Marine Engineer Mataaro Kaipuke

Marine engineers operate, service and repair engines, and mechanical and electronic equipment on ships and boats.

Marine engineers may do some or all of the following:

  • diagnose engine and machinery problems, and carry out maintenance and repairs
  • order and receive fuel and lubricating oils and spare parts
  • perform specialised fabrication, maintenance and diagnostics or electrical-fitting tasks
  • check, test and maintain automatic controls and alarm systems.

Marine engineers at sea may also:

  • have charge of engines and mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment on board the ship
  • keep ships moving at required speeds according to orders from the captain or computers on the bridge
  • maintain services to electrical power, heating, ventilation, refrigeration, water and sewerage systems
  • supervise other engineers and crew members, and be responsible for training them in routine and emergency duties.

To become an electro-technical officer, you need:

  • New Zealand Diploma in Marine Electro-Technology (Level 6)
  • at least 30 months of sea service.

You can then apply for the Maritime New Zealand Electro-technical Officer Certificate (Level 6).


Physical Requirements

Marine engineers need:

  • to be reasonably fit and healthy because they may have to work at heights or in confined spaces, and lift heavy objects
  • good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
  • normal colour vision.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for marine engineers includes:

  • other engineering work
  • work with pneumatic or hydraulic machinery (operated with air or liquid pressure)
  • welding, electrical or electronics work
  • time at sea.

Personal Qualities

Marine engineers need to be:

  • responsible
  • practical, methodical and adaptable
  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • excellent problem-solvers
  • confident decision-makers who remain calm in emergencies
  • good communicators
  • good at maths and physics.


Marine engineers need to have knowledge of:

  • mechanical engineering
  • pneumatic and hydraulic machinery (operated with pressure caused by air or liquids)
  • how to operate and fix electronic and electrical equipment
  • safety regulations and procedures
  • firefighting, first aid and survival skills
  • home and foreign port regulations.


Marine engineers:

  • usually work shifts and can be on call
  • work on ships – often in engine rooms – in dry docks or at sea
  • work in all weather conditions, and in conditions that can be hot and noisy
  • may travel within New Zealand waters or overseas.

Marine Engineers can earn around $60K-$80K per year.

Pay for marine engineers varies depending on their experience, qualifications, and the size and type of vessel they work on.

  • New marine engineers usually earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.
  • Marine engineers with more than five years' experience usually earn between $80,000 and $180,000.

Source: International Maritime Institute of New Zealand, 2017.

Marine engineers can progress to work on larger and more complex vessels, move into engineering work in other industries, or move into roles such as ship's surveyor.

Marine engineers work in a range of settings including:

  • fishing vessels ranging from small inshore fishing boats to large factory trawlers
  • the merchant navy – commercial ships, including cargo ships, cruise liners and superyachts, but excluding fishing boats.
  • in restricted waters, such as harbours, on harbour tugs and ferries, charter launches or small cargo ships.

Marine electro-technical officers maintain and repair all electrical and electronic equipment, systems, installations and machinery on board, including all communications and electronic navigation aids.

Years Of Training

1-3 years of training required.

To become a marine engineer, you need to have an appropriate Marine Engineer Class Certificate of Competency. This includes:

  • at least 200 hours at sea
  • engineering training approved by Maritime New Zealand
  • a medical certificate
  • an eyesight test 
  • being able to prove you are of good character, including a New Zealand Police Vet Check.

Certificates of Competency start at Marine Engineer Class 6 (Level 4) for the smallest vessels.

Classes 6, 5 and 4 are for work within New Zealand. 

Classes 3, 2 and 1 are for international work. 

If you have a National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering (Level 4) or equivalent, this can reduce your qualifying time to become a Marine Engineer Class 3, 4 or 5.

The Royal New Zealand Navy also offers training for marine engineers.

Marine Engineer