The ship's engineers have complete responsibility of the ship's engine room i.e. the main engine, boilers, pumps, hydraulic and fuel systems and the ship's electrical generating plant and distribution system. The chief engineer is assisted by junior officers up to the level of third engineer. The existing hierarchy on some ships is as follows:-

Chief Engineering Officer - 18 months as second engineers and Certificate of Competency 1st class Motor Engineering is required.

Second Engineering Officer must have 1 year officer in charge experience and 6 months simulator training

  • Third Engineering Officer
  • Fourth Engineering Officer
  • Fifth Engineering Officer
  • Electrical Officer.

The chief engineer is responsible for all the propulsion machinery's, power generating equipment and auxiliaries. The job entails maintaining documents of the working of the machinery as well as the repairs carried out. Fuel consumption and requirements have to be logged. Second engineers are responsible for the maintenance of lubricating systems, engine room auxiliaries, and electrical equipment's.

The third engineer is responsible for fuel and water, supervises tank soundings, and logs the consumption of fuel and water. The boiler room equipment, the feed water system pumps and condensers are monitored by him. The fourth engineer is responsible for the operation and maintenance of engine room auxiliaries. Electrical officers maintain and repair all electrical circuits and motors.

The job demands practical work, and engineers spend most of the day in boiler suits. Junior officers up to the level of third engineer are mainly working with their hands, and to some extent supervising engine room ratings. Even chief engineers spend about a quarter of their time in practical tasks. If any part of a ship's system fails, it must be dismantled, assessed, repaired, reassembled and put back into operation. Sometimes spare parts have to be manufactured on board.

The latest ships have a good deal of electronic control and automation. On such ships the engine room is not continuously staffed; a panel of alarm and monitoring systems is connected up to the engineers' accommodation and to the bridge. As a result, engineers can often work a fairly normal day, from 8am to 6pm but if there is an emergency they must turn out at a moment's notice.

Power requirements vary according to whether the ship is in port or at sea. However, a tanker may need as much power to drive the pumps as it does to move through the sea. This power must be available whenever it is needed.