My name is Margret Collins and my job here on the Okeanos Explorer is the engine utilityman. I work everywhere on this ship, stem to stern, top to bottom. My realm is the engine department but my work takes me everywhere. As an engine utilityman on this ship, I perform many tasks, many different jobs. One of which is the boat engineer on the small boats. I maintain them while they are in the cradle as they are now. When we take them out, I serve as the engine utilityman on the boat, troubleshooting any problems that might arise, making sure everything goes alright. I also maintain our potable water system. That is the system that ensures we have water to brush our teeth, take showers, cook food. I test it every day to make sure it is safe. I also maintain our engines with the rest of the engine department. My aspect of that is to check the engine oil on a daily basis. I change filters and I perform valve lashes—all kinds of maintenance like that. And that's about it!
On the ship I serve as the Seafarer International Union Patrolman or Chairperson on the boat. I help my shipmates understand our agreement that we have with NOAA so that we can work safely and get paid.
Salary range, since this is Federal work, is actually set by Congress. I think for my locality pay it is about $52,000/year. There really aren't many educational requirements to be an engine utilityman. A high school diploma helps. A college degree is not necessary but doesn’t hurt. Really, what matters is previous experience and aptitude if you have any.
While we are at sea I work 70 hours per week. That's 10 hours per day, 7 days a week while we are underway. In port I work 8-10 hours a day. I travel all the time. I live on the ship so where the ship goes, I go! Last year, that was a lot of Hawaii and Indonesia. This year it has been Costa Rica. We are on our way to Panama today! After that I will be on the eastern seaboard.
What sparked my interest in a sea faring career was growing up in SE Alaska. On the island of Ketchikan we received everything on barges tugged by tug boats. I saw those guys and what they were doing and said "That's what I want to do!" Years went by, and then I finally started my career in the Merchant Marines.
I would say that my parents influenced and encouraged me the most to do whatever I wanted, be whoever I wanted to be and however I wanted to do that—within reason. They did not set limits on me on what I could be when I grew up so I felt like this was totally an option for me.
I would say on this ship one of the most amazing experiences I had was getting to see what the ROV saw at the bottom of the ocean when we were in Indonesia. The types of life forms they caught on camera were absolutely astounding. What is really personally rewarding about this type of work is twofold for me. One is that I get to work in this trade as an engine utilityman, which is really interesting to me. There is a lot of problem solving that I get to do which is enjoyable - not hum-drum. The other thing that is really satisfying to me about this job is what this ship is, what it does is helpful to America by the active exploring.
I have a Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts which is not a requirement to be an engine utilityman. I served five years active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps as a helicopter engine mechanic. The mechanical aspect of that job definitely helps now as an engine utilityman. With that kind of background, the sky is the limit. I could get another job on another ship. I could get a job ashore working on a power plant.
Looking back to see if there is anything I would change or do differently is so difficult for me to answer because there are many points I could have made almost opposite decisions than what I did make. It is impossible for me to know how that would turn out! I am really satisfied with how my life is now. I probably would be satisfied if I had made different choices anyway.Return to profile