Home » Chief Engineer Officer

Chief Engineer Officer

Home / Careers / Engineering Officers / Chief Engineer Officer

Things You Should Know About The Chief Engineer Officer

As the highest-ranking engineering officer on a merchant ship, the Chief Engineer Officer role comes with many responsibilities. You oversee all the propulsion and auxiliary systems that keep the vessel powered and operational. It’s a complex job that requires strong technical know-how and leadership skills. You should understand some key things if you consider pursuing this career path. 

With long work hours and extended time at sea, life as a Chief Engineer Officer is certainly only for some. But if you’re up for the challenge, it can be an exciting and rewarding role at the top of the engine room hierarchy. Here, we’ll explore this important maritime job so you can decide if it may be the right fit for you.

What Is a Chief Engineer Officer in the Merchant Navy?


As the chief engineer officer, you oversee all crew members and the daily operations of the engine department. Your main duties include supervising the maintenance and repair of the ship’s engines, boilers, pumps, and other mechanical and electrical equipment. You also ensure there are always enough fuel supplies, lubricants, and spare parts on board.


To become a chief engineer officer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering or a related field and several years of experience working as an engineer on ships. Strong technical and leadership skills are essential. You must also hold the proper certifications, like a Certificate of Competency from a maritime authority.

Daily Tasks

On a typical day, you monitor engine equipment and performance, conduct inspections, assign work to your staff, and provide guidance. You review maintenance schedules, logbooks, and spare parts inventories. You may have to troubleshoot issues with the ship’s propulsion or electrical systems and oversee necessary repairs. You also ensure safety standards are met, and the engine department follows all regulations.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for chief engineer officers in the U.S. merchant marine is over $73,000 annually. The compensation varies based on experience, certifications, type of ship, and shipping company. Most chief engineers work long hours at sea, so ample time off between voyages is common.

The chief engineer officer plays a crucial role in operating and maintaining a ship’s complex mechanical systems. If you are passionate about marine engineering and want to advance to a leadership position, this could be an extremely rewarding career path.

Key Responsibilities of a Chief Engineer Officer

You’ll have several important duties as Chief Engineer Officer (CEO). Keep the engines running. Your primary role is ensuring the ship’s engines and equipment operate efficiently and safely. However, this includes overseeing engine operations, maintenance, and repair.

Manage engine room staff.

Firstly, you’ll supervise junior engineering officers and ratings, assign tasks, and evaluate their performance. You’re responsible for the engine room team and ensuring proper training and certification.

Monitor fuel levels and usage.

Then, you’ll need to track things like bunker levels, fuel quality, and engine performance to optimize usage and plan refueling. Strict records must be kept for regulatory and cost control purposes.

Ensure safety and compliance. 

Following all marine engineering regulations and safety procedures is paramount. You’ll conduct regular inspections, drills, and audits to identify and mitigate any risks or non-compliance issues. Proper certification and documentation for equipment and crew are also required.

Manage repairs and budgets. 

Next, you’ll oversee any necessary repairs or maintenance for engines and equipment. This includes creating repair plans, procuring parts, and monitoring costs to stay within budget. You may need to perform some repairs yourself for smaller issues.

Improve efficiency. 

As CEO, you should always look for ways to optimize engine performance, improve safety, reduce costs, and minimize environmental impact. Updating procedures, overhauling equipment, and implementing new technologies are all part of the role.

Keeping a ship running is no easy feat, but as CEO, you’re equipped with the knowledge and skills to lead your engine room team and ensure smooth operations. The responsibilities are many, but for those passionate about marine engineering, it’s a challenging and rewarding position.

Skills and Qualifications Needed for a Chief Engineer Officer in the Merchant Navy

As a chief engineer officer, you need certain technical skills and qualifications to handle critical engine room operations. ###Technical knowledge of marine engineering

You should have in-depth knowledge of marine diesel engines, boiler systems, cleaners, pumps, compressors, and other engine room equipment. You must be able to read technical drawings and schematics to troubleshoot any issues. Strong problem-solving skills are essential to diagnose and fix engine or equipment failures at sea.

Leadership and management abilities

As the head of the engine department, you need to lead and motivate your team of engineers and engine room ratings. You should be able to delegate responsibilities, set performance standards, and ensure high safety practices. Strong communication skills are required to relay orders to your team and report to the captain and other senior officers.

Certifications and licenses

To become a chief engineer officer, you must hold the required certifications and licenses for the specific ship and engine types. The basic requirements are a marine engineering degree and seagoing experience as a second and first engineer officer. You need to pass examinations to obtain chief engineer officer certificates of competency. Some shipping companies may require additional certifications in safety, security, and environmental protection.

Compensation and career growth

Chief engineer officers are highly paid, with average annual salaries of $80,000 to $140,000. With more experience and higher certifications, your pay can increase significantly. There are opportunities for career progression to superintendent engineer or technical managerial roles ashore. Many chief engineers continue sailing for over 25 years before transitioning into shore-based jobs.

In summary, a mix of technical skills, leadership abilities, and professional certifications are needed to become a chief engineer officer in the merchant navy. Furthermore, this could be an ideal role if you are passionate about hands-on engineering and want an exciting career at sea. The rewards and challenges of the job are enormous.

Final Verdict 

Undoubtedly, here is the inside scoop on what it takes to become a Chief Engineer Officer in the merchant navy. While it’s a challenging path, having the brains, dedication, and sea legs for it can lead to an exciting career sailing the high seas and keeping massive ships running smoothly. 

Just imagine yourself in charge of all those engines and complex systems, voyaging to exotic ports all over the globe. Sounds like an engineering dream come true! But also know it takes a ton of training and experience to get there – so be prepared to pay your dues as a junior engineering officer first. If the merchant marine life calls you, you have the facts to chart your course.

Subscribe to Merchant Navy Info Daily Newsletter

Scroll to Top