Deck Engineers

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Deck Engineers

Deck Engineers - Working Conditions

In a typical work setting, ship engineers:

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Are responsible for the work done by the engine crew.
  • Are responsible for the health and safety of the ship's crew.
  • Have a medium level of job-related social contact.
  • Communicate with others primarily by face-to-face discussions and over the phone.
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  • Often work as part of a team.

Physical Work Conditions

  • Often work indoors, but may sometimes work outdoors.
  • Are exposed to loud and distracting noise levels and sounds on a daily basis.
  • Are regularly exposed to contaminants.
  • Are exposed to hot or cold temperatures, depending on the weather, on a daily basis.
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  • Are regularly exposed to hazardous equipment, conditions, and situations that may result in minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.
  • Sometimes work in cramped places that require getting into awkward positions.
  • Sometimes must work in very bright or very dim lighting conditions.
  • Occasionally experience whole body vibration while working.
  • Sometimes are exposed to high places.
  • May wear a special uniform on some ships.
  • May work physically near others.

Work Performance

  • Must be very exact in their work. Errors could seriously endanger the ship's crew or passengers.
  • Must be constantly aware of weather conditions and other changing events.
  • Must be sure that all details of the job are done so that engines run properly and efficiently.
  • Repeat the same mental and physical activities.
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  • Sometimes must match the speed of work to the pace of equipment.
  • Often make decisions that affect others, including coworkers and the performance of the vessel. Occasionally they may seek input before making important decisions.
  • Set most of their daily tasks and goals without talking to a supervisor first.
  • Must meet strict deadlines on a regular basis.


  • Work for 60 days and then have 30 days off, if employed on Great Lakes ships. However, these workers do not work in the winter, when the lakes are frozen.
  • May work year round on rivers, canals, and in harbors. Some work eight or 12-hour shifts and go home every day. However, ships that make short voyages often do not have engineers.
  • Usually stand watch for four hours and are off for eight hours, seven days a week.
  • May have long periods away from home.
Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.