Meet the Chief Engineer

By Jane EllemDecember 28th, 2019

28 December 2019

There were many things happening on board our trip from Darwin to Fremantle but one that had a lasting impact with many of us was the engineer’s tour. Their passion for the RV Investigator, the equipment – not just the ships but the science stuff – was exciting. In the Chief Engineer’s words, “This ship is bristling with so much amazing equipment”.

They truly keep the science happening by keeping this wonderful vessel functioning. So, I caught up with the Chief Engineer, Ben Newman to talk all things engineering and physics. I also discovered that he was an “Old Boy” of Caulfield Grammar School – the school where I work!

Chief Engineer Ben Newman

Chief Engineer Ben Newman. Photo credit: Jane Ellem.

What is your role on board?

I’m responsible for the operation and maintenance of the vessel’s equipment and the engineering staff.

What qualification, pathway or job training did you complete?

My family have a tradition of seafaring and I decided to move into a trade after finishing my schooling at Caulfield Grammar School. So, I started my trade at the ship repair company Buchanan and Brock.  From there I completed a single point entry then a Watch Keepers, Second and now Chief Engineer. The AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) guides us in our career path.

What inspired you to pursue this pathway?

This is a funny story – as a younger guy I suffered sea sickness and wanted to strike out by myself and didn’t want to work in the family fishing business. As I progressed through the training, I found that I not only enjoyed the practical side of the job but also the theory that backs it.

What has been the most outstanding aspect of your career?

Developing and mentoring young people in the maritime industry.

Being required to work under adverse conditions to ensure that the vessels that I work on function at their safest and most optimal level. Being on board the RV Investigator is nothing like what I have experienced before.

What has been the hardest aspect?

Being away from home. But you learn to manage it over time.

What are your most memorable experiences at sea?

  • Being in the Gulf before the first war – with all the fighter jets.
  • I love being in Australian waters as the location is the best – we are protected not just by Australian Maritime Law, but our waters are safe.
  • A very long and extended dock in China Nantong – 125km up the Yangtze River.
  • Love the cultural side of travel and working with the local people.
  • Being berthed in King George Dock Yards in Singapore where there is so much maritime history.

What personal qualities will ensure somebody thrives on board a research vessel?

They will need a sense of adventure, independence and the ability to work in sometimes adverse conditions. They will also need a genuine interest in math and science behind machinery – you know that kid that pulls the clock apart!

This is the perfect job for someone who…

Has a sense of adventure and is willing to work with adversity.