Tips and advice for a brand new 3rd Assistant engineer with no experience on ships


Except for the shared mental model part.

In Maine " take a left where the old grange hall used to be" may not fit your mental model if you don’t remember the old grange hall…

Or if I was to give directions where I want a package," inside the door", I might forget I have two doors, a front door nobody uses and the door to the mud room everyone uses.

In the engine room telling a new third “close the fuel supply valve to the number 3 generator” assumes the new third knows the generator numbering scheme. (afterwards when the lights go out everyone one can say he “should have known”).


“Essentially, the doctor claimed that the testicles had switched sides at some point.”

These guys didn’t have much on the ball.



Haha – in RI it’s where Almacs (local supermarket chain) used to be.

Didn’t he spend his first month aboard doing this?


How much do you want to bet? That’s the question.

If the 1 A/E take the new third over to the valve, holds up three fingers and signals to the third to close the valve, and then watches him as he closes it, that information is in the thirds head more solid then otherwise.

Then it’s a much better bet he’ll get it right later. Show, don’t tell.


That’s the point of making the drawings of the valve lineups. Puts muscle memory in with the rest – and you can’t draw it if you don’t understand it.


Yes, making a drawing is huge, I meant how much should the first bet that it was done, and understood?

Also, I’d say no, probably not, got to hit the ground running.

The cadets draw out systems, I don’t think the thirds do AFAIK.


unfortunately this is true. It would be nice to do it like we did in the Navy where you had to qualify a watch station which included oral interviews with three lower people in the chain of command and ended with the qual interview with the engineering officer. But with the limited manning we have on commercial ships, it’s just not possible from available time or available manpower perspectives.


I always took the position any new engineer needed a certain amount of training and familiarization. To do otherwise was at my peril.


True. There is no magic to becoming competent. In my first job as a 3rd engineer I had to physically trace and draw each system, fuel, air, steam, condensation etc. Until I did that to the first engineer’s satisfaction I was nothing more than an oiler and my assignments were alongside the other oilers. Didn’t hurt me and I gained an appreciation of what oilers do and who they respect. Having a degree from a maritime school is nothing more than a license to be allowed to learn.


Be pleasant to the Chief Officer.
He could turn out to be helpful in the future.
Like when he is Captain.


Maybe a Captains forum is not the best place to ask for engineering advice

Congratulations on graduating as an Engineer. About to head out on the first job as a watch keeping engineer.

I will give you the advice I give a new mate.
The old saying you were born with 2 eyes two ears and one mouth. Is often valid.
As an “officer” you are expected to be a self starter. Everyone knows you are green. Everyone knows you will require some time to learn.
The cadet program record book and projects are designed to help you learn what you need to know. Most importantly designed to learn how to learn as well as what to learn.

Never put your head down to go to sleep on a ship. without knowing your muster station and duty. Where the emergency gear is and where your boat station is.

Others have mentioned tracing systems.

My words to a new mate are do three things at the first opportunity. just change Master to Chief.

1st. Call the Master the first opertunity you get.

2nd. Tell the Master what the problem is, tell him you just thought he would like to know.

3rd. Tell the Master what you are doing about the problem . Don’t ask him what to do. If he has a better idea he will tell you.

It’s about building trust.
The biggest thing the boss worries about is not getting called in time. Once he knows you will call him. He will begin to trust you more. Tell him what’s up and what you are doing tells him you know what you are doing and have a plan.
He has more knowledge and experience and may have other ideas or suggestions which he will give .

Good luck. It’s a big step. Going from behind the wheel to in front of it. Or in your case into the control room. You will find you know what to do when you get there.


I think the most important nuggets throughout this thread are:

  1. Trace your systems
  2. Read the manuals
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help/questions

and I will add …

  1. Take notes. Carry a notepad to take notes on everything new you see and hear.


I I didn’t even want to reply to this but since everyone else is: trace systems and read manuals, in that order!
I shall offer my biggest input by simply omitting!!


I used to be so sorely disappointed whenever I got an assistant engineer onboard and found out that the never took the time to trace the systems. Such a basic skill for a new guy in the engine room. I mean, what else are they gonna do on watch? I even made it easy for them by color coding all of the piping. . . sigh. . . .


A good trick is to read manuals but never let on that you read them. That way when you are troubleshooting you look like a genius.

“Maybe we should check the operating water pressure. I feel like it should be at least 3 bar”

My other favorite trick is to put small parts into my pocket during disassembly. Then during re-assembly when everyone is in a panic looking for the parts, you can play the hero by “finding” the parts.


I would prefer a team player, not one looking to play hero.


I sometimes smear grease onto my arms and face before proudly handing it to the C/E.

“It was in the bilge, right by the lube oil pumps!”


2 posts were split to a new topic: Repair Time Estimates / Sleave Oil and so forth


Here’s another vote for Tracing Out ALL of the Piping Systems. One thing I would suggest is to read some of the old Logs (If they will allow it and that they are available). I mention the logs as some pieces of equipment have a funny habit of breaking down at certain intervals and reading the Logs will give you a heads up on keeping an extra eye on the as their time draws near.


Tracing systems is a given. Especially your equipment or anything related to your duty night. Want to piss the chief off? Call him at 0200 and tell him the bilge alarm went off and you don’t know how to pump bilges