Nautilus polling - NMCI OPEN DAY 2017

Nautilus polling - NMCI OPEN DAY 2017


The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) Open Day 2017 will be remembered. With 850 visitors, we hardly got time for a coffee with colleagues from NMCI, Port of Cork, CIL, Coast Guards, INS, etc…

Each year since 2013, SEA-Tech has been privileged to represent the marine electrical and electronic industry among heavyweights of the shipping and cruise industry. It was at first a bit overwhelming but year after year we have made friends in each organisation, so now it’s more like the annual fair down the road. Also, having taught at the NMCI for a few years, I now feel at home thanks to the colleagues who contributed to the Open Day. In this article I would like to speak about careers at sea and conversion to land-based roles for marine technologists. I am addressing this article particularly to people who are contemplating the idea of a maritime career and my comments are mostly based on my own students’ experiences at sea.


Figure above: The Internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data.

At sea, Marine ICT engineers are called Electro-Technical Officers, ETO for short. Unlike other marine engineers, the ETO does not carry out an assigned engine room "watch"; instead they are normally on call 24 hours a day and generally work a daily shift carrying out electrical and electronic maintenance, repairs, diagnosis, installations and testing. Some shipping companies do not (yet!) carry Electrical Engineer Officers on their ship to cut down the manning cost, and a marine engineer - usually the third engineer, carries out the electrical duties. However, this situation has changed a lot and many companies have realised that modern electrical and electronic systems require extra attention and therefore require an expert to attend them. This is especially true on diesel-electric ships or vessels equipped with sophisticated systems such as dynamic positioning. As the technology advances, more automation and electronic circuits are replacing conventional and electrical systems making ships smarter! A certified position of Electro-Technical Officer is now in place and modern Electrical Engineers are competent in computer science, telecommunications, electrical engineering and sensing. This is what we teach at the National Maritime College of Ireland.

Effectively, Marine ICT is a growing element of the maritime sector. A radar nowadays is a PC with a sensor; an ECDIS (Electronic Charts Display) is also a PC with a flat monitor coupled with GPS. Radar, ECDIS, AIS are interacting together over networks like servers on a LAN. In ports, Vessel Traffic Management Information System (VTMIS), an extension of the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), in the form of an Integrated Maritime Surveillance, which incorporates other telematics resources, is replacing VTS in its current form. This new generation of integrated VTS will allow allied services and other interested agencies to use VTS data. It will also facilitate access to certain subsystems in order to increase the effectiveness of port or maritime activity operations as a whole. But it will not work without Marine ICT Technicians and Engineers. Normal conventional ICT knowledge is useless without proper seamanship. A couple of years ago in NMCI, Capt. Kevin Richardson, former Dover Harbourmaster and IHMA President, gave a very interesting presentation on the importance of MIS-VTS, stressing the importance of data. My understanding is that more people will need to be trained to keep systems working and workers using them. This is the second career of the ETO cadets we train in NMCI, as in a few years they will be in demand in ports, shipping companies, state agencies, etc… Times are changing and the maritime community is on the verge of a new paradigm shift.

For all those reasons, I guess, as Senior Engineer in SEA-Tech and Lecturer for the National Maritime College, the Open Day is one of my favourite days in the year, where my two jobs meet up in perfect alignment. We don't have many freebies but we always stand out because of the amount of electronics on display. This year’s Open Day was no different than the previous ones. We were visited by dozens of young people with an interest in technology. The numbers are growing each year, as technology is “barging into our lives” and I hope I will be able to talk about technology at the NMCI for another while, contributing to change management in the maritime industry. If you have a knack for technology or if your child has sea-legs and a techie brain, I would certainly recommend a career at sea. Beyond the professionalism, financial and adventure benefits, there is also the cultural aspect, the exposure to unexpected events, situations and emergencies. By facing such unplanned events, professionals gain a wide knowledge and experience in facing and dealing with problems, in the event of them arising again. The exposure one gets in this field is unlike anywhere else and this helps a person to grow in many key aspects. ETOs also have good conversion prospects for a second career on land after a successful career at sea. This last comment is also addressed to recruitment agencies and companies: hiring ETO (and former sea workers in general) will introduce unsuspected value added benefits into existing teams.

To conclude, I wanted to bring to your attention this final observation, a sign of change maybe, would be more appropriate… During the Open Day, Nautilus International magazine challenged the next generation of seafarers with this very simple question: "Would the amount of Internet access affect your decision to work at sea?" An obvious “Yyes” brought us to the conclusion that we are on the right path... looking toward the future, evolution really matters…

(Sources: Wikipedia ETO, Marine Insight, )