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Chief Engineer, RV Sharp*

Apply now Job no: 501034
College / VP Area: College of Earth & Ocean Envir
Work type: Staff
Location: Lewes
Categories: Research & Laboratory, Full Time



The HUGH R SHARP (SHARP) is a $20m+ University owned advanced technology floating laboratory which supports oceanographic research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and academic intuitions throughout the U.S.  The University of Delaware is a member of the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) and is one of the few institutions nationwide that operates a regional class research vessel.


Safe and efficient operation and maintenance of the ship is essential for the safety of personnel, accomplishment of research goals, and generation of revenue to cover the $2m+ annual operating budget for the vessel.  The Chief Engineer is a key part of the vessel’s operational and management team, with responsibility for the proper operation, maintenance, and repair of the ship’s complex power and propulsion systems.  The Chief Engineer is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed mariner responsible for ensuring all engineering related systems meet applicable American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), U.S. Coast Guard, and UNOLS standards.  The Chief Engineer’s responsibilities span all the operational and hotel services equipment on the ship, including electrical power, water, sanitation, HVAC services, firefighting and sea water, as well as deck equipment and scientific equipment overboard handling systems.


A high level of independent judgement and technical competence is required due to the need to quickly detect, troubleshoot, and repair complex systems at sea where support from ashore is not available.  Engineering issues at sea present a safety risk to personnel and can impact high-value  equipment and research time at sea.  Nearly every aspect of the ship’s mechanical operation depends on specialized technical knowledge and skills of the Chief Engineer.


The Chief Engineer works under limited direction of the vessel Captain, and is responsible for supervising up to three Engineers.  The Engineering department is responsible for fueling the ship, operating deck machinery, and assisting with the loading and unloading of the ship for science missions.  The Chief Engineer shares responsibilities with the Captain for the administration of EPA regulations and Oil Spill Response safety.  When standing watch as Duty Engineer, the Chief Engineer is responsible for monitoring all engineering systems and operating deck equipment.


Oceanographic operations are inherently risky with the use of winches, cranes, and the deployment of high-value (up to $1m+) equipment into the dynamic ocean environment.  The SHARP has complex navigation, propulsion, and power systems to perform precision mission support work at sea.  The ship operates 24/7 when at sea and carries up to 22 personnel.  Science missions are several days to over two weeks at a time.  The Chief Engineer’s decision making when repairing and operating equipment directly and immediately impacts the safety of life, equipment, and the ship itself. 


Decisions and work accomplishment required by the Chief Engineer must be based on a complete and profound understanding of all of the ship’s major machinery and auxiliary systems; including power management and monitoring, computer alarm monitoring systems, hydraulic power units, oceanographic winches, windlasses,  electrical, propulsion, generators, HVAC systems, refrigeration, bilge, fire main, fuel transfer, potable and saltwater systems, reverse osmosis water makers, marine sanitation systems, sewage, pneumatic, and tankage. 


The Chief Engineer will generally sail 90 – 120 days per year (~2/3 of the ship’s schedule) and perform significant regulatory, maintenance, repair, and administrative responsibilities ashore.  When ashore the Chief Engineer will communicate as needed with the Relief Chief Engineer to ensure safe and prompt resolution of any engineering system issues that arise.



  • Responsible for the condition, maintenance, and safe operation of the engineering, machinery, and major deck equipment onboard the vessel. 
  • Ensure proper planning, completion, and tracking of required maintenance and repairs to engineering systems and equipment.  Ensure standard procedures, maintenance schedules, checklists, and record/log books are in place and utilized.
  • Ensure all engineering related systems meet applicable American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), U.S. Coast Guard, and National Science Foundation requirements and are ready for inspection by those authorities.
  • Assist the Director and Captain with planning and execution of major overhauls ($200k - $800k), repairs, and inspections; including coordination and technical oversight of contractors and assisting with development of technical specifications for shipyard contracts; Oversees all aspects of engineering during shipyard periods, and directs and performs repairs and maintenance to complex systems (i.e. azimuth drives, power management systems, hydraulic cranes/frames, and ship hotel services systems).
  • Maintain awareness of all ship’s engineering systems and tank levels.  Advise the Captain of issues that may impact the safety or operational capability of the vessel.
  • Maintain worklists and assign work to the Assistant Engineers.  Submit first level Supervisor performance appraisals for the Assistant Engineers.
  • Maintain and track inventory of adequate repair parts.  Ensure that the ship is properly outfitted with spare parts necessary for extended operations.  Ensure that the ship has adequate supplies of consumables, such as fuel, lube oil, potable water, and filters.  Procure repair parts and engineering supplies with purchase card or purchase order.  Adhere to University purchase card policies and procedures.
  • Maintain a ship fueling plan in accordance with USCG regulations.  Oversee proper scheduling and safe fueling of the ship (approximately 100,000 gallons/year).
  • Stand engineering watch while underway (six hours on/six hours off); operate and monitor major engine room machinery, equipment, and auxiliary systems; make periodic rounds of the machinery spaces and ship.  Maintain log/record books to document rounds, maintenance, and pass down information.  Assist the Navigation watch as vessel look out as needed.
  • Diagnose problems and complete “field-serviceable” repairs in diesel engines, complex electrical systems, and hydraulic, piping, and mechanical systems while at sea. 
  • Operate the ship’s small boat and deck equipment including cranes, winches, frames, and windlasses at sea and alongside.  Responsible for following protocols to keep equipment and nearby personnel safe.
  • With coordination with the Mate on Watch and the Chief Scientist, deploy and recover high value, complex scientific systems at sea using ship’s deck equipment.  Ensure embarked science personnel assist in a safe manner. 
  • Assist with mobilization and demobilization of scientific cruises while alongside.
  • Serve on Emergency Response teams (fire, flooding, medical, lifeboat, man over board) and participate in drills and training.  Maintain appropriate firefighting and medical certifications.  Can be called out at anytime at sea to assist with an emergency situation or urgent repair.
  • Assist with the upkeep and organization of the ship support equipment, Work Shops, and storage facilities ashore. 
  • Is generally available for communications through phone and email while off the ship, and may need to report to the ship in an emergency with short notice.
  • Perform other job-related duties as assigned.



