Engine cadet or trainee marine engineer or junior engineer is the first step to become chief engineer. The life of an engine cadet is comparatively easy compared to deck cadet and olden days engine cadet. But still, life is difficult when compared to a job ashore. Life may be comfortable or stressful it all depends upon many factors like ship condition I mean machinery condition, people working onboard, ship route, weather conditions, etc.

Daily life of engine cadet

engine cadet wakes up early in the morning as he has to go for engine room round along with duty engineer at 6 am. in some ships he has to take soundings of various tanks in the engine room and in some other ships oiler/motorman/trainee oiler takes sounding.

One should start its round from the funnel and end at the tunnel. But to be honest how many start from funnel I don’t know but I have never seen anyone.
Junior engineers must monitor all machinery parameters closely as it will give a prior indication of any failure. I suggest all my engine cadets to keep their eyes, ears, and nose open and always carry temperature gun while going for the round. Eyes will indicate any change in order, ears will tell you any abnormal noise and the nose will tell you if something burning as a result of friction or fire.
In general Junior engineers or Engine cadets write logbook. And as all other engineers are busy with their own machinery so any change in parameter only junior engineer can notice at first sight easily. He must inform the duty engineer regarding such change immediately.
Training record book (TAR Book) is given to engine cadet or junior engineer so that he can complete his assignment. Most of the cadets used to take sign at a time rather than taking signatures regularly from the second engineer and every fifteen days from the chief engineer. what I noticed is that if someone completes his TAR Book thoroughly 70% then he is capable of handling his next rank successfully. At the same time, it’s difficult to study onboard merchant navy ships.

I sailed with many chief engineers and second engineers who were not good at computers so they take the help of Junior engineer for their paperwork. Engine cadet or T.M.E (trainee marine engineer) requires some basic computer skills. As per my experience MS WORD, MS EXCEL, paint, and decent typing speed will be enough to work as a junior engineer.

Month-end few paper works are done. Few companies have weekly reports few have 15 days. Almost all companies have quarterly reports. Engine cadet helps other engineers to fill up those reports as he writes logbook on regular basis. I have seen junior engineers helping the chief engineers to complete their noon report, arrival report, departure report, etc. And it’s also a fact that no engineers like paperwork. At Least I have not seen one.

if a cadet takes interest in his job he will definitely do great. In the first month itself, he will be an expert in pipelines. but what I noticed is that no one likes line tracing as ready-made line diagrams are present onboard ships. In three months’ time, they learn basic machinery operation.

I never gave any cleaning or painting jobs to my junior unless until he himself makes it dirty. in fact, no one likes cleaning and painting jobs.

Junior engineer job is not respectable job on board

Earlier contract duration was long ( minimum 9 months). second engineers were giving mostly cleaning and painting jobs for few months before teaching anything to juniors but time has changed. the ship itself is maintained in so good condition you will rarely find oil in bilges.

Engine cadet or junior engineer must learn basic machinery operation like starting of the generator and taking it on load, transfer of bilges, start and stop of various pumps within two months of his joining. Only good knowledge and skill will make someone confident.

Earlier junior engineer used to keep night watch but nowadays it’s rarely seen. MLC (maritime labour convention) is growing very strict and as you know any sort of ragging and harassment will not be tolerated.
Beauty of this profession is that if you don’t like someone then no issues as that fellow has to go back home and some other new person will join in his place. But if you are in some other job and you don’t like your boss then you know what will happen

Nowadays ships are equipped with multi gymnasium. but if you are serious about your future exam and want to learn your job then try to avoid the gymnasium. unless until you are pro-level bodybuilder or extremely serious about your body better to avoid gymming.

Duty of engine cadet or junior engineer depends upon ship type also. if ship is UMS then life is better and enough time for studies. if Manned then time will go fast as you will always remain busy and you will learn machinery operation in manual mode. My suggestion is to join a troublesome ship till third engineer rank to gain more and more experience. of course, life will be tough.

if ship is in UMS then working hour for junior or cadet is as follows
6am-7am – morning engine room round
8am-12pm- assist engineers on their job
12pm-01pm lunch break
01pm-05/06pm – work
09pm-10pm engine round.

if ship is manned then
04am-10 am- watch with second engineer.
04pm-08pm – watch with second engineer.

I will suggest few topics to focus on while sailing as a junior engineer or engine cadet

Learn job for your next rank. taking bunker sounding, air compressor maintenance, incinerator operation and maintenance, bunker calculation, parameters to monitor and adjust during manoeuvring, permits, and checklist, company policy, operation of safety equipment. in some ports, we observed that port state control catches cadets and asks them to operate some safety equipments. once p.s.c guy caught my cadet and asked him to operate emergency steering, start emergency generator and life boat engine.

One must be thorough on operating emergency equipment as it will not only help in future rank but also will help from an exam point of view.

Life is not that difficult in merchant navy as people think. but it takes some time to settle. if you are a bit homesick and emotional kind of person then it will be a bit difficult. but with time you will adjust for sure.

Nowadays maximum number of ships are coming up with internet and wifi facilities. Although this is an expensive option still you can use whatsapp by disabling downloading of image and videos. it’s a great feature addition to this profession. Personally, I noticed that you won’t feel that much loneliness.

work hard, stay focused and use your mind while performing any task in few years you will be the best in the industry.


  1. thank you! I was elated by the guide that you had shared. I get some idea on how to be promoted on board. I will now focus on how to learn some safety equipment, emergency steering, and how to operate the generator, etc.

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