Watchkeeping 101

As 3rd engineer the majority of my time is spent watchkeeping.

Watchkeeping, depending on your personality, can be the most interesting or most boring job you have in your career.

Some people enjoy it as the routine is set and the expectations of the position are clear. Some people hate it because the routine is set and there isn’t always opportunities to get into many new things, or be a part of larger projects that may be going on.

Watchkeeping is the running and monitoring of the plant on board the vessel, this includes machinery such as: the main engines, the auxiliary engines, the water makers, the propulsion motors, the various pumps, the air compressors, the sewage plant, the boilers, the domestic water systems, the purifiers, and the control systems and alarms attached to these systems. It also includes the monitoring of the fuel levels, bilges, water levels, air supply to the machinery spaces, and other odds and ends that may come up.


In addition, the watchkeeper is responsible for their oiler/engineroom assistant and their work for the day.

Even writing all that out I didn’t realize quite how many pieces of machinery I was responsible for in a day, because a lot of it is becoming second nature for me to look at and monitor without too much thinking.

The downside to being a watchkeeper is that this is what you are responsible for no matter what, everyday, for every watch. People may find this boring and want to do other things, because there are days where watchkeeping can become monotonous and repetitive, but at the end of the day these systems are your responsibility. The more experience you obtain, the more you are able to work on other little projects in the engineroom spaces, while at the same time still being able to confidentially monitor all these systems.

But there are also those who are content to watchkeep and not do anything else, to do exactly what is required of them and nothing more.

The ideal situation is to reach the middle ground of the two, where you are able to confidently maintain all of the systems, but still complete jobs around the engineroom and learn new things. To not overreach the watchkeeping position, but to not remain stagnant either.


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