A mix of skills
Ocean engineering is actually a combination of several types of engineering: a mix of mechanical, electrical, civil, acoustical and chemical engineering techniques and skills, coupled with a basic understanding of how the oceans work. The importance of working in partnerships with oceanographers from other disciplines is critical, as the challenge of working in the ocean environment requires a range of backgrounds and skills.
The expertise of ocean engineers is invaluable to oceanographers interested in measuring or studying various aspects of the ocean. For example, programmable buoys that can remain at sea for long periods of time have helped physical oceanographers study currents and weather in many locations at once. In addition, the data gathered by these buoys can be relayed back to a laboratory located on a ship or on land, giving the researcher "real time" data. This is especially important for marine meteorologists.
Functioning under harsh conditions
Not only do ocean engineers design and build instruments that must stand up to the wear and tear of frequent use, they must design instruments that will survive the harsh conditions of the ocean environment. Salt water is highly corrosive to many materials, and high winds, waves, currents, severe storms and marine life fouling (such as barnacles) must also be factored into design plans. It has even been said that the marine environment is more hostile than outer space!