Marine Engineering

By tradition, the title Marine Engineer is associated with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of ships and their machinery and associated systems. Although this remains significant, such is the span of engineering disciplines and survey activities involving the sea and the seabed that the term Maritime Engineering is now more appropriate.

Whether involved in the traditional shipping aspects of the industry or offshore and ocean engineering developments, the professional expertise and responsibilities of the maritime engineer require both academic achievement and practical experience in a diverse range of disciplines. A career in this industry requires integrity, ingenuity and leadership and can involve work in design, construction, operations and maintenance. These qualities apply whether the employment involves oil and gas exploration or production platforms, pipelines, subsea vehicles, and supply vessels, or the largest and most prestigious cruise liners, container ships or high technology gas, chemical and oil carriers.

Management expertise is essential for the efficient utilisation of staff members and plants within the structures of national and international laws and conventions for safe working practices and the protection of the environment. Above all is the ability to work within a team, for the sea is a hard taskmaster and requires a high level of resourcefulness and co–operation from those whose employment is dependent upon it.


There are three main aspects of employment in Maritime Engineering covering:

  • Ship building and ship repairing
  • Service at sea as a Marine Engineer Officer
  • Offshore oil and gas exploration and production

In the first, involvement is in the design, development and construction of ships and associated machinery and systems, including installation, commissioning, repair and maintenance.

In the second, Marine Engineer Officers ensure the safe and efficient maintenance and operation of the main propulsion machinery, together with all the associated auxiliary machinery and systems. They are also responsible for the management of the engine room staff, ensuring that national and international legislation for the observance of safe working practices and the protection of the environment is complied with. Most shipping companies also employ qualified and experienced Marine Engineer Officers in their technical departments ashore, as Superintendent Engineers and in other senior management positions.

As for the third, working in the offshore industry can be varied and exciting for, as oil and gas reserves are exhausted, exploration expands into more hostile areas and challenges are presented requiring imagination, self–motivation, experience and a high level of technical acumen to overcome them.

Once professional experience has been gained in the maritime industry, it is possible to branch out into other areas of employment, such as consultancy, surveying and education and training, with prospects of management positions in the higher echelons of the industry.


There are a number of routes open to individuals wishing to develop a career in maritime engineering, and the choice will depend upon the particular specialisation. One route is through a university offering a Master or Bachelor of Engineering degree at Honours level accredited by the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology for the Engineering Council. Courses in Marine Engineering, Maritime Technology or Offshore Engineering are to be preferred. Similar academic achievements can be obtained through the Engineering Council Examination, but here the choice of subjects should be approved by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology before commencement.

For individuals whose talents lie in the practical aspects of maritime engineering, there are specialist courses leading to the award of a Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma accredited with the Engineering Council both in Offshore Engineering and for Marine Engineer Officer Cadets. Specialist colleges provide courses in the former leading to employment in the offshore industry, while similar courses offer the latter in order to prepare individuals for a career as a Marine Engineer Officer in the Merchant Navy. A modification of the Marine Engineer Cadet Training Scheme is one which allows applicants to train as both Engineer and Deck Officers initially and to occupy Junior Watchkeeping Officer posts on completion of the course either as Engineer Officers or Deck Officers. Officers may then subsequently specialise for work in the Engineering or Deck departments.

Once the training as a Marine Engineer Cadet has been successfully completed, the future officer may then – after a period of at least 3 1/2 years sea service and successful completion of two intermediate examinations – attempt the Department of Transport Class 1 Certificate of Competency. Once this has been achieved, ascendancy through various ranks may be possible, up to the position of Chief Engineer Officer. The possession of a Class 1 Certificate of Competency would qualify the individual to become Chief Engineer Officer of the largest, most prestigious and technically advanced vessels afloat. There are further opportunities for advancement where entrance may be gained to university engineer degree courses and the Engineering Council Part 2 Examination.

For more information on typical companies, see our current list of corporate members and please use the search engine provided for areas of interest.

For further information contact:

Manager, Professional Affairs
The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology
1 Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London SW1H 9JJ
t 020 7382 2600

t 020 7382 2600
e [email protected]