Costs of being a marine engineer

credit – interwebs

A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of the
steps required to achieving and maintaining a Transport Canada 1st
Class Certificate of Competency. The list identifies the individual steps to
hold a 1st Class and the associated cost not only in terms of money, but
also in terms of time for training, in the “classroom”, and time served aboard
a ship. I compiled one list for the Marine Engineering Cadet stream, and one
for the so called “Alternate Path” stream, or “hawsepiping”.

No matter how you slice it, the path to becoming
a Marine Engineer in Canada
is not an easy one. It is very long and many requirements have to be met, to
succeed. But it is clear that taking the Cadet path to 1st Class is
the best option; costing about $25,500 dollars and taking about nine and half years
to complete. The “Alternate Path”, is considerably more burdensome in the
number of steps, and considerably more expensive, at $32,800 – 26% more.
However it takes about the same time as the cadet stream, 9.2 years, to
The data is compiled in its entirety, but
some individuals may be able to find shortcuts to some aspect of the
requirements listed, but overall, these “shortcuts” are quite minimal. The
costs, as they are compiled neglect a considerable additional financial burden:
the cost of housing, food, transportation, taxes, and such are not included in
these summaries. With an expected time in school of over three years, this
would represent a considerable financing challenge by an individual pursuing a
Marine Engineering career.
Sea time served aboard a ship is also
calculated as the necessary sea time, which does not include time off, or
vacations. When these factors are considered, the length of time required to
complete the program stretches considerably. The length depending on the type
of watch, 8 or 12 hrs served on board, and leave rotation. Leave in Canada is mostly at day for day – or at least
ought to be, so theoretically, the 6.2 years of sea time Transport Canada
requires, could end up being twelve years in actual time.
These costs also ignore the elephant in the
room, that is, the social cost of a career at sea. These affect individuals
differently, but principally include social isolation, leading to social
disorders such as substance abuse and failed marriages / relationships. The
impacts to the support network that a seafarer is able to maintain, are also
considerable. Children with absent parents and the impacts this produces are
immeasurable. Impacts on spouses and their ability to function “normally” are
also greatly affected by this career choice of their spouse.   
credit – interwebs
The purpose for me to compiled these lists
were to ascertained whether the return on such a considerable amount of time,
financial, and social investment are worth the returns. I recognize that the
social cost is not readily calculatedly. It is also safe to say that the job
satisfaction benefits are also not calculable. So the question becomes is it
comparable to other professions or trades; I would propose not.
The sheer amount of requirements to be met
is staggering, and requires a long time frame to complete. I estimate an initial
salary in the range of $50-70k per year in Canada for a 4th Class
with two years experience on the job. I further estimate the range for 1st
Class to be around $100-120k per year, however, these latter figures are, if
and when you do get a 1st class license, which takes at least 8-11
years after achieving a 4th Class.
If you were to weight options, perhaps a
Red Seal trade, such as Diesel Mechanic, Millwright, Electrician, or even a
police officer would, I suggest, would offer a more reasonable return on
investment, than Marine Engineering would. Journeyman status is quickly
reached, 2-4 years, with fewer initial and ongoing training and licensing
requirements by comparison. I would suggest that they reach higher initial
earnings, and more importantly, considerably less social impacts on the individual or their
I would suggest that Marine Engineer
remuneration packages offered in Canada are currently inadequate to
attract new Marine Engineer to the profession. In strict comparison to other
avenues of post secondary education, an investment in Marine Engineering is a
long term outlay of capital, with meager returns.
The remuneration situation also fails to
recognize the current realities of seafaring and its impact on an individual’s
ability to have a family, a basic human need. The ability to raise a family has
many facets made more complicated, by the very specific and enormously taxing
work requirements. These challenges are seldom anticipated by new entrants into
the maritime world, until well into their careers. Therefore the overall
remuneration for a career minded Marine Engineering professional, is woefully
inadequate, particularly in Canada.
credit – interwebs
I would suggest a proper remuneration
package starting at $95-120k per year for 4th Class to at least
$200k per year for a 1st Class. This might seem like a large amount
to employers, but I propose it is what it will take to address the stagnation
of Marine Engineering wages since the 1980’s.
Those who are now retiring in great
numbers, had their peak wage demands back then, and as their lives moved to
post family one, their cost decreased. I theorize that they settled for
marginal wage increases from ship operators since the 1980’s. However, this
generation is now retiring, and in order to attract career minded
professionals, the wages in this demanding profession will have to reflect the
current realities – however dramatic that might feel like now. 
You can download the files from the main website (Ship’s Library), or by clicking below…

This article has 3 Comments

  1. Martin I hold a second class motor and work in nl on a ferry,previously it was required a 2nd class as due to TC changes a 3rd class will suffice!to add insult to injury even the old 3rd class is being accepted many of which were previously fishing tickets who were granted 3rd class when fishing tickets were discontinued with no testing of any kind.these people are paid the same as second class and even first class in our group.

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