Vessel Operations Engineer

Job Details

University of Washington
The Vessel Operations Engineer will provide direct support to the APL Marine Operations Manager in operating, maintaining, and managing APL’s fleet. This role will include serving as Captain for research cruises. As Captain, the Vessel Operations Engineer has a wide span of responsibility, including the safety and well-being of all persons onboard, detailed knowledge and understanding of ship operations, safe navigation, shipboard firefighting and damage control, stability, vessel communications, and the safe use of associated vessel equipment (e.g., A-frames, winches, cranes). Additionally, the Vessel Operations Engineer, working in concert with the Chief Research Scientist or Principal Investigator, will be responsible for planning, coordinating, and conducting all aspects of research cruises, which involve the deployment, testing, and recovery of scientific research equipment (e.g., moorings, buoys, autonomous underwater vehicles, and tow bodies). This equipment and their data may be one-of-a-kind prototypes, of high monetary value, or otherwise difficult or impossible to replace. Operations will be varied and may range from simple (e.g., testing a single device) to complex (e.g., testing multiple devices with multiple vessels) in nature. The Vessel Operations Engineer will also be responsible for regular maintenance, repair, and improvements to the fleet; as well as administrative and managerial duties as assigned by the APL Marine Operations Manager; and providing field engineer support to other sponsored programs.


Research Vessel Operations Planning and Coordination:
• In coordination with APL researchers, propose, plan and coordinate research vessel fieldwork in support of externally funded research programs. This will involve working with Principal Investigators during the proposal stage to understand science objectives and specify research vessel operation plans and budget inputs to meet those objectives. The proposed plans will meet all safety and other applicable regulations and include specifying appropriate research vessels to meet science objectives, equipment (e.g., A-frames, winches, etc), and safe and compliant deployment/testing/recovery schemes and methods.
• Research vessel operations plans will involve evaluating and identifying proposal budget input options (e.g., testing locations, staffing, travel, equipment, supplies, etc.) to accomplish science objectives and stay within budget constraints. At time of award, work with APL researchers to refine research vessel plans, schedule resources (e.g., vessels, equipment, staff) and perform other research cruise coordination (e.g., moorage, travel, etc).

Research Vessel Operations, Safety and Maintenance:
• Under the general supervision of the APL Marine Operations Manager, maintain safe efficient operation and maintenance of the APL research vessel fleet, APL dock, vessel storage areas, and equipment. Responsible for ensuring that vessel operations comply with all appropriate Federal, State and University regulations, policies, and guidelines.
• Work with Chief Scientist to develop cruise plans including input on work site location, transit times, environmental conditions and equipment deployment procedures.
• When acting as Captain, the Vessel Operations Engineer is responsible for the safety of all research cruise participants and has the authority to direct all personnel, alter or cease operations if a safe environment cannot be maintained. Coordinate vessel operations to execute the cruise plan and achieve scientific objectives. Supervise all personnel onboard the vessel including crew and science party.
• Complete documentation required for cruise and operations (e.g., obtain non-UW cruise participant release forms, submit site access paperwork, permission to work in foreign waters). Maintain vessel deck logbooks, maintenance logs, monthly inspection sheets and small boat usage logs. Submit float plans for vessel operations and participate in monitoring float plans for small boat operations.
• Provide small boat orientation and training for new vessel operators. Maintain all training paperwork and certifications for approved operators. Mobilize equipment as needed to perform special tasks (e.g., portable winches and instrumentation).
• Provide instruction and guidance to science party in the safe handling and deployment of equipment onboard the vessel. Provide safety briefing to all participants prior to departure. Advise researchers on environmental conditions which may impact vessel operations and deployment of scientific equipment. Supervise deck operations and ensure that all participants understand their role and how to safely operate equipment.
• Log vessel and instrument data during the cruise. Provide data to the science party at the end of the cruise. Oversee and monitor vessels’ mechanical and electrical systems and instrumentation. Perform repairs and regular maintenance on APL vessels and equipment (e.g., fueling, oil changes, battery changes, etc.). Manage major repairs and maintenance (e.g., haul outs, etc.).
• Ensure that all vessel safety equipment is maintained and up-to-date. Ensure dock and equipment (e.g., crane) are maintained and safe to use. Report vessel issues or incidents to APL Marine Operations Manager, OE Department Head and Administrator.

