5th Engineer On Ships – The Revered Panchoo

This article is mainly for those who are only partly familiar with the commercial shipping industry rather than those who sail on ships for they are pretty much familiar with this. You must have heard of terms like Captain, Master, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer, Electrical Officer etc which form the core of the senior ship management and are known as the Top 5.

The Lower But Important 5

Yet the number 5 is not associated with the top layer of ship officers only, but there is a very important member of the ships, which is nearly at the bottom rung of official hierarchy and that is the 5th Engineer also known popularly as the Panchoo – Paanch in Hindi language means five or 5th and hence the term.

Panchoo at Work

Panchoo at Work

Of course there are several other equivalent terms for a Panchoo apart from 5th Engineer and they are Trainee Marine Engineer, Engine Cadet and Junior Engineer. All these terms means practically the same rank, work and pay in all companies even though the nomenclature differs.

Can I Become A Panchoo?

Basically to become a Panchoo you either need to be a Mechanical Engineer (AICTE says that Production Engineers are equivalent to Mechanical Engineers) or B.Tech in Marine Engineering or these days they have specialised courses where people either with Diploma in a related trade or even 10+2 with Science, Non-Medical stream can go as TME though their training is sufficiently longer than people who enter with a Bachelors in Engineering or Technology.

Of course the qualifications vary with country as well, say for example in the UK an HND or Higher National Diploma in Marine Engineering can also be considered for induction as Marine Engineer.

The Revered Fifth

The Panchoo is the junior most officer in the engine room though technically he is superior and senior to the trade people like fitters, oilers etc but these are normally people with years of experience in their trade and normally know the engine room and their job like the back of their hands so in real situation, how much seniority is exercised just depends on the capability of the Panchoo.

The initial few months of any Panchoo, irrespective of intelligence is surely filled with tough experiences as it takes time to get used to a vast work environment of a ship’s engine room and especially of the seniors are not very cooperative.

The Current Scenario

Actually in today’s commercial atmosphere, there is hardly any time with anyone to teach or mentor anyone else and everyone is overloaded with his or her duties. I am using the term “her” as these days female officers are also an integral part of the commercial or merchant navy, unlike the days of the yore, which it was purely a male dominated profession and was the only mention of the fairer gender came in the axiom of wine, women and wealth as related to typical sailors.

However life on a ship has changed drastically and whereas it has become easier in many ways due to availability of communication, it has also become tough in other ways with lots of restrictions related to pollution, liquor consumption and so on

Cure For All Ills

Coming back to the revered Panchoo he or she is supposed to know the pipelines of the ship by heart and is also known as the engine room rat for the very same reason. Of course this is not meant in a derogatory sense but to signify that he has to explore every nook and corner of the machinery spaces. He is supposed to know each and everything related to the running and maintenance of the vessel and is supposed to assist anyone and everyone, though of course the real intentions behind this are to make the learning process a rigorous one so that at senior ranks, the person knows what to do exactly, especially in emergency situations.

He is normally the first one to enter the engine room and the last one to leave, in case of UMS ships and in case of on-off duty cycle ships his duty is mainly eternal with the Almighty Chief Engineer coming like the Lord Yama every now and then, and the Panchoo always fearing a reprimand.

Note: The above article is meant to give introduction to the trainee engineer in a semi humorous tone and in no manner intends to make fun or degrade this the rank or the profession in any manner.

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