Saturday 7th August 2021 – Vol 001 Edition 00005
By Jim Campbell
A lot of people would love to travel the world but travelling the world as part of your work must be an aspiration of many. First Engineer Terence Kelly has travelled to many countries across the globe in his line of work as a marine engineer. The sea is in his blood; his late dad Traolach spent a lifetime on the ocean. I was delighted to meet up with Terence in Wexford town during one of his scheduled trips home, to discuss a day in the life of a First Engineer.
The Marine Engineer is responsible for operating, maintaining, and repairing all major mechanical and engineering equipment onboard a ship. Several mechanical systems help in the operations of any vessel like the propulsion mechanics, electricity and power generation system, lubrication, fuel systems, water distillation, lighting, air conditioning system, etc.
These are all included in the technical responsibilities of a Marine Engineer. Some of the essential duties that people who have done Marine Engineering (Maritime Engineering) perform are: monitoring and maintenance of mechanical systems – engineers of each rank on board ship are allocated specific machinery and methods for maintenance and monitoring purposes. Machinery systems are divided amongst all engineers, and each engineer must ensure their machinery is always operating. Marine Engineers are also required to look after the machinery on deck.
Terence’s ambition was to become an engineer but never thought about the idea of going to the sea. Summer on the ocean was a life-changing experience for the First Engineer. Terence found his love for engineering in the Wexford Vocational College (now Selskar College). He commenced an cadetship with the coastal shipping line Arklow Shipping Limited following his Leaving Certificate. Before being offered the cadetship, Terence spent a month at sea with the Arklow-based shipping company. After completing his four years training, he received his Fourth Engineer’s certificate.
Siberia to Europe and back
He progressed through the ranks of Third and Second Engineer; he is now First Engineer on a liquid natural gas carrier, travelling on a twenty-eight day round trip from Siberia to Europe – fourteen days each way. This trip is made three times during his three-month spell. He then enjoys three months at home with his family.
Terence is part of the Ship’s Management Team, consisting of the Captain, First Officer, Chief Engineer, and First Engineer. The group discuss the day-to-day running of the vessel at daily work meetings. The First Engineer’s duties are to manage the engine room, its crew, officers, and to plan maintenance of the ship’s engines. He reports to the Chief Engineer daily. So, an enormous responsibility rests on the shoulders of the First Engineer.
The Wexford man exits his bed at around six in the morning. Following his breakfast, he arrives at the Control Department of the Engine Room at approximately seven. It is at this point that the First Engineer is briefed on the previous night’s performance. Even though Terence has his scheduled hours, he is on call twenty-four hours a day should the Engine Room require him, this would normally happen if there was a problem. Following this previous night’s update and being satisfied that everything is good, he reports this to the Chief Engineer.
The ‘Noon Log’
After a walkabout to inspect the Engine Room, Terence meets with the crew and discusses the planned maintenance system and paperwork for the day ahead, who is doing what duty, and when.
What Terence loves about the job is travelling. “I have been in every continent except Antarctica. I also enjoy being a mentor, showing others how it is done. When I was young, I had someone showing me”.
It is now that the First Engineer gets the time to do his work, inspecting Refrigeration Compressors and the vessel’s Air Conditioning System. “Every day is different; could be repairing a pump one day and paperwork the next.” Before lunch, the First Engineer examines the ‘Noon Log’, which records the ship’s twenty-four hour performance, such as fuel consumption, distance travelled, etc. Once this is completed, he then reports the ‘Noon Log’ to the Chief Engineer.
Opportunities at sea
The Senior Management meeting takes place at three in the afternoon, which the First Engineer attends. Regarding this meeting, Terence states that “it is important that everyone on the ship knows what is happening.” By late afternoon, the time has come to plan the maintenance schedule for the following day. Terence logs off at five for the evening.
Terence’s advice to people wanting to pursue a career in Marine Engineering is to be ambitious – set a goal. “My goal was to get a Chief Engineer’s ticket which I have achieved. Listen to advice and work hard. When you listen to people, you listen to experience. You must have belief in yourself, believe that you can do it”. There are so many career opportunities at sea, “You might join the ship as an engineer only to discover later that you are better at navigation. Then you switch to navigating on the bridge instead of working in the engine room. Confidence comes with experience, so stick with it through good days and bad days; it’s life.”
The First Engineer believes that it is essential to get on with people. “Three months, even three days on a ship with someone you don’t get on with can be hard going. So, it is important to get on with people. Some people find that hard on their first trip and end up not going back. Remember the ship is like a small floating island so it is essential that people get on with one another.
Enjoy your work and see the world
Terence’s final advice is to go out, enjoy your work and see the world. In the evenings, when the ship docks the crew has the opportunity to go ashore and enjoy the particular country’s culture. “You could be at sea for three weeks, then sometimes when we are in the harbour you get the opportunity to go ashore – that would be part of our day, so we are planning who wants to go up the road and who doesn’t want to. We split, half and half go up one day and then the other half the next day.”
What a fitting way to end a day in the life of a Marine Engineer!
My sincere thanks to First Engineer Terence Kelly and to Rev Conor O’Reilly for their contribution to this blog, very much appreciated.
All Images and Original Text © All Rights Reserved – Jim Campbell 2021
About the author
Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades.
A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper.
Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications.
In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim’s work vist the link to his website below.