Wanting to become a Merchant Marine

Hello all, I am in my early 20’s and wanting to become a Seafarer and was curious about the engine room or engineer side of it. I went to UTI, technical school, mainly for diesel engines and power generation. I have worked at a dealership for a couple years and in the oil and gas industry maintaining diesel engines, mostly Cummins. Would I adjust well to the engine and mechanic side of this industry with my experience?

If you are mechanically inclined and more importantly enjoy doing that sort of work, you would adjust well. The key is all the other stuff you would encounter like being away from home for extended periods that will make or break you.

1 Like

Yeah I love doing that work and im an introvert myself. My current job I already will travel for work and the longest ive been out of town so far is 2 months. I plan on applying to SIU for the school in Maryland, Paul Hall I believe it is. Really I wanted to get another engineers perspective on what his/her daily tasks consist of.

Working on engines is part of the job. You will need to learn electricity, evaporators, boilers, purifiers…etc. sort of a jack of all trades (master of none). Daily tasks vary but would consist of daily rounds of machinery and taking readings. Fixing things that breakdown. Preventative maintenance. And what most of us love most, metal fabrication and welding

1 Like

Thanks for this info, im real excited to apply and hopefully get into the school and become a merchant mariner. Im always trying to push myself and gain as much knowledge as possible. One last question though, I am a type 1 diabetic, unfortunatley, is that going to render me out to become a merchant marine?

I’ve know diabetics out here. It won’t stop you from getting into the industry but you will have more scrutiny when getting a medical certificate

Well that is still a big relief. Thanks again for answering my questions.

Correct nomenclature

Incorrect nomenclature

Just do a couple of worksets as a wiper first, see if you like it. Its not the same as being a diesel mechanic. Its more like: what if there was a cathedral for mechanics? That might be heaven… but what if I had to share all the tools: there are drawbacks.


It might or it might not.
Only one way to find out.
Get your doctor to confirm your condition is stable and well managed.
Take this confirmation with you and go take the medical.
No point in trying to pursue this until you find out. It’s generally a good idea for anyone to get the medical confirmed first. JIK.

If the answer is no. It can still be appealed.

Being an engineer is a totally different world from being a shore tech. You develop a close relationship with your plant and learn its nuances. You’ll wake from the deepest sleep if something is even slightly off. She will whisper to you in a language that can only be learnt over hundreds of operating hours, and you will slowly start trusting each other.

It’s much less mentally challenging than working on an incessant stream of machinery you don’t already know. You’ll spend more time on menial maintenance tasks and less time on figuring out what on earth is wrong. I missed that aspect when I went to sea.


Well not only do I have a passion for working on and repairing machinery, i.e. working with my hands, but I also like to know WHY this part does what it does and how it relates to the machine. Out here on shore at my current job they just want me to change parts instead of fixing the problem that is causing these parts to fail.

I was chief on the infamous SEA SKIMMER for nearly 4 years, and I knew every piece of machinery on that damn thing (and the barge, too), but man, besides the menial tasks, she could throw a curve ball at you when you least expected it. Challenging for sure. But like you stated, there were times when I woke from a deep sleep and picked up on something that the guy on watch hadn’t noticed yet. The job is frustrating, satisfying, challenging and menial. Glad I did it for a number of years.

Don’t get me wrong, engine room work can be utterly confounding. There’s the case of the disappearing scavenging air pressure that I never was able to solve, which I might discuss in detail if I work up the courage to show my shame.

What I meant is that the pressure feels very different when you’re working with a long string of customers who all expect you to justify your time expenditure in detail, regardless of past performance. You don’t get the “20 mins to get the shaft turning or we all die” kind of pressure, but every time you solve a problem you get to immediately start the cycle over again, with a new system whose idiosyncrasies you don’t know from experience. There is no state of having it all under control, and management (if you’re so lucky) tends to be just as case-by-case short sighted as the customers.

EDIT: Conversely, on a ship you never get the same temptation to cut corners and leave underlying issues for the next guy, because that’s going to be you, and everybody’s life is in the balance.

Yeah the customers ive dealt with were all a bunch of cunts, however you would rarely get the generous ones that actually come into the shop and thank you. Back on topic though, I enjoy discussing this with you guys, it gives me a idea of what to expect in a general sense. Nothing is more satisfying than solving a problem and I always welcome a good mental challenge. If I cant figure out a problem ill think about how to fix it even in my sleep because its just my nature.

Understand that if you go to Piney Point and attend their apprentice program you will be treated as if you know nothing. The truth of the matter is those going through the program don’t know what they don’t know, at least initially. The program is there to teach those wishing to go to sea the basics. What you do and how far you go after that is up to you.

Yeah im sure itll be similar to my technical school. I only want to go to the school first so I can come out with a B card and not start from the bottom even though im sure ill still be doing the shit work, at least ill hopefully be able to move up quickly. Not sure if it works like that so correct me if I am wrong.

I think you’ll fit in just fine…


Instead of Piney Point I’d look into this:


Faster way to get your 3rd Assistant Engineer and actually make some decent money.

1 Like

Do you guys have any textbooks or other books you would recommend I read to get a good understanding of the ship or engineer careers? Ive got a good bit of free time with being on stand by alot with my current job.

DA Taylor: Introduction to Marine Engineering

Everything I needed to pass my first set of licence exams (Motor, General Knowledge, and Orals) was there except the safety stuff.

DT Hall Practical Marine Electrical Knowledge is also really handy… but as the name implies there’s almost no theory in this book.