Few grim jobs
Apart from the penned down and the expected jobs that we learned in the previous article,the fifth engineer as he knows the engine room inside out, at the time of emergencies, is expected to be extremely good at fault finding and trouble shooting (As if he is the guide of the engine room who has the knowledge of every single pipe line, valves or even machinery) At the time of emergencies he works with other engineers in repairing the broken down machinery. An emergency situation can last from two hours to forty eight hours or even more. Though the senior engineers relieve each other, the fifth engineer is supposed to work through out the emergency situation. Thus he should have high level of energy and stamina, should be flexible, dexterous and able to pitch in when the situation demands. Also to mind that in case of emergency situations such as oil spills or leakage he is expected to clean up and remove all the traces of spilled oil from the floor plates and also from the bilges. Moreover the engine room temperature is extremely high and humid, ranging from thirty-degree Celsius to fifty-five degree Celsius. For this reason he is expected to have ability to withstand long stretches of hard work in emergency situations and also have the mental and physical capability to bear such stress.
Additional jobs and responsibilities
There is also heaps of paper work that the junior engineer is expected to do. He is supposed to take the readings of the main parameters from different machinery gauges and log them down neatly in the log book. This is a routine exercise and is done twice a day. He is also often asked to log down all the performance tests parameters of diesel and main engine in their respective log books. All these data from the log books is then fed into an excel sheet in the computer, which is then later sent to the company. Chief engineer is supposed to be the in-charge of verifying and feeding in of this data but generally fifth engineer is asked to do this job also. Other paper works such as filling of oil record book, Marpol log book and tanks measurements book is also done by junior engineer, on few occasions, under the supervision of chief engineer.
Junior engineer should also know the starting procedure of all the emergency systems such as emergency generators, Co2 system, different types of fire extinguishers etc. He is also supposed to take an active part in the emergency drills such as fire drills, boat drills etc. He should be aware as to how to wear life jacket. He should also know how to wear emersion suit and oxygen mask in time of emergencies. He should be aware of the starting procedure of life boats engines and also the whereabouts of various emergency equipments in the life boat and life raft. It’s also mandatory to have knowledge of other survival techniques and equipments such as pyrotechnics, fire hoses, emergency first aid and basis idea of survival at sea.
Maintaining inventory and requisition of various lube oils, spare parts and defective machineries along with the parts to be sent for reconditioning, is the work of fourth engineer or the engineer in charge of that particular machinery. But a Fifth engineer is often asked to carry out this work too. Thus he might have to spend several long hours in the stores rummaging through different spare parts and noting down and maintaining a record of the number of requisite spares and oils.
Some more facts
Now though the working environment of the engineers on board a ship has improved in the recent years due to advances in automation and technology, the lifestyle pretty much remains the same. The job of a fifth engineer is demanding in both physical and mental abilities and they have to stay away from the family and social life for a considerable amount of time. Junior engineer stays on board for the longest time for he has a contract of minimum nine months. The job also demands working in some uncomfortable environments like repairing and maintaining the machineries is confined spaces and refrigerated areas and thus he should be flexible enough to get adjusted with the situation.
Merchant navy personnel, as the job demands, move from one country to another, may not be able to see a few, or probably, even a single port in his whole contract. This is for the reason that there are many responsibilities that they have to carry out when the ship is docked. Mostly all the engineers work every single day of their full contract time, which means that there might be a single holiday to unwind themselves. Also, traveling continuously and monotonous work style might make the exciting voyage boring. To add more to it, there are chances that sometimes they might have to satisfy themselves with cramped accommodations with little recreation and entertainment activities.
Also, it is to note that no person on board is spared from the mighty power of nature. All the personnel on board a ship have to face all kinds of weather conditions and even have to continue working in the same.
These are some of the facts of the life of a junior engineer on board a ship. This article cannot be generalized as the life of an engineer varies from ship to ship, but still it helps to give a general overview of the real thing. Also, they are not depicted with an aim to highlight any aspect or to scare anyone but with intent to bring it to people’s notice the lifestyle of naval personnel, especially junior engineers on ship so that the future engineers are mentally prepared as to what to expect and how to face a situation when they go onboard.