Merchant navy engineer officer
Technical Specialists

Merchant navy engineer officers have managerial and practical responsibilities relating to the smooth running and maintenance of the engine rooms on a variety of ships.

The Merchant Navy comprises the UK's commercial shipping industry

Work Activities

Merchant navy engineer officers operate and maintain all the propulsion, power generation and distribution systems throughout the ship. Merchant navy officers are civilian employees who work on passenger and cruise liners, passenger and freight ferries, oil tankers, container ships, cargo and specialised support and rescue vessels. They may be on board for short local voyages or longer national and international ones. They can also work on Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships which supply cargo to Royal Navy ships. Duties vary according to the vessel and may include:

  • Ensure the running and maintenance of electrical and mechanical equipment including generators, lifts pumps, sewage, purifiers, lifts, air conditioners and air compressors
  • Maintain lifts and air conditioners on passenger ships
  • Control refrigeration on cargo ships
  • Maintain hydraulic machinery equipment on scientific survey ships
  • Manage and supervise crew of engineer ratings
  • Keep records of equipment, stock, passengers and financial accounts

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for merchant navy engineer officers

  • Decisive, calm, resourceful
  • Able to inspire confidence in others
  • Good at Maths, written and verbal skills
  • Be prepared to learn about new technology and use it
  • Knowledge of safety issues
  • Practical skills in mechanical, electronic and electrical engineering
  • Organisational and time management skills
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills and ability to work in teams
  • Problem solving skills
  • Management/leadership skills
  • Resilience

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of merchant navy engineer officers

  • Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships
  • Commercial shipping companies
  • Cruise companies
  • Oil companies
  • Passenger and freight companies
  • Job vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, gas/energy organisations and specialist engineering recruitment agencies and shipping lines' websites


Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a career as a merchant navy engineer officer for both university graduates and school leavers via apprenticeships

One of the most popular entry routes is via sponsored training at university or college. Alternatively, specialist training is available with marine engineering or shipping companies. The Merchant Navy Training Board has a list of companies.

The sponsor will help you to choose the best course for you. It may be a degree in Marine Engineering, Mechanical and Power Plant Systems, an HNC/HND in Marine Engineering or an apprenticeship

For entry to a relevant degree course the usual requirement is 3 A levels, usually to include Maths and Physics. GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C or above are also required along with a good mix of other subjects, including English.

Other qualifications such as BTEC level 3 National, Advanced Level Apprenticeship or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted

To enter a relevant HNC/HND or foundation degree you'll usually need 1 A level (science subjects such as Physics are useful). A GCSE at grade C or above in your A level subject is also required along with a good mix of other subjects, including English and Maths.

In Scotland there are two institutions which offer courses in this field, City of Glasgow College and the University of the Highlands and Islands. Specific entry requirements vary, with Maths, Physics and science subjects particularly relevant.

In all cases it's important to check individual university/college prospectuses carefully, as specific requirements may well differ.

Search for...

Degree Explorer

The Degree Explorer helps you plan for your future! Match your interests to university subjects and explore each recommendation to find out what suits you.

Get started

Register today

Sign up to access to use your dashboard and receive extra advice in your inbox

Sign up