14 Marine Engineering Facts You Should Know About

Dimitris Tsapis
May 8, 2021

Marine engineering is a highly technical job that requires a passion for the sea and creative problem-solving abilities. Engineers design, build and manage objects that operate in water environments, including the engine room of superyachts and cargo ships.

But there are several marine engineering facts that you probably don’t know about. These facts relate to the history of the profession, the nuts, and bolts of their role onboard, as well as useful information related to their career.

In this article, we will list 14 interesting facts that are guaranteed to make you appreciate your career path as a yacht engineer, as well as give you a quick historic rewind. Ready to dive in? Let’s get started!

Table of contents

Archimedes was the very first marine engineer

The title of the very first marine engineer goes to Archimedes (287-211 BCE). The famous mathematician and inventor from ancient Greece is known to have developed several marine engineering systems in his days, the principles of which still apply and are taught to students today. That said, the modern version of marine engineering started in the early days of the Industrial Revolution - the 1700s.

Modern marine engineering starts with the steam-powered engine

marine engineering facts


In the early days of the 18th century - 1712 to be exact - Thomas Newcomen built the very first steam-powered engine. The system was initially used to extract water from mining grounds but was later used to build the very first steam-powered water vessel in 1807. Robert Fulton, the man responsible for the steam-powered watercraft is by many known to be the inventor of modern-day marine engineering.

Other historic marine engineering facts

history of marine egineering
  • The first-ever diving suit is the brainchild of Konrad Kyeser, a military engineer that lived during the 14th and 15th century. In 1405 he wrote a book called Bellifortis, which included images referring to the design of his “diving dress”.
  • The first underwater exploration device is known as the diving bell and was created by Franz Kessler in 1616.
  • In time, diving suits got more advanced, with Charles and John Deane building the first diving helmet in 1824. The concept was later improved upon by several marine engineers throughout history.
  • The first designs of a functioning submarine were created in 1690 by Denis Papin, a French inventor, physicist, and mathematician.

Yacht Engineer Salary

marine engineering fact

The profession of a marine engineer is considered to be a well-paid profession, even at junior stages. It is considered to be the second-highest-paid job aboard the vessel, next to the captain. A study in 2019 found that the average marine engineer in the US earns $92.400 per year. The average earning per hour ramp up to $44.42. The reason for this nearly 6-figure average salary is both the highly technical expertise and the inconvenient work-hours that boat engineers have to abide by.

Yacht engineers are split into multiple categories

marine engineer at work

As far as (super) yachts, there are 13+ different categories of engineers, all of which have different responsibilities, levels of experience, and, of course, salary. You can check out the types of yacht engineers here.

Discover interesting engineering books with the help of Google

marine engineering books

Google’s search engine can guide you to some of the best books for marine engineers. The process is simple. Head over to Google and type in “Marine engineering books”. If you want to find more specific information, replace the word “Marine” with a more niche keyword, like “Yacht”. You will instantly see a list of relevant books that you can check individually and purchase with a few clicks.

Industry growth forecasts seem to contradict one another

When it comes to the growth of the profession in terms of demand, opinions are often mixed. While some resources cite a double-digit growth of employment rates in the next 5 years due to growth in demand for fossil fuels, others keep a more moderate approach. More specifically, the Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates a growth pattern that is slower than usual - 1% in the next decade - due to the federal budget restraints linked with military ship employment. As you can already tell, these statistics are not a reliable representation for those who work on commercial and private ships, which is why its hard to give a concrete answer.

That said, marine engineering drives the global economy

Even though projections for the industry’s growth seem to be indicating some stagnation, it is important to realize that 90% of the goods are still transported around the world using ships. This indicates a natural growth and demand for the shipping industry. As a result of this situation, marine engineers will always be in high demand, especially for cargo ships.

Boat engineers enjoy several benefits

Apart from a good salary, ship engineers also enjoy a wide range of benefits. The average engineer receives free accommodation, premium health care packages, and also a “time for time” rotation (for senior positions). This means that you get to have a paid leave for half of the year. Depending on the vessel, the rotation patterns can be split differently. Common ones are 2 or 3 months on/off (2:2, 3:3) while there are other boats that prefer to keep the loops shorter (2 weeks on/off). The relative flexibility of these rotations makes it easier for engineers to balance their work-life with their private life.

The web is a great place to socialize, educate, and network

Boat engineers use the web to find like-minded individuals, as well as work opportunities. The most popular channels that we see them use are individual forums, like Yacht Forums, Marine Insight, and YBW, and Facebook groups like Marine Engineers, Marine Engineering, and Yacht Engineer Job Offers.

Responsibilities are not limited below deck

When it comes to yacht engineers, multitasking is the name of the game. Apart from being responsible for the engine room and all the mechanics aboard (which consists of many different aspects), engineers may also be involved in the vessel’s docking procedures, as well as the maintenance and overview of water sport activities (e.g. jet skis).

You will need to climb the ranks like any other profession

The hierarchy of yacht engineers is considered to be linear, requiring a large number of certifications that are obtained over time, as well as extensive levels of experience. 

When first starting out, you will likely work as a junior engineer. At this stage, you work closely with more senior engineers to get a better understanding of all the systems on the vessel and you already hold the basic certifications.

As you progress in the engine room, your responsibilities and knowledge increase. Having gained more practical experience and the required skill set, you can now advance to become a second engineer - the senior engineer’s right hand. The responsibilities here include basic maintenance, independent repair of systems, and assistance of the senior engineer on complex procedures.

Finally, you can qualify as a senior (or chief) engineer. This is the highest level you can accrue and requires a combination of strong management and leadership skills, next to top-class technical expertise. 

The future of superyacht designs is here

If you enjoy dabbling into futuristic designs of superyachts and their unique details, you might want to explore this website. VHR presents several designs that you can do more research on to get a better understanding of how the next generation of superyachts will look like. In many ways, this can also prepare you for potential adaptations in your role as a yacht engineer.

Marine engineering opens doors to other professions and industries

Marine engineering skills and experience can act as a springboard towards other career directions as well. While the majority of successful ship engineers choose to complete their working years on boats others progress to different areas, whether that means shore-side engineering services or another field completely. This is possibly the only industry-relevant role that can move into different sectors, next to stewards that often choose to work in hospitality.

Bonus - interesting engineering articles

Apart from the ocean engineering facts we discussed above, you might want to explore the sector in further depth, through interesting articles and research papers. If that is the case, make sure you check out the following resources:

Interesting facts about marine engineering - Wrapping up

Marine engineering is certainly a fascinating concept to look back at and forward to. While the industry may not be the fastest-growing, it has established a layer of importance across both shipping, transportation, and entertainment industries. Due to this, it is an excellent career path and one where you always keep learning more.

The marine engineering facts we discussed above should help you get a better understanding of the history and unique specifications of your role. Additionally, you should now have some food for thought when it comes to improving your experience, skillset, and, potentially, your network.