Marine engineering includes the engineering of boats, ships, oil rigs and any other marine vessel or structure, as well as oceanographic engineering or ocean engineering. Specifically, marine engineering is the discipline of applying engineering sciences, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronic engineering, and computer science, to the development, design, operation and maintenance of watercraft propulsion and on-board systems and oceanographic technology. It includes but is not limited to power and propulsion plants, machinery, piping, automation and control systems for marine vehicles of any kind, such as surface ships and submarines.
Archimedes is traditionally regarded as the first marine engineer, having developed a number of marine engineering systems in antiquity. Modern marine engineering dates back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (early 1700s).
In 1712, Thomas Newcomen, a blacksmith, created a steam powered engine to pump water out of mines. In 1807, Robert Fulton successfully used a steam engine to propel a vessel through the water. Fulton's ship used the engine to power a small wooden paddle wheel as its marine propulsion system. The integration of a steam engine into a watercraft to create a marine steam engine was the start of the marine engineering profession.
Marine engineers work on more than marine engines. Marine engineers are also responsible for building and maintaining offshore oil rigs. Naval architects are concerned with the overall design of the ship and its propulsion through the water.
Electrical power generation and electrical power distribution systems are typically designed by their suppliers; only installation is the design responsibility of the marine engineer.
Oceanographic engineering is concerned with mechanical, electrical, and electronic, and computing technology deployed to support oceanography, and also falls under the umbrella of marine engineering, especially in Britain, where it is covered by the same professional organisation, the IMarEST.
Civil engineering for an offshore environment, the design and construction of fixed and floating marine structures, such as oil platforms and offshore wind farms is generally called offshore engineering.
In the same way that civil engineers design to accommodate wind loads on building and bridges, maritime engineers design to accommodate a ship being flexed or a platform being struck by waves millions of times in its life.
The naval architect's job is different, insofar as a ship operates in two fluids simultaneously: water and air. Engineers also face the challenge of balancing cargo as the mass of the ship increase and the center of gravity shifts higher as additional containers are stacked vertically. In addition, the weight of fuel presents a problem as the pitch of the ship cause the weight to shift with the liquid causing an imbalance. This offset is counteracted by water inside larger ballast tanks. Engineers are faced with the task of balancing and tracking the fuel and ballast water of a ship.
The chemical environment faced by ships and offshore structures is far harsher than nearly anywhere on land, save chemical plants. Marine engineers are concerned with surface protection and preventing galvanic corrosion in every project. This causes the metal to corrode and not the ship’s hull. Another way to prevent corrosion is by sending a controlled amount of low DC current to the ship’s hull to prevent the process of electro-chemical corrosion. This changes the electrical charge of the ship’s hull to prevent electro-chemical corrosion.
Marine organisms grow and attach to the surfaces of the outboard suction inlets used to obtain water for cooling systems. Electro-chlorination involves running high electrical current through sea water. The copper anode releases its ion into the water creating an environment that is too toxic for bio-matter. Other forms of marine growth such as mussels and algae may attach themselves to the bottom of a ship's hull. The burning of marine fuels has the potential to release harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. Ships burn marine diesel in addition to heavy fuel oil. Heavy fuel oil, being the heaviest of refined oils, releases sulfur dioxide when burned. However, heavy fuel oil may only be burned in international waters due to the pollution created. It is commercially advantageous due to the cost effectiveness compared to other marine fuels. It is prospected that heavy fuel oil will be phased out of commercial use by the year 2020 Water, oil, and other substances collect at the bottom of the ship in what is known as the bilge. Ships over 400 gross tons are required to carry the equipment to separate oil from bilge water. Further, as enforced by MARPOL, all ships over 400 gross tons and all oil tankers over 150 gross tons are require to log all oil transfer is an oil record book (EPA, 2011).
Cavitation is also seen in propulsion. In 2012, the average annual earnings for marine engineers in the U.S. were $96,140 with average hourly earnings of $46.22.
Marine engineering is predicted to grow approximately 12% from 2016 to 2026. Currently there are about 8,200 naval architects and marine engineers employed, however, this number is expected to increase to 9,200 by 2026 (BLS, 2017). Marine engineers generally have a bachelor's degree in marine engineering, marine engineering technology, or marine systems engineering.
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