Fea­ture – A life on the ocean waves

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - CONTENTS -

Keith Dias is about to set sail, work­ing as a ma­rine engi­neer, af­ter stum­bling into the wrong class­room and dis­cov­er­ing a whole new ca­reer, writes Steve Hart.

Keith Dias is now a qual­i­fied ma­rine engi­neer, and it’s all down to him go­ing into the wrong class­room while tak­ing a Manukau In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy course at the New Zealand Mar­itime School.

He was near­ing the end of a one-year diploma in sup­ply chain man­age­ment when he found him­self in a room full of bud­ding engi­neers look­ing at com­plex maths equa­tions.

“The stu­dents were learn­ing me­chan­i­cal engineering and it all looked very in­ter­est­ing, so I signed up to take the course for the fol­low­ing year,” says Keith.

The 23-year-old had al­ways wanted to work at sea, and had tried out for join the New Zealand Navy.

“I ap­plied to be a ge­og­ra­pher, and com­pleted some train­ing with them, but there were just five places avail­able and I wasn’t se­lected,” he says.

He started the three-year diploma course in ma­rine engineering in 2011. It cov­ers things such as the main­te­nance and re­pair of ships’ en­gines, power gen­er­a­tors, sewage treat­ment plants, in­cin­er­a­tors, fresh wa­ter gen­er­a­tors, and air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems.

Part of the course cov­ered elec­tri­cal engineering, and he also had to learn ad­vanced first aid, search & res­cue skills, and fire­fight­ing. As part of his train­ing he went to Auck­land Air­port to see first-hand how to put out oil fires with Downer Engineering.

“When you are at sea, you are on your own. You can’t call the fire ser­vice or an am­bu­lance,” says Keith. “So we are trained to han­dle emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. On a cruise ship you will have doc­tors on the staff, but on a con­tainer ship you will prob­a­bly won’t – so those who are on­board need to know what to do in the case of an ac­ci­dent or ill­ness.

“A cruise ship may have more than 700 crew on­board, plus pas­sen­gers, whereas a con­tainer ship may have a crew of less than 20 peo­ple.”

Keith now has a diploma in ma­rine engineering as well as a cer­tifi­cate of com­pe­tency for work­ing at sea. His course started with six months of study fol­lowed by six months work­ing at sea as part of a cadet­ship.

Dur­ing his first year he was f lown out to join a cruise liner in Van­cou­ver and sailed to places such as Alaska, Hawaii, San­ti­ago, the Mex­i­can Riviera, Fiji, New Cale­do­nia and Syd­ney. He fin­ished up in Hong Kong be­fore f ly­ing back to Auck­land to con­tinue his train­ing.

“It gave me a chance to fa­mil­iarise my­self with the sys­tems on­board a ship and I got ex­pe­ri­ence do­ing the main job of watch keep­ing, which means keep­ing watch on all the sys­tems, gauges, lev­els across the ship,” says Keith. “Cruise ships chase the sun, so I got to see some great places dur­ing shore leave.

“The good thing about this job is that you have four months work­ing and then two months off. So there is plenty of time to do what­ever you want. But if you work in the oil & gas in­dus­try, then it is even bet­ter – five weeks on then five weeks off and the pay is ex­cel­lent.”

Keith will be work­ing for Hol­land Amer­ica Line, the firm he served his cadet­ship with, as fourth engi­neer.

“My li­cence qual­i­fies me as a third engi­neer, but since cruise ships are quite

“The good thing about this job is that you have four months work­ing and then two months off. So there is plenty of time to do what­ever you want.”

com­plex your first job is nor­mally fourth engi­neer,” he says.

“Then I hope to go up the ranks to third engi­neer’s po­si­tion which in­volves be­ing di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the ma­chin­ery – the top job is chief engi­neer.

“But for starters, I’ll be do­ing a lot of pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance work, en­sur­ing that all equip­ment is run­ning in line with man­u­fac­tur­ers’ spec­i­fi­ca­tions, check­ing tem­per­a­tures, lev­els of oil and oil pres­sure. Watch keep­ing is the main part of the job, I am a qual­i­fied watch keeper.”

Keith’s skills are in high de­mand right now with a global short­age of ma­rine engi­neers, the job fea­tures on New Zealand’s skill short­age lists.

“A lot of peo­ple are re­tir­ing from the in­dus­try right now, there are only around 1200 peo­ple work­ing as ma­rine engi­neers and they are re­tir­ing fast,” he says.

MIT grad­u­ate Keith Dias is ready to work on the high seas as a ma­rine engi­neer. Photo sup­plied

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