Engine License and a Deck License? I’ll be attending a naval college next year and I want to make sure I pick the one that suits me best. Also, what do you do now that you’re on shore?

turtleturtle77713 karma

Describe what kind of person you think you are, and what others think of you and I might be able to tell you.

thedaveg14 karma

What was the most "ohhh shit!" problem you've had to deal with?

What is a ships engineer's worst nightmare scenario? As in the event you hope will never happen?

Thanks for this AMA btw. Super interesting!

turtleturtle77734 karma

Thank you. It is my first day on the redit actually, I am super happy this IAmA launched so nicely.

Well there was one situation when I was almost sure I am not going to make it.

A gasket burst on a fuel supply line on the generator no 2. It is generator that is in the middle between two other generators. The situation was very dangerous to me especially because the stream of diesel oil sprayed all over me. Well that is not so dangerous normally, since the diesel oil does not ignite so easily. But there, behind my back was exhaust of the generator no 3 . A metal pipe, 500C hot.

So there I am soaked in the diesel with a diesel fountain in front of me and red hot metal behind me. On fully loaded tanker.

I was too scared to even think " o shit!" Hopefully, because of the sudden pressure drop in the system there was an alarm and other engineers found me in a puddle of fuel trying to do my best deflecting the leaking fuel with my bare hands so no drop touches the exhaust of genset no 3.

Will that suffice as a nightmare and my worst problem both ?

switchblade42010 karma

How do you deal with pirates? Is there anything of value on a ship, apart from crew, that pirates would want to target? I'm imagining a comically large safe in the captain's quarters, btw.

turtleturtle77735 karma

I have never watched Capt. Phillips because what is in this movie I used to do every day but it is said to be accurate.

What we did was 2 rows of barb wire, full speed and firefighting hoses fixed on sides of the ship, that were supposed to make boarding difficult or sink a small pirate motor boat. Also we use to have some guys with AKs and a sniper rifle when we were passing near Somalia.

The value of a cargo varies. Eg. Container ships carry all kinds of goods. Tankers are of value too. Mine was often filled to the brim with Diesel oil that was not designed to be used in a car specifically but was good for that anyway.

Captain has a safe in his cabin. There is some money in it for crews' cash advance and minor provisions, some important documents and strong narcotic-like painkillers in case somebody loses a leg or something.

ZeenTex18 karma

That safe is actually a thing. It's called the citadel, a space that can actually be sealed off and where you can still have some control over the ship as a bonus. Usually the engine room. :0

turtleturtle77717 karma

Oh that is true. I'm my case the whole engine room was a citadel. This way the crew is protected and we have the whole ship under control.

arik43299 karma

Is there any work for electronic department of the ship or ita mostly mechanical/electric

Btw have you been in one of the ports in israel?

I always loved watching the huge cargo ships when sailing on my dads yacht.

turtleturtle77711 karma

Yes. Every year the ships automation is getting more complex there definitely is a place for an electronic guy.

No. I never was to Israel.

arpaterson8 karma

What’s the most ghetto engineering you were involved in, design, repurpose or maintenance?

turtleturtle77718 karma

Many times I had to fix something with self hardening putty on parts that broke and I didn't have replacement for. I don't remember anything specific. It is because I did a lot of McGeyvering. It is a valued skill in this line of work because when you are in the middle of the ocean spare parts and other supplies are hard to get.

Astrallama7 karma

What kind of luxury yacht you worked on?

turtleturtle7779 karma

Palmer&Johnson 30meter

FeelingBlack7 karma

Are there many calculations needed? Nice name btw

turtleturtle77711 karma

Nah. Thanx :D

balne7 karma

How much u get paid --> already asked

So i'll go with what perks and comp do u get in addition to ur salary?

turtleturtle77714 karma

X- mass bonuses ~500€ Bonuses for docking the ship and helping shipyard crew 0-600€ maybe more, if the captain likes you.

realjoeydood6 karma

Unlike software and database engineers, did you get the free hat with your engineering title?

Asking for a friend who is at physical therapy right now.

turtleturtle77717 karma

Just a velcro label with my rank, that can be attached to my overall. Tell your friend to get better from me ;p

cench6 karma

What do you think about EPA restrictions and possible transition to LNG, is the industry ready for Jan 1st 2020?

turtleturtle77714 karma

It will rise the prices of ships charters - making literally everything more expensive since ships are responsible for transportation of ~80% world's goods. I'd say we are not quite ready.

dietderpsy6 karma

Does that Captain ever call you and need more power?

turtleturtle7779 karma

In a way. They call when they need more electricity eg. to run ballast pumps. This means I need to start additional generator. And it is not the captain who does the calling. Usually it's the chief mate :D

theginger34695 karma

You ever watch Below Deck?

turtleturtle7776 karma

Not familiar with this one. I like star trek tho.

