Assaulting the Master

On a vessel recently we found that the company stamped into the front of their logbook a stern warning that “Assaulting the Master or any Officer is punishable by 4 years in federal prison - without exception.” I have heard this in the past, and it stirred a conversation between all of the officers since it was the first time we noticed it in the logs (we were starting a new one…)

We were wondering collectively if this rule, or any rule (especially with regards to the Master) are in any CFRs or regulations where this can be cited in its plain English, and if anyone had ever heard of this actually being enforced? Do you believe anyone in recent decades has served time or is serving time on that charge? Our own Master stated that he believes it is just treated like any other assault; shoreside or at sea and that the punishment is carