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It’s no secret that water and electricity are a dangerous combo. If you like high stakes jobs and a hint of danger in your work, becoming a marine electrician may be for you. Marine electricians are the ones who keep boats and other vessels ship shape. Although some jobs require setting sail, plenty of jobs for marine electricians are available on dry land.
Most electrical education stops at “water is dangerous”. As a marine electrician, you’ll need to learn and understand how water works. Being knowledgeable in the dynamics of water is an essential part of keeping yourself, your workers, the crew and passengers safe as you go about your duties. Since your worksites are mobile and are often in contact with water, understanding how water interacts with electricity can help you perform vital repairs and maintenance.
Rather than opt for a standard electrician’s education, consider training at a special maritime academy and apprenticeship. You’ll also need to secure your American Boat and Yacht Council certification, as most boat and shipbuilders adhere to these standards. Depending on where you’d like to obtain work, you might also need one of two certifications offered by the Coast Guard: the Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) or the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW).
Marine electricians are responsible for installing electrical components in new ships. Everything from lighting to outlets to crucial navigation systems falls under their purview. In existing ships, you’ll perform routine maintenance and repairs. Older boats require upgrades and repairs to the systems that keep the ship running smoothly.
The systems on even just one ship can vary wildly, from standard AC and DC systems to low voltage electronics like sonar, radar, and VHF radio. Motor and engine work is usually essential to some degree, as is at least passing knowledge of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and engine power takeoffs.
If you’re not keen to get your feet wet, you can seek employment in a shipyard or with a manufacturer performing the essential duties of a marine electrician. If you’re adventurous, you can seek jobs aboard large ships. Cruise ships, for example, usually have a full-time marine electrician on staff to ensure smooth sailing. It’s not all entertainment and pleasure, however – cargo ships, merchant vessels, and government ships also require electricians to keep things up and running.
When you’re performing a job on a ship, you might be subject to a work environment that lists, moves and shifts with the water it’s sailing on. Therefore, attention to detail, steady hands and the observation of strict safety practices are crucial. Like general electricians, you’ll often find yourself in cramped, confined spaces.
You’ll be responsible for keeping ship components waterproof, and as such may be required to apply water-resistant gels, coatings, and heat shrink sealings while the boat is in motion – no small feat. Even if the area you’re working on seems like it would stay dry, acts of nature occur and every component of every system must be accounted for in the interest of safety.
Becoming a Marine Electrician
If you’d like to jumpstart an exciting and lucrative career, consider embarking on a journey to become a marine electrician. Marine electricians receive education sufficient to work on boats, ships and other water vessels. From installing new components in brand new ships to performing maintenance, upgrades, and repairs on extant ships, there’s no lack of opportunities to keep those in this specialty hard at work.
Have you ever worked as a marine electrician? What’s your best advice for someone just starting out?