What Marine Engineers and Naval Architects Do
Marine engineers and naval architects design, build, and maintain ships from aircraft carriers to submarines, from sailboats to tankers. Marine engineers work on the mechanical systems, such as propulsion and steering. Naval architects work on the basic design, including the form and stability of hulls.
Marine engineers typically do the following:
- Prepare system layouts and detailed drawings and schematics
- Inspect marine equipment and machinery to draw up work requests and job specifications
- Conduct environmental, operational, or performance tests on marine machinery and equipment
- Design and oversee testing, installation, and repair of marine apparatus and equipment
- Investigate and observe tests on machinery and equipment for compliance with standards
- Coordinate activities with regulatory bodies to ensure that repairs and alterations are done safely and at minimal cost
- Prepare technical reports for use by engineers, managers, or sales personnel
- Prepare cost estimates, schedules for design and construction, and contract specifications
- Maintain contact with contractors to be sure the work is being done correctly, on schedule, and within budget
The people who operate or supervise the operation of the machinery on a ship are sometimes called marine engineers, or, more frequently, ship engineers. Their work differs from that of the marine engineers in this profile. For more information on ship engineers, see the profile on water transportation occupations.
Marine engineers are increasingly putting their knowledge to work in power generation. Companies that formerly concentrated on other activities, such as papermaking, are now increasing their efforts to produce and sell electricity back to the power grid. These engineers’ skills are also useful in the oil and gas industry, including offshore drilling operations.
Naval architects typically do the following:
- Study design proposals and specifications to establish basic characteristics of a ship, such as size, weight, and speed
- Develop sectional and waterline curves of the hull to establish the center of gravity, ideal hull form, and data on buoyancy and stability
- Design entire ship hulls and superstructures, following safety standards
- Design the layout of ships’ interiors, including passenger compartments, cargo space, ladder wells, and elevators
- Confer with marine engineers to set up the layout of boiler room equipment, heating and ventilation systems, refrigeration equipment, and propulsion machinery
- Lead teams from a variety of specialties to oversee building and testing prototypes
- Evaluate how the ship does during trials both at the dock and at sea and change the design as needed to make sure the ship meets national and international standards.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition