Are Articles required for Tugs/ATBs?

46 U.S. Code § 10501.Application

(a)Except for a vessel to which chapter 103 of
this title
applies, this chapter applies to a vessel of at least 50 gross tons as measured under section 14502 of this title, or an alternate tonnage measured under section 14302 of this title as prescribed by the Secretary under section 14104 of this title on a voyage between a port in one State and a port in another State (except an adjoining State).

  • Vessel Name: KIM M. BOUCHARD

  • USCG Doc. No.: 1257372

  • Vessel Service: TOWING VESSEL

  • IMO Number: 9753179

  • Trade Indicator: Coastwise Unrestricted, Registry

  • Call Sign: WDH8113

  • Hull Material: STEEL

  • Hull Number: VTHM2018

  • Ship Builder: VT HALTER MARINE INC

  • Year Built: 2015

  • Length: 143.6

  • Hailing Port: NEW YORK, NY.

  • Hull Depth: 23.8

  • Hull Breadth: 44

  • Gross Tonnage: 190

  • Net Tonnage: 129

  • Previous Vessel Owners:

I’ve always assumed that they do not, I’ve never signed articles except deep-sea. Anyone know why they don’t apply to tugs/ATBs?

On tugs and ATBs, we never signed articles unless we were on foreign runs. We didn’t sign articles on runs in the Caribbean or east/west coast transits through the Panama Canal. It was called “nearby foreign” if I remember correctly.

I’ve been retired coming up on 11 years and many things have probably changed.

Never signed articles. Worked many runs to Carribean, Mexico, etc.

The myriad of laws are tough to parse. As was explained to me by an Ex Coastie: The USC is the law. But USCG legal side publishes NAVICs. These are the interpretation of the USC Law. If you click the hyperlinked word ‘State’ you get the definition of state. They specifically mention all the outlying territories, and possessions. But the 48 contiguous states are ‘adjoining’ thus eliminating them from this portion of the articles.

I believe you have parsed an incomplete part of the USC.

This is the part referenced by the ‘103’ exception. The ‘103’ is an abbreviation for the entire chapter. EG: 103(01), 103(02) etc etc etc. There are many different phrases.

Possibly an astute CG person could illuminate what is the exact interpretation of Tugboat requirements for articles (and more succinct clarity for what is NOT required) to help understand the laws?

Further confusion is that NAVICs are NOT the actual law. But the CG interpretation of the Law. Sometimes these are not congruent.

I have never signed or seen articles for a tugboat even on foreign voyages. It maybe technically required, but it just isn’t a custom. I’ve never heard of the USCG asking for articles of taking any enforcement action.

Some companies have crew contracts, usually for a set length of time. These are typically horribly one sided contracts in favor of the owners that require seamen to waive all their legal rights. The unethical attorneys that write these things should be disbarred.

Many companies have employee handbooks. I hear that courts often consider these to be contracts.

There are enough scumbag owners out there screwing over crews that minimum standards in “crew contracts” need to be adopted by new legislation and actually enforced.

The US probably should adopt and enforce most of the MLC through national legislation (leaving out visa and immigration issues).

There are a lot of things about working on smaller domestic vessels that need to be modernized for the 21st century.


A bit late, but perhaps semi protect our future Mariners with rules that have been passed off to benefit the owners. Those gentleman from Bouchard will run the boats and a few will get paid well. Not right now, and a few won’t be under Morty’s family flag in the near future. I always said, the Indians run the business, the bad chiefs will have to walk. Curious what Morty is doing to pay his shoreside staff and the many"Consultants". As a veteran car salesman and former high school classmate told me “There is an ass for every seat”. They have some junk, they also have some state of the art stuff. Choose your poison.

We sign articles every hitch on ATBs at the empire.

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This site is a little more searchable: CHAPTER 103—FOREIGN AND INTERCOASTAL VOYAGES

Only 10301 is Application, the rest is other details not related to application.

I did find a site where it said the distinction is not inspected / uninspected but I didn’t save the link.

It doesn’t look like 46 cfr 10301 applies to vessels of at least 50 tons on voyages betwen states, only 46 cfr 10501

This is the one that looks like the one that would apply to vessels on coastwise articles: §10501

.> Application

(a) Except for a vessel to which chapter 103 of this title applies, this chapter applies to a vessel of at least 50 gross tons as measured under section 14502 of this title, or an alternate tonnage measured under section 14302 of this title as prescribed by the Secretary under section 14104 of this title on a voyage between a port in one State and a port in another State (except an adjoining State).

(b) This chapter does not apply to a vessel on which the seamen are entitled by custom or agreement to share in the profit or result of a voyage.

© Unless otherwise provided, this chapter does not apply to a foreign vessel.

This appears to be the applicable NVIC


What’s a “towing vessel used in ferry operation” (1.B.3.a) I wonder.

