The role of a superyacht engineer: Life on board
Written by Tom Smith
Last updated: 24/05/2018
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.
What’s required of the engineering staff?
Traditionally, the engineering department is responsible for the yacht’s safety, performance and efficiency, handling all mechanical and electrical operations on board. They’re responsible not only for the engines, but also for the electrics, plumbing and performing general maintenance on all other equipment and machinery, such as refrigerators, air conditioning, tenders and Jet Skis.
Although engineers are required to have the knowledge to perform such technical tasks, it’s usual for an engineer to tend to more trivial matters day to day. He or she is responsible for just about everything on the yacht that could break and will need to be fixed. This can includes fixing blocked toilets, trouble-shooting false alarms, repairing personal items including laptops and phones for the guests, maintaining the toys, and getting the satellite TV to work. It’s therefore important that today’s superyacht engineers are a jack-of-all-trades, familiar with the comprehensive range of the equipment found on board.
Another important part of the role will be being able to transition yourself well between engine room work and interacting with the guests.
The engineering department on board
The number of 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, but, as yachts start to get above the 20-metre (65-foot) range, they will usually have a dedicated engineer aboard as part of the crew.
For the larger superyachts, staff may include a chief engineer, with a second or third engineer working underneath 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 deck and engineering 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, pushing the engineering department as high as five, six or seven members.
Engineering jobs on board a superyacht
Chief engineer: A highly respected role with good pay, the chief engineer taches and supervises other engineers/deck staff and all engineering and electrical operations. On smaller yachts, there may just be one engineer in control of everything – a wide-ranging job, offering plenty of experience.
Second/third engineer: Working under the chief engineer, the second/third engineers 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.
Electrical technical officer (ETO): Responsible for 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, taking care of all electrical circuits on board, circuit breakers and switches, lighting, batteries, etc.
Duel-deck engineer: A cross between a deckhand and an engineer, duties involve deck jobs as well as some engineering-type responsibilities, depending on the yacht and its needs.
Assistant engineer: An entry-level position on larger yachts that offers a great opportunity for experience and learning, assisting all other members of the engineering department with their work.
Tender engineer: On the very large superyachts, there may be positions for tender engineers to look after and use the tenders and other water-sports equipment when needed.
How can a shore-side engineering company help?
Specialist superyacht engineering companies are always available for assistance, when the on-board team is in need of extra
When demand gets too high or the jobs too specialist, shore-side engineering companies are always available for assistance. 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.”