Royal Navy Marine Engineer
Andrew Taylor works on submarines as a marine engineer officer. He is part of a fourperson team that looks after the reactors that power the submarine.
What about life on a submarine?
It is fantastic, although finding space and time for yourself can be hard as there are about 100 people on board. I share a mess deck with 18 other people but I have my own bunk. We can watch TV and videos or play computer games and there is a mini-gym on board.
As officers, we have to stick to certain rules and conventions. For example, we are not allowed to eat our evening meal in our work clothes and we have to wear a tie for the late sitting for dinner. The food is good and there's plenty of it.
Do you feel isolated?
The submarine is submerged for several weeks at a time (different lengths of time for different types of submarine). You can feel very cut off from the outside world. We can't send personal messages home, although families can send very short messages, just a few words, once or twice a week. Underwater there is no difference between day and night in terms of weather or daylight. We still stick to a routine and there is a quieter feel to the submarine at night – the lights are dimmed.
What does your job involve?
I am based mainly in the engine room overseeing the electrical panel and the production of electricity, to make sure it is functioning correctly. If any faults develop we investigate and put them right.
Describe a typical day?
The day is divided into seven watches of three and four hours. Everyone on board is on a different watch pattern which determines the shifts we work. On a typical day after breakfast I do paperwork before going on watch. This might be writing up reports on defects in the electrical equipment.
I'm still studying for my officer qualification and promotion so that takes up time as well. And some of my time is taken up with sitting on Boards to assess other more junior crew members on their technical knowledge.
When did you join?
About three years ago. I went to the careers office while I was doing my A levels. I attended a three-day visit to HMS Sultan, where Navy engineers do their training. I was impressed, especially by the way everyone is encouraged to do sport – and given time off for it. I applied to the Navy in my final year at university.
What sort of training did you do?
Officers start at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. The first term introduced us to the Navy and its way of life – the rank structure, the organisation and the ships. We learned to march and wear our uniform. There was a big emphasis on fitness – we did a lot of running. Throughout, we did leadership and command exercises. Some of these were outdoors, including three nights on the moors. The second term included initial sea training and then I went to HMS Sultan for professional training as an engineer.
What's the best and worst thing about the job?
It is brilliant having the opportunity to be trained to such a high standard and working with such professional colleagues. However, life on a submarine can take some getting used to – you can feel a bit cut off and need to get on with your work colleagues.
- Be sure you get on with people – there is no escaping workmates on a submarine.
- Following basic training, Marine Engineer Officers undertake the accredited System Engineering Management Course. This involves approximately ten months of theory lessons, practical instruction, project work, management theory and practice in oral communications.
- Outdoor and adventure training is also included.
- As a MEO you could become a chartered engineer after two years.
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