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A marine electrician installs, maintains, and repairs electrical systems and equipment on board boats and ships. Employment in this field may require special certifications, depending on the types of ships an electrician works on. In addition to working on ships in port, marine electricians can also handle craft while they’re in dry dock and out at sea if a boat requires emergency repairs. Some potential employers can include the military, government agencies, shipbuilders, and maintenance firms that provide support services for boats and ships.
The design of simple electrical systems may fall under the responsibilities of a marine electrician, while more advanced technology can require an engineer. System installation of any degree of complexity can be handled by a skilled electrician, who may work alongside other ship fitters when a boat is fitted out for the first time in the shipyard. Electricians install wiring, batteries, engines, and electrical equipment like navigation and radio supplies.
Once a system is complete and installed, regular maintenance is necessary to keep it in good working order. Marine electricians can participate in overhauls, where ships are taken out of service for work, in addition to smaller-scale routine maintenance needed to keep electrical systems in good working order. In the event of problems with the electrical system, the marine electrician can run diagnostics and perform repairs. It may also be necessary to replace aging equipment like outdated navigation systems.
Working conditions can sometimes be cramped, as a marine electrician may need to work belowdecks and in crawl spaces. They can also be hot and dirty, especially when a ship is underway and requires repairs. Electricians may be posted with a ship in the case of a large craft that needs continuous maintenance and repairs to function. They can also be called in to conduct repairs and maintenance. Some may specialize in particular systems or types of ships, like private yachts and fishing boats, which can have unique electrical needs.
Training to become a marine electrician may be available on the job and through trade schools. In some regions, certification is necessary to work as an electrician, which requires passing an examination to demonstrate knowledge of the subject. Military electricians may be trained within the military, as special procedures and protocols may be in use. This is especially true with classified electrical systems, such as the components used on nuclear submarines and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and destroyers.
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