It sounds like the desciption of a rig I operated at one time in Florida. A flat bottom barge with a ramp to allow loading of wheeled vehicles. Ours had room for a half a dozen cars and we used a tow boat with push knees to ferry the cars across the ICWW to Palm Island resort.

Just googled my old place of employment. This shows what it’s like in perfect conditions; no current, no wind, and no clueless WAFI/PAFIs acting like they own the waterway. You can imagine the hilarities that ensue when they show up on weekends.


By my reading this is the crux of the matter. Except an adjoining state.
Adjoining has several criteria. Adjoining as in bordering on? Adjoining as in adjoining all other adjoining states?

The other subparagraphs all make note of Atlantic to Pacific coasts, Foreign trade, and outlying islands. This paragraphs speciality is adjoining states. I would love to hear the NAVIC interpretation of this to remove all doubt. But (knowing the reality of how such things are determined) some company long long ago was involved with some congressman to ensure the ‘correct NAVIC’ was as written. This recent incident should be an indication that further clarification is needed.

The other comment about MLC being needed is irrelevant because this is NOT about foreign trips. But coastwise on US bottoms.

Here are the possible types of voyages:

Enter in the space, NATURE OF VOYAGE, one of the following:
a. Foreign.
b. Coastwise.
c. Great Lakes.
d. Mineral and Oil Exploration.
e. Intercoastal

Intercoasatal is a voyage from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific or reverse.

Foreign is this:
A voyage by any vessel from a port in the United States to any foreign port except
to ports in the following areas:
(1) Canada
(2) West Indies
(3) Republic of Mexico

That leaves coastwise which has to mean the same coast but not between states they are adjoining, which means to border each other.

When I worked for TECO (GulfCoast Transit) on one of their big tugs that was a conventional unit we signed articles for coastwise trips in the gulf.

When I worked for McAllister on a tramp towboat we never signed articles, even if we went foreign.

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From a practical standpoint having the articles signed doesn’t really achieve anything, at least not from the master’s point of view. The crew has made an agreement with either the company or the union about the wages etc.

I “signed on” crew using a computer program that synced up with the office by sat. That gets the crew onto the payroll and the crew list etc. The paper based articles seem redundant and obsolete. I usually don’t bother till we’ve been at sea for a few days. For crew that join after the regular crew change there’s a good chance they will never sign the articles unless they say something.

Yes, I think I can.

I’d say this whole conversation hinges on one word. ‘Has’. I doubt that the definition you and I are reading is interpreted to mean what we assume it means. What appears obvious to an ordinary seaman is usually misconstrued by legal and owners to their best desire. Regarding your comment about not being necessary to sign articles: Well. This incident is a prime example of what can go wrong when one side has complete control over the situation. And it appears it has been interpreted this way for at least 40 years.

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I think there is a need for a statutory standard minimum crew agreement for most vessels. The minimum agreement should be fair and even handed, where an owner neglects to enter into an agreement, the statutory minimum agreement is applied as a matter of law. Where an owners agreement fails to me the statutory minimum it shall be void, and the statutory minimum shall apply. Anything superior in the owners agreement (better wages and benefits) shall still apply.

Failure to timely pay the crew should be a crime with jail time. The USCG must detain the vessel until the crew is paid.

In a situation like Bouchard with crew stranded onboard offshore, the CEO should also be taken to the vessel and confined onboard until the crew is paid and released ashore.

The articles are required deep-sea. There is a $150 fine for noncompliance. My understanding is that the related laws are in effect regardless if they are signed or not. The purpose of having the crew sign articles is so they can see and agree to the wages. On a union ship this is covered by the contract. The wages are posted on board.

The articles are signed by the crew, just not in a timely manner and sometimes not every last crew member. They would not withstand close scrutiny but I’ve never had anyone ask or look.

The CG will fine a ship for errors in the ENOAD however. In fact ships being delayed 24 hrs for noncompliance is not unheard of. Same for speeding in Right Whale zone, etc. Or try missing something on payroll. Or in the Oil Record Book,. Etc.

I don’t know how many ships are 100% on every regulation, not many I suspect. It’s a matter of judgement as to where to spend time and effort for a smooth voyage.

In any case it seems to me it’s the captains and crews of the ATBs that should be brushing up on this stuff.

100% the ENOA. That thing can mess you up in so many ways if they choose to enforce the regulations and you have made a mistake.

As for the articles. I typically have the crew sign them a day or so after leaving the last US port. This is everyone who will be onboard until we return to the US 4 weeks later where (as is stated on the forecastle card paraphrased) on the inbound portion of the voyage and under mutual consent the parties can be released by the master. I will typically do several crewchanges by mutual consent Before reaching the payoff port where the articles are broken with the entire crew. Then we start it all over. The only people that have ever questioned me about the articles are the lawyers from the company if someone got hurt and had to leave the ship. Those persons get paid until the articles are broken if they’ve been signed.

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