Chief Engineer
In marine transportation, the chief engineer is a licensed mariner
Licensed mariner
A licensed mariner is a person who holds a license issued by one or more countries to hold senior positions aboard ships, boats, and similar vessels. The United States Coast Guard grants licenses to members of the United States Merchant Marine in five categories: deck officers, engineers, staff...

 in charge of the engineering department on a merchant vessel
Merchant vessel
A merchant vessel is a ship that transports cargo or passengers. The closely related term commercial vessel is defined by the United States Coast Guard as any vessel engaged in commercial trade or that carries passengers for hire...

. "Chief engineer" is the official title of someone qualified to oversee the entire engine department; the qualification is colloquially called a "chief's ticket".


A chief engineer (commonly referred to as "The Chief" or just "Chief") is responsible for all operations and maintenance that has to do with any and all engineering equipment throughout the entire ship.

The chief engineer also determines the fuel, lube oil, and other consumables required for a voyage. The chief engineer also compiles an inventory for spare parts, oversees fuel, lube, and slop oil transfers, all major maintenance, prepares the engine room for inspection by local marine/safety authorities (e.g. U.S. Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

), is required to be in the engine room during maneuvering operations, and is in charge of the engine room during emergency situations. This is the short list of a chief engineer's duties aboard a merchant vessel.

The chief's primary assistant, the first assistant engineer/second engineer
First Assistant Engineer
A first assistant engineer is a licensed member of the engineering department on a merchant vessel. This title is used for the person on a ship responsible for supervising the daily maintenance and operation of the engine department...

, supervises the daily operation of the engine room and engine department and reports directly to the chief.

Chief engineer's licenses are divided into different types for the various types of engine- and power-plant found on ships. These are commonly divided as steam (reciprocating)
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 (now almost obsolete), steam (turbine)
Steam turbine
A steam turbine is a mechanical device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam, and converts it into rotary motion. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884....

, Diesel
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

, diesel-electric
Diesel-electric transmission or diesel-electric powertrain is used by a number of vehicle and ship types for providing locomotion.A diesel-electric transmission system includes a diesel engine connected to an electrical generator, creating electricity that powers electric traction motors...

, gas Turbine
Gas turbine
A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of internal combustion engine. It has an upstream rotating compressor coupled to a downstream turbine, and a combustion chamber in-between....

 etc. These categories are often further divided into various horsepower ranges. Obtaining a Chief Engineer's License for Unlimited Horsepower is, by far, the highest achievement a licensed engineering officer can reach on a merchant vessel. Sailing as chief engineer is an immense undertaking of great responsibility.

See also

  • Seafarer's professions and ranks
    Seafarer's professions and ranks
    Seafarers hold a variety of professions and ranks, and each of these roles carries unique responsibilities which are integral to the successful operation of a seafaring vessel...

  • Engine room
    Engine room
    On a ship, the engine room, or ER, commonly refers to the machinery spaces of a vessel. To increase the safety and damage survivability of a vessel, the machinery necessary for operations may be segregated into various spaces, the engine room is one of these spaces, and is generally the largest...

  • Engineering department
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