Based on the performance specifications of the vessel, marine engineers design the propulsion system to deliver the power required. They also design the steering system, heating, cooling and ventilation systems and hydraulics for the ship. If the job is a retrofit, the marine engineer studies the current plans before designing the new systems.
Once marine engineers know what equipment is to be installed and where each duct, machine and power source is to be located, they prepare detailed plans. They create layouts and schematics, determine the work schedule and prepare a cost estimate for approval by management.
As the work progresses, marine engineers may conduct periodic inspections or tests to catch any issues as soon as possible. They ensure that design specifications are being followed, monitor the project budget and prepare status reports for clients or managers.
Although most of a marine engineer's work can be performed in an office, there are times when sea trials are part of the job. Marine engineers may spend time aboard ship to test how the vessel performs or to gather information for maintenance or an upcoming retrofit. Engineers who specialize in offshore drilling may spend some time on the oil rig to supervise maintenance or repair efforts involving the rig's mechanical systems.
Career Advancement Opportunities
Marine engineers can advance into supervisory or management positions with experience. Typically, the USCG licenses can help marine engineers move up; as the level of license increases, responsibilities normally increase. Some marine engineers move into sales, using their technical knowledge to help clients plan and execute projects.