  • Must hold an U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential with a minimum endorsement as “Designated Duty Engineer (4000 HP / 3000kW).  Endorsement as Chief Engineer is highly preferred.
  • STCW certification as Chief Engineer, Officer in Charge of an Engineering Watch, and Rating for Performing a Navigation watch is highly preferred.
  • Marine Engineering degree and /or professional training and a minimum of five years’ experience as an Engineer on diesel / diesel-electric vessels of at least 500 horse power, or an equivalent combination of education, training, U.S. Coast Guard certification, and experience.
  • Strong mechanical aptitude and trouble-shooting skills for the repair of equipment.
  • Working knowledge of automated engineering monitoring systems, Programmable Logic Controls (PLC), and the use of computer diagnostic tools.   
  • Extensive experience with maintenance and repair of typical diesel-electric ship’s systems, including propulsion, power generation and management, hydraulics, HVAC, pneumatic, piping/pumps, sanitary, and potable water.
  • Experience with deployment and recovery of equipment at sea, such as oceanographic, fishing, supply, or towing vessel operations.
  • Must maintain other required certifications and training for the vessel’s size and class including but not limited to STCW Basic Safety Training, Marine Fire Fighting, Medical Provider, and a Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC).
  • Formal technical training in diesel engines, DC propulsion drives, electric generating plants, and/or hydraulic systems preferred.
  • Experience with DC motor driven Z-drive or azipod drive propulsion systems with Dynamic Positioning preferred.
  • Demonstrates an understanding and consideration of the differing needs and concerns of individuals with varying identities, cultures, and backgrounds.
  • Committed to fostering a workplace culture of belonging, where diversity is celebrated and equity is a core value.



  • The physical environment requires the employee to work exposed to all conditions found aboard a ship at sea.  This includes heavy weather, extreme heat/cold, and all forms of precipitation.
  • Occasionally required to use personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to hazardous materials (paint, solvents, etc.) and other risks during maintenance.



  • Must be able to perform normal duties aboard ship such as: climbing and descending ladders, handling mooring lines, opening and closing watertight doors, wearing an emergency breathing apparatus, reaching, handling, grasping, and lifting lifesaving and firefighting equipment, handling moderate loads (at least 40 pounds).
  • Must meet the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) physical requirements for merchant seaman as outlined in 46 CFR and given on USCG Form CG-719K.
  • Must be able to spend extended periods away from homeport including sailing as much as 140 days (2/3 of the ship’s maximum sailing schedule) and be at sea for up to three weeks at a time depending on operational demands.
  • Must be willing to work weekends and holidays at sea and in port as operations require.
  • Must have excellent decision making and interpersonal skills to interact appropriately with scientific users, direct crew, and communicate plans, risks, and operational limitations to users while maintaining a customer service and mission accomplishment environment.
  • Must be willing to be enrolled in a Department of Transportation (DOT) random drug-testing program and pass a pre-employment drug screening.
  • Must have a valid, state issued driver’s license in order to operate ship’s vehicles for crew transfers and conducting ship’s business.
  • Requires the use of personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to safety hazards/hazardous materials.

Notice of Non-Discrimination, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
The University of Delaware does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, disability, religion, age, veteran status or any other characteristic protected by applicable law in its employment, educational programs and activities, admissions policies, and scholarship and loan programs as required by Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other applicable statutes and University policies. The University of Delaware also prohibits unlawful harassment including sexual harassment and sexual violence.

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