Hokhoku5 karma

I don't really have a question but I want to advice you to keep as much money as you can and then invest them

I know many seafarers that spend all their money and they grow up and have nothing left

Other than that, considering you work aboard ships, you must have been to a drydock so whats the best place to do repairs?

turtleturtle7777 karma

Polish shipyards were surprisingly good. Thanks for the financial advice. As every seafarer I probably do spend too much on stuff I don't need but hey, I did get a shore job now, so I should start acting more responsible, I hope ...

mdf5733 karma

Do ships expel their waste directly into the oceans?

turtleturtle7774 karma

Nope. There is a miniature sewage processing plant.

Wet_Walrus2 karma

Do you have your PE in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering?

turtleturtle7773 karma


numberonedork2 karma

Would you consider yourself a helmsman?

turtleturtle7774 karma


Groovig2 karma

Hey! I'm currently making a game that's set on a large commercial fishing ship. However, I've never worked on one before and I have little to no idea what all the instruments , wires, boxes, and pipes all over the ship are for. I'd love to make it as authentic as possible, so I was wondering if you could shed some light on what exactly all of these things are, where on the ship they would be located, etc.

Here's my original post, if you were curious.

If it makes a difference, the ship will be at least this big.

turtleturtle7773 karma

So the grey boxes on the walls have some electrical switches and relays and fuses inside. Those are junction boxes. The pipes that are covered with some soft looking padding are steam/condensate pipes ( sometimes pipes are colour coded). There is also the rectangular air duct.
If you want to make it as realistic as possible I recommend visiting a ship and having a chat with hers' engineer. There is not much on those pics tbh.

For sure if you want to make it look realistic prepare for some hard work. There are lots of details.

I lost count on how many times I rolled my eyes while playing Tomb Rider ( the one on the Japanese island) during the mission on a ship. First of all every engine room is full of pipes. Pipes everywhere I am telling you, also the thing with pipes is that they come from one place and go to another instead of just vanishing in the wall.

Just create something of a messy design, steampunky even but not rusty. Engine rooms are usually very clean places.

Also a fishing vessel like that would have at least 2 medium sized 4 stroke engines with gearboxes .

There is also a shitload of additional machinery too.

Please do some actual studying , download books on the topic, so when I will play your game it won't trigger my OCD. :)

Will your game involve some environmental interaction with the ships' systems? Some puzzles ?

fuzzzybear2 karma

How long were your shifts?

I worked a few years on an ice breaker and we had to work six hours on and six hours off. I loved the job but could never get used to going to bed twice a day.

turtleturtle7773 karma

I worked as a dayman. Only during discharge operations, when lots of machines are running ( I was working on a tanker) we kept watch 6/6 hrs.

I never went to bed twice a day. Didn't need to. Maybe you should try that too.

Mrammonia1 karma

Marine engineers represent! I'm sailing on containership and it's ok . What's your opinion about container ships as an engineer ?

turtleturtle7771 karma

I never worked on one ;p

kito991 karma

I work in airplane logistics (when an airplane breaks, I'm the guy that goes running around the world with the replacement parts) - how does this work for ships?

What do you do when a critical part needs to be replaced but you're too far away from a port. Do they bring it in via helicopter? Would it be the company itself or a third party that does it.

katofunanori7 karma

A ship never needs a critical part so urgently that it must be delivered by helicopter. It is always just delivered at the next port of call, or by a boat if the vessel is at anchor.

Most basic repairs are done by the crew. Specialized repair is done by service engineers that represent the manufacturer of the equipment or a licensed company.

Some larger ship owners/tech managers have a “riding crew” that handle some of the repairs.

turtleturtle7773 karma


unhingedboy1 karma

What type of vessel do you recommend? Im still in school and did my first apprenticeship on a container feeder but i want to do the next one on a difference type.

Maybe you have some tips for what types to stay away from?

turtleturtle7772 karma

Containers are ok I guess. You should avoid certain companies not types of ships. Try to get yourself to a good company on a gas carrier.

ElectricYellowMouse1 karma

How did you make the switch from tankers to yachts? Did you just request it from a crewing agency? How big is the engine crew on a yacht?

turtleturtle7771 karma

I just did. There was a demand for an enginer and there I was. On my yacht it was just me in the ER.