Field Engineer Support:
• Provide fieldwork and engineering support to APL sponsored research programs as assigned. This may include simple mechanical or electrical system fabrication, assembly, integration, testing or non-APL vessel fieldwork as needed.

Administrative and Managerial Duties:
• Provide input to annual vessel cost center rate proposal, monitor vessel cost center budget and transactions, reconcile monthly Procurement Card Transactions.
• Prepare for and participate in USCG inspections, perform corrective actions as needed. Ensure that vessel documentation is maintained and updated. Other pertinent duties as assigned by APL Marine Operations Manager.

If interested in applying for this opportunity, please submit your application through the link:
• Bachelor’s degree in Marine Transportation, Engineering, Oceanography or related field and 4 years of experience.
• Valid U.S. Coast Guard License as Master of Vessels 100 Tons Near Coastal (minimum).
• To include at least 5 years of experience sailing as Master on vessels 50 - 100 feet or larger.
• Experience maintaining, repairing, and troubleshooting major vessel systems including marine engines, transmissions, generators, hydraulic systems, cranes and winches.
• Certification in First Aid, CPR.
• Ability to react to emergency situations at sea.
• Sufficient strength and physical dexterity to perform duties and responsibilities of the job, including exposure to inclement weather conditions for prolonged periods of time.
• Ability to wear and use appropriate protective equipment as necessary.
• Familiarity with Federal and State rules, regulations, and requirements pertaining to university vessel operations.
• Ability to pass drug and alcohol screening tests as mandated by the university and appropriate licensing authorities.
• Ability to clearly communicate information.
• Willingness to work the required hours (occasional long days, holidays and weekends) to complete assigned research and educational missions.

Equivalent education/experience will substitute for all minimum qualifications except when there are legal requirements, such as a license/certification/registration.


• Experience working in Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Puget Sound.
• Experience working in Coastal waters of Washington, Strait of Juan de Fuca.
• Experience with the safe deployment and retrieval of equipment used aboard research vessels (e.g. conductivity-temperature-depth profilers, multi-beam sonar systems, chemical and biological sampling equipment, UUVs, buoys, moorings, etc.).
• STCW endorsement.
About Employer: 
The Applied Physics Laboratory is a research unit at the University of Washington. Our research expertise is in ocean physics and engineering, ocean and medical acoustics, polar science, environmental remote sensing, and signal processing. We conduct research and development that is sponsored by a variety of federal and state agencies, and take great pride in our long-standing status as a US Navy-designated University Affiliated Research Center (UARC). Our work takes place not only on the University of Washington campus and medical centers, but in field locations around the world – at sea, in the air, and on polar ice caps. We apply rigorous scientific inquiry and engineering excellence in pursuit of solutions to important problems for the good of our region, nation, and world.

Diversity is a core value at University of Washington and the Applied Physics Laboratory shares this commitment. We are focused on building and sustaining an inclusive and equitable research environment for all students, staff, and collaborators. We believe every member on our team enriches our community by exposing us to a broad range of ways to understand and engage with the world, identify challenges, and to discover, design and deliver solutions.

The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) conducts research and development that frequently involves research vessel cruises, or fieldwork on inland and coastal waters. APL’s Ocean Engineering department operates and oversees a small fleet of seven research vessels. The two largest vessels, the R/V Jack Robertson (57’ Fiberglass Hull, 76 GRT, diesel engine) and R/V Russell Davis Light (65’ Aluminum Catamaran, 79 GRT, diesel electric), carry a Letter of Designation as Oceanographic Research Vessels issued by the United States Coast Guard. Full details about these ships can be found at
Contact Information: 
For questions about this recruitment, please email Stuart Sweazey at

For more information about the Applied Physics Laboratory, please check us out at our website: