Chief Engineer Duties, Responsibilities, and Salary

by | Last updated Feb 16, 2024 | Career Guide, Jobs and Tips, Salary, Shipboard Ranks | 0 comments

A Chief Engineer, also known as ChEng, C/E, or Chief, is the head of the Shipboard Engineering Department.

He is responsible for all operations and maintenance of all engineering equipment throughout the vessel.

Think of him as the marine engineer’s big boss with the highest rank and authority in the engine room.

Key Takeaways

  • The Chief Engineer has the second highest salary on board next to the Master.
  • He assigns watch duties to engineering officers based on experience and available personnel.
  • Monitoring bunker consumption is one of their main duties.


A Chief Engineer earns up to US$15,000 on an LPG/ LNG vessel. However, this figure varies depending on nationality, experience, company, and types of vessels.

Tankers usually give better pay brackets starting at US$10,500 in VLCC ships.

Meanwhile, dry cargo ships such as container vessels, bulk carriers, and car carriers give a salary range of US$7,500 to US$10,500.

Duties and Responsibilities

A Chief Engineer’s role within the shipboard organization is broad.

From paperwork and troubleshooting to ensuring compliance and optimizing fuel efficiency, he has to ensure that all the procedures and instructions described in the Company’s Management System are closely followed and not compromised.

Here are some of the duties and responsibilities of a Chief Engineer.

General Responsibilities

1. Paying attention to Engine Room housekeeping, maintaining it in a clean condition, and maintaining anti-pollution equipment in full operational order. 

2. Informing the Master as soon as possible of any incident regarding maneuvering, stability of the ship, and actions intended to be taken. 

3. The outgoing and incoming Chief Engineers must thoroughly inspect key areas such as steering gear spaces, boilers, workshops, and storage rooms. They must then sign a Protocol of delivery and acceptance, as per Company policy, and submit it to the Office.

4. He must also read, familiarize himself, and comply with all procedures/instruction manuals of the Company’s Management System.

5. Like all engineering officers, he shall quickly learn the stowage location of all manuals, drawings, tools, spare gear, etc. 

6. He shall supervise the familiarisation of newcomers with machinery and equipment per the Company’s familiarisation checklist. 

7. The Chief Engineer must pay utmost attention to the consumption of fuels and oils in such a way as to achieve good and safe performance with the most economical consumption, in close cooperation with the Master

Checking the sounding of a tank using a sounding tape with black fuel oil marking the sounding lead.

Engine Room Safety

The Chief Engineer must adhere to safety protocols by implementing these policies in the engine room.

8. Carry out safe working practices within the engine room under Company Policy, Company Safety Manuals, Operating Manuals, Emergency Procedures, Standing Instructions, and appropriate Company Circulars. 

9. Organise, in conjunction with the Master, Safety Meetings involving all Engine Room staff to discuss Engine Room Safety, Safe Working Practices, and Safety Precautions. 

Machinery Operation and maintenance

Machinery operation and maintenance are at the heart of every engineer’s role.

As the head of the engineering department, his job includes but is not limited to:

10. Main Engines, Generator Engines, Steering Gear, Deck Machinery (in cooperation with the Chief Officer), Refrigeration & Air-conditioning Units, Boilers, the Inert Gas System (if applicable), Pumps, Electric Motors and Electrical Systems. 

11. Operate all machinery following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

The only exception is in case of extreme emergency when a departure from the manufacturer’s recommended operating practices may be necessitated.

12. Organizes daily maintenance works in co-operation with the 2nd Engineer, keeping Crew Overtime Record Books and records of works completed.

13. Carry out maintenance under the manufacturer’s recommendations and the Company’s maintenance policy.  

14.  Reporting to the Company’s Technical Department of all maintenance works, outstanding items, and planned course of action to rectify them.  


Bunkering is a task all the engineers are active with, especially Chief Engineers.

For every voyage, the Chief Engineers must have an overview of the consumption and sufficiency of these bunkers.

15. Maintains sufficient bunkers, lubricants, and freshwater production, taking into account the vessel’s voyage plan and expected trading patterns. 

16. Supervise bunkering operations while adhering to SOPEP, ensuring safe and pollution-free transfer of fuel and lube oils. 

17. Prevents pollution during oil transfer and bunkering, both on deck and in machinery spaces.

Technical Administration

Technical administration refers to the broad range of tasks and responsibilities related to managing the technical aspects of the ship’s engine department.

For Chief Engineers, these jobs encompass the following:

Record-keeping and documentation:

  • Maintaining inventories of engine room stores, spare parts, and technical manuals.
  • Monitoring completion and endorsing entries in the Engine Log Book.
  • Updating the Planned Maintenance System (PMS) and ensuring critical equipment is inspected and tested according to schedule.
  • Filing technical manuals, drawings, and publications securely and ensuring their availability.
  • Maintaining records of incoming/outgoing letters, instructions, and performance reports.
Sample entries of Oil Record Book in the engine room.

Crew management and coordination:

  • Assigning watch duties to engineering officers based on ability and available personnel.
  • Organizing the engine department staff for routine maintenance and emergency responses.
  • Reviewing and developing emergency procedures for various scenarios.
  • Providing overall supervision for all engine room personnel.

Maintaining operational compliance:

  • Ensuring machinery and equipment are operational and meet safety standards.
  • Preventing pollution and risk to human life by ensuring compliance with regulations and company policies.
  • Keeping the Oil Record Book updated for inspections.

Additional responsibilities for ships without an electrician:

  • Distributing routine electrical work to other engineers.
  • Informing the office when subcontractor assistance is needed for electrical work.
  • Managing electrical stores’ inventory and maintaining their organization.

Who has the higher rank, Captain or Chief Engineer?

The seaman’s salary can usually determine rankings and the flow of the ship’s chain of command.

The Master of the ship has a higher rank compared to the Chief Engineer. But this doesn’t mean that his role is any less important or valuable.

It’s just that someone must be in overall charge of the vessel, and that’s the Master.

Meanwhile, their salary differs very little. A Master Mariner could be paid US$12,500, but a Chief Engineer would probably be paid US$12,000 to $12,300.

It varies a little, but Chief Engineers have fewer headaches than Captains.

May the winds be in your favor.



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