How do you prepare a cruise ship for sea?

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Today we have a guest post from The Cruise Ship Engineer – he has worked in the cruise industry as a marine engineer for over 8 years. In the past he has worked on several famous cruise ships, including Cunards’ Queen Mary 2.

When we join a cruise ship we all have our own little rituals to prepare for sailaway, maybe a cocktail from the bar or finding a nice spot for the best views whilst leaving port.  Whilst you’re getting into holiday mode, the last thing likely on your mind is how the ships engineers are preparing the ship for departure.
Ships unfortunately don’t run as smoothly as a car, and it takes a lot more than the turn of a key to start the engines.  There is a team of between 6 to 20 engineering officers on-board depending on the size of the vessel who ensure the ship sails safely and on time.

Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2

Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2

All the main machinery on-board can be controlled from a central position which is called the Engine Control Room. If the bridge is the brain of the ship then the Engine control room is definitely the heart.  This is manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  About 2 hours before departure the Engineer on watch will start his pre departure checks, normally ticking off a check list along the way to ensure nothing is forgotten.


These checks ensure ships systems are running and operating as required, Checks are made of all manoeuvring equipment such as bow thrusters, stern thrusters and propulsion motors.
The steering gear will also be checked for correct operation.  The steering gear can actually be controlled locally down beneath the decks, in the case of an emergency or fault with the control system from the bridge, an engineer can man this space and control the entire vessels via push buttons!  Although he can’t see where he is going so communication systems with the bridge are at hand and tested during departure checks.

About 30 minutes before departure, the engineer on watch will begin to start the ships engines, once on line they will start the propulsion motors ensuring all parameters are correct.  This ships engineers then pass control of propulsion from the control room up to the bridge.

Whilst leaving port the Chief Engineer or his deputy will be present in the control room and he will take charge and make decisions regarding the ships machinery, he will also advise the captain in case off any issues with the plant on-board.  Departing or arriving into port carries more risk than sailing in open sea, due to shallow water and heavy traffic.

View from the stern (back) of Queen Victoria

View from the stern (back) of Queen Victoria

Once the vessel has left port limits and underway the 2nd Engineer till take control of the ship, and start fresh water generators and additional engines depending on the speed required.

If you enjoyed this article, then head over to The Cruise Ship Engineers’ website – I have a host of other interesting articles for you to enjoy!

About Author

The Cruise Ship Engineer

I am a Marine Engineer who has worked in the cruise industry for over 8 years. I started out as an Engineering Cadet with one of world largest cruise companies and worked through my certification right up until gaining my Chief Engineers Licence.

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