Hawaii Teacher on Board

By Naidah Gamurot

Position: Oiler

Person Interviewed: Dan Granstrom

Location: Control room of the R/V Thompson

Date: October 22, 1998

Describe some of your responsibilities and daily activities as an oiler?

The oiler monitors the bow thrusters, machine room, and cooling pumps. He lubes and oils various machines, monitors their temperature and pressure, and their electrical parts. Dan also checks valves and pipes for leaks and cracks. Basically, he makes sure the machines are working properly.

What are some of the skills, physical abilities, and personal characteristics someone should have if considering being an oiler?

You have to be able to work everyday; there are no real days off. Whenever something needs to done, it needs to be done immediately. Good "people" skills are imperative, since you must work as a team to keep the ship running. Good physical condition is important. The machine room gets very warm and there's a lot of manual labor involved with fixing equipment - carrying and replacing pieces, welding, etc. An oiler must be able to identify and problem solve when the problem can't be seen, like on the other side of a wall.

What kinds of high school courses would you recommend for someone considering this type of work?

This position requires a wide range of skills. Recommended high school courses include math - as much as possible, shop classes involving welding and machines, electronics and electrical work and courses involving blue print reading for plumbing and electrical work (to determine the location of equipment hidden by walls)

What is the entry-level job for this position?


What is the next higher level?

After a couple years, at sea, in this position, the oiler is eligible to take the exam for 3rd Assistant Engineer.

What are your working hours like?

8-hour shifts a day, everyday. If a problem arises at other times, you may have to work to help solve it.

In what kind of environment do you work?

All over the ship, though most of the maintenance is done in the machine room where it's usually hot. To fix some types of equipment, you may have to work in dark, greasy, loud places.

What is the average starting salary for your job?

Starting base pay is $1,909. In addition to base pay, everyone on board also receives a 15% Sea Premium Pay while the ship is away from home port and 8 hours overtime at time-and-a-half for each Saturday, Sunday, and holiday while the ship is away from home.

What are some positive features of your job?

This position teaches many different mechanical skills that are easily transferable to other maintenance jobs on land. The job is interesting, it changes everyday depending on what needs to be maintained or fixed. There are lots of travel opportunities, and with travel comes a better perspective on people. There are large blocks of vacation time that allow you to spend the money you saved while at sea on traveling.

What are some negative features of your job?

Being away from family and friends for long periods of time. Jobs at sea can be very difficult on relationships.

Talking with…

Dan loves to travel and that's one of the reasons he's been at sea for over 20 years. Before graduating from high school, Dan worked on a fishing boat in Alaska - until it sank. Then he joined the military. After 2 years in the service, he was the captain of his own ship and also worked as a ship's diver for NOAA. He shared one experience he had, while in Alaska - again, the cable on the ship got tangled in one of the propellers during a storm. The divers had to work around the clock shifts in icy water to grind through the cable to release the propeller. They had a limited amount of time because the storm was pushing the ship toward land. Dan's got lots of great stories about his adventures at sea. He's going to make some very lucky kids a great grandfather.

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