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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A day in the life of a Marine Engineer

I'll just explain how hard working I am.


FE.......................Filthy Engineer (Me)
Bow....................Pointy bit at the front end of the ship.
Stern..................Blunt bit at the back of the ship.
Poop Deck.........At the back, and the only place to have a fag.
MCR...................Machinery Control Room.
HQ1....................Part of the MCR where firefighting and DC incidents are controlled from
DC.......................Damage control.
R.O. Plant..........Magical fresh water making equipment.
Down below.......Nautical term for Downstairs.
Up Top...............Nautical term for upstairs.
Smokoe..............Strange name meaning Tea break.

0645. Alarm goes of and theFilthy Engineer leaps out of bed. (That bit was utter twaddle).

0700. Make a cup of tea.

0715. Down to the poop deck for a fag or two.

0745. Down below to the MCR and settle down with one of the computers to read E mail, and hide in the background .

0800. The working day starts. Boss starts by asking who has any priority jobs. FE sticks hand up from where he has been busy on the computer pretending to read pompous E mails from his boss.

"Please Boss, I've got some essential maintenance to do on the Refrigeration plant."

Now FE knows that the Boss has never done the refrigeration course and considers that this is one of the black arts akin to alchemy, Turning heat into cold. All I have to mention is that the superheat on the evaporator in the deep freeze room needs resetting and the next hour is mine to do with what I want.

Luckily the Refrigeration Machinery room is close to the poop deck, so a quick fag is in order.

Ok, must show willing, down to the Fridge plant, look in, all is well, but the peeps in the central store are looking bored, so better wander in and chat with them.

Time goes by.

Another Fag on the poop deck.

After Smokoe, Boss nearly catches FE playing solitaire on the MCR computer, but quick as a flash, FE lets it be known that he was just checking the Fresh water tank levels, and that the tanks need filling.

Now as you may realise we all need fresh water to survive. (FE needs water for the copious amounts of duty free whisky he needs for his personal survival). Therefore water making is important. Water making on ships used to be by using steam powered evaporators but is now produced from Sea water using RO plants. (If you have been too lazy to read the Glossary, please do now).

These RO plants look incredibly complicated, and of course my Boss has only worked with an Evaporator and knows nothing about RO plants. Good, thinks FE, I'm on to a winner here.

Right then, off to make water, but first things first. FE sidles over to HQ1 and does the first step in making Fresh water. Turn off the surveillance camera that monitors the RO plants.
Next put on ear defenders. Not because off noise levels in the Machinery space but to stop the Boss from telling FE that he has something else to do like clean out the shithouse treatment plant.

This is where FE should panic. The RO plant looks incredibly complicated with pipes, pumps, valves, wires, filters, membranes, teamakers (made that up), and all sorts of sundries. However FE is an avid reader and has read the instruction manual page 33. The first 32 were dire warnings from the HSE about fires, floods, and pestilence. No need. The RO plant has a touch sensitive display, looking complicated at first glance, especially to the Boss, only needs one command. Press "Start". Voila, off it goes, and there's the FE's morning completed. Fag break beckoned after such hard work, then off to lunch.

Maybe I'll let you know what I did after lunch.

(If the Commodore reads this, tough shit you Tosser, I've retired, and no bullshit about you've signed the official secrets act)

They're dead right.

From an article in the Times today shows that even the MOD are overstaffed with civil servants.

The Ministry of Defence is so stuffed with civil servants that they outnumber the combined manpower of the Royal Navy and the RAF.

The statistic, produced by the Conservatives yesterday to attack the Government’s record on defence manpower, followed condemnation by General Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, a former Chief of Defence Staff, over imbalances between uniform and non-uniformed personnel.

Liam Fox, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said that 16 per cent of the Civil Service resided in the MoD, and that the number of civilian officials (86,620), was about 12,000 more than the Royal Navy (34,830) and RAF (39,260) put together.

I work for the Royal Fleet auxiliary, and worked ashore for a couple of years in an office helping to manage the re-fitting of ships. My job was to collate the work for each ship's refit in my group, and edit each job specification to weed out cost overruns.

Now as most engineers know, it is not an exact science and you can't plan for every eventuality. Because of this we expected a cost overrun on several jobs.

For instance, if you open up a pump for survey you may find that the wear is far more than predicted, therefore extra cost incurred.

To this end we were allowed a package of extra money, usually between 5% and 15% depending on the age of the ship to be refitted.

Our outfit was comprised of 50% uniformed staff and 50% civil servants.

One part of Office was entirely staffed with civil servants devoted to writing specifications for alterations to the vessel, ie new equipment to replace the obsolete stuff. (Every thing wears out in time and can't be fixed)

What shocked me was the length of these specs. Sometimes 20 pages or more with endless waffle. The number of lines stating the bleeding obvious such as, "The contractor will carry out the following work", beggared belief.

Needless to say, often these specs arrived at my desk only just in time to be sent to the various tenderers, which procluded me from giving them the real once over.

5% or 15% overrun?

Bollocks! Some of these came in at 150%. What made it worse, is that for a lot of the specs, they called in outside contractors to write them.

Just to end it all, (Not me) when I went into the office there were 21 ships. Now we have 16 and the office has expanded their personnel by over 25%. Make sense to you? Me neither.

Here is the Time article

I'll write a post about the shipboard workplace sometime.