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Things You Should Know About Reefer Engineer

You know that life at sea can be tough. Long hours, rolling waves, and cramped quarters below deck. But if you’re considering a merchant navy career as a reefer engineer, it helps to really understand the role before signing up. What exactly does a reefer engineer do all day? Is the job boring or exciting? Stressful or chill? This inside look at a day in the life of a reefer engineer reveals everything you should know before pursuing this unique career path. 

From maintaining complex HVAC and refrigeration systems to optimizing energy efficiency, you’ll gain insight into the duties, qualifications, and physical demands required to keep perishable cargo cool and crews comfortable on long voyages around the globe. Grab some dramamine and get ready to explore the wild world of the merchant navy reefer engineer.

What Is a Reefer Engineer in the Merchant Navy?

Reefer Engineers, or Refrigeration Engineers, are responsible for operating, maintaining, and repairing the refrigeration equipment on merchant ships. This includes equipment like refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and HVAC systems. As a Reefer Engineer, your job is to ensure that perishable goods, provisions, and spaces on the ship are kept at the proper temperature. This is crucial for food safety, crew comfort, and transporting temperature-controlled cargo.

Maintaining the Cold Chain

The “cold chain” refers to the temperature-controlled transport and storage of perishable goods like food, medicine, and plants. As a Reefer Engineer, maintaining the integrity of the cold chain is one of your most important responsibilities. You need to monitor refrigerators, freezers, and temperature sensors to ensure the proper temperature is maintained for all perishable goods and spaces on the ship.

Repairing and Troubleshooting Equipment

When refrigeration equipment malfunctions or breaks down, it’s up to you to get it back up and running as quickly as possible. You’ll need to be able to troubleshoot issues with compressors, pumps, pipes, and other components, and either repair or replace parts to restore functionality. Preventative maintenance and regular inspections help minimize equipment failures, but you always need to be prepared to handle emergency repairs to avoid food spoilage or loss of temperature control.

Ensuring Crew Comfort

In addition to perishable cargo, Reefer Engineers are also responsible for operating and maintaining the HVAC systems on merchant ships to ensure crew comfort. This includes equipment like air conditioners, ventilation systems, heaters, and climate control automation. You need to monitor interior temperatures and make adjustments to the HVAC equipment to maintain a comfortable environment for the crew, especially in extreme weather.

As a Reefer Engineer in the Merchant Navy, you play an essential role in safely transporting perishable goods and ensuring a habitable environment for the crew. If keeping things cool under pressure sounds exciting, this could be a great career path for you!

Key Responsibilities & Duties of a Refrigeration Engineer

Maintenance and Repairs

As a refrigeration engineer, your primary duty is to maintain and repair the ship’s HVAC, refrigeration and catering equipment. This includes inspecting machinery and piping, performing routine maintenance, troubleshooting issues, and repairing or replacing parts when needed. You’ll work to optimize energy efficiency and ensure the required temperatures and conditions are sustained for the comfort of all on board.

Monitoring and Reporting

You are responsible for closely monitoring the ship’s refrigeration and HVAC systems. This means regularly checking equipment like compressor packs, cold rooms, freezers and air handlers. You must log details like temperatures, refrigerant levels, operating hours, and any maintenance performed. You’ll also need to stay on top of regulations like F-Gas reporting and keep the necessary records up to date.

Training and Supervision

As a senior member of the engineering crew, you may be tasked with training and overseeing junior refrigeration staff. You’ll need to ensure your team follows proper procedures and safety standards at all times. You are also responsible for evaluating the performance of subordinates and ensuring they have the necessary certifications and experience for their roles.

Emergency Response

Refrigeration engineers play an important role in emergency situations. You may need to shut down equipment, secure hazardous materials like refrigerants, or help with damage control and repairs. You’ll also participate in regular emergency drills and training to ensure the crew can respond properly in the event of fires, collisions, or other crisis scenarios. The safety of passengers and crew is dependent on the quick thinking and action of all team members in these situations.

With a challenging but rewarding role maintaining critical systems, refrigeration engineers are vital members of a ship’s engineering department. If you’re mechanically inclined, dedicated to safety, and can remain calm under pressure, this career could be an exciting opportunity to see the world from the sea.

Skills, Qualifications and Requirements to Become a Reefer Engineer

To become a Reefer Engineer in the Merchant Navy, you’ll need both technical skills and soft skills. On the technical side, you must have a refrigeration engineering background, with experience maintaining and repairing HVAC and refrigeration equipment. 


You’ll need to obtain certification as a Marine Refrigeration Engineer, which requires completing an apprenticeship program and passing an exam. Some ships may require additional certifications, like an F-Gas certification to handle refrigerants.

Troubleshooting Ability

As a Reefer Engineer, you need to be able to troubleshoot issues with refrigeration and HVAC systems and make repairs quickly. Problems need to be solved at sea, so you have to be able to work under pressure with limited resources. Strong troubleshooting and critical thinking skills are essential.

Physical Ability

The job can be physically demanding, requiring a lot of standing, walking, climbing and heavy lifting. You need to be able to lift and move equipment weighing up to 50 pounds. You also have to be able to participate in emergency drills and procedures.


Strong communication skills are important as a Reefer Engineer. You’ll need to understand written procedures and documentation, as well as communicate well with your team and crew members. You may also have to explain technical issues to non-technical staff and crew. The ability to communicate in English is typically required.

With the right skills, certifications and experience, you can have an exciting career at sea as a Reefer Engineer in the Merchant Navy. While the job is challenging, you get to travel the world and play an important role in keeping cargo and crew comfortable. If you enjoy technical work, problem-solving, and hands-on roles, this could be a great career path for you.

So there you have it – a snapshot of what life is like as a reefer engineer in the merchant navy. The job isn’t for everyone, but if you’re technically minded, love the ocean, and enjoy troubleshooting complex systems, it could be a great fit. Just make sure you get the proper training and certifications under your belt. And remember, no two days will ever be the same out there on the high seas. But that’s part of what makes it such an exciting career. So if you’re up for the challenge, why not give it some serious thought? The merchant fleet needs good people like you to keep those reefers humming.

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