The role of a superyacht engineer: Life on board
Written by Simon Osborne
With the variety of on-board systems and equipment on today’s superyachts, engineering requirements are almost limitless. From maintaining the engine and generator, to installing a new water maker or air conditioning unit, both on-board engineers and shore-based engineering companies are required to have an extensive and complex skill set when working within the superyacht industry.
So, if you want more information on the role of a superyacht engineer on today’s luxury vessels, or you want to learn more about what is expected of an engineer, then read on.
What’s required of the engineering staff?: Roles and responsibilities
Traditionally, a marine engineer is responsible for the mechanical and electrical operations on board the yacht, such as performing testing on injectors and gearbox inspections. You’ll be responsible not only for the engines, but also for the electrics, plumbing and performing general maintenance on all other equipment such as refrigerators, air conditioning and the on-board tenders and jet-skis.
However, in today’s industry, although engineers are required to have the knowledge to perform such technical tasks, depending on the staff on board, it’s likely that many engineers will be expected to tend to more trivial matters. An engineer will be responsible for just about everything on the yacht that could break and will need to be fixed. This can include anything, such as fixing blocked toilets, trouble-shooting false alarms, repairing personal items including laptops and phones for the guests, maintaining the toys, and trying to get the satellite TV to work. It is therefore important that today’s superyacht engineers are naturally a jack-of-all-trades, familiar with the comprehensive range of the equipment found on superyachts.
Another important part of the role will be being able to transition yourself well between engine room work and interacting with the guests.
Engineering staff on board
The engineering staff on board will depend on the size of the yacht. Smaller yachts may rely on the captain and outsourced engineering companies to complete the majority of jobs that arise on board, but, as yachts start to get above the 20m range, they will usually have a dedicated engineer aboard as part of the staff.
For the larger superyachts, staff may include a chief engineer, with a second or third engineer working under them, as well as possibly an ETO (electrical technical officer) and other junior roles.
On some yachts, there may also be a duel deck engineer to help out with the engineering-type jobs, and apprentices can even be hired in some instances. Superyachts over 100m may even have specialist tender engineers on board just for the tenders, and engineering staff can sometimes be as high as five, six or seven...
Engineering jobs on board a superyacht
- Chief engineer – Highly respected on a superyacht with good pay. Teaches and supervises other engineers/deck staff and all engineering/electrical operations.
- Engineer – On smaller yachts, there may just be one engineer in control of everything – a wide ranging job – offering plenty of experience.
- 2nd/3rd engineer – Working under the chief engineer, you will be expected to have a wide knowledge and will work across all/most aspects of engineering on board, depending on the other engineering staff.
- ETO (Electrical technical officer) – Your responsibilities will be the day-to-day maintenance of all electronic, computer, audio/visual and communications equipment, ensuring its efficient operation. On a large superyacht these systems are likely to be numerous.
- Electrician – Similar to the role of an ETO, however you will take care of all electrical circuits on board, circuit breakers and switches, lighting, batteries, etc.
- Duel deck engineer – A cross between a deck hand and an engineer, your duties will involve deck jobs as well as some engineering-type responsibilities, depending on the yacht and its needs.
- Assistant engineer – Sometimes employed on larger yachts as an entry-level position. A junior role that offers a great opportunity for experience and learning, as you will assist all other members of the engineering department with their work.
- Tender engineer – On the very large superyachts over 100m, there may be positions for tender engineers to look after and use the tenders and other water sports equipment when needed.
How can an engineering company help?
Specialist superyacht engineering companies are always available for assistance, when the on-board team is in need of extra support. As mentioned above, the role of the superyacht engineer is continually expanding, and this is no different to the role of the superyacht engineering company.
In fact, many superyacht engineering companies consist of ex-superyacht engineers and crew, so they are used to fixing a range of different problems. They are often asked to help with unusual requests that the engineering staff on board cannot solve, as well as standard requests for parts etc.
Mike Dellar of Yacht Engineering Solutions (YES) commented, “Our target audience is the entire yachting industry here in Mallorca, from smaller sailing and motor yachts through to the biggest superyachts, if we can offer a service they need we will be there. We often receive the criticism that we are doing too much, but we fill a niche area, an area that the specialists don’t meet; those problems that no one can find a solution to or there is no solution on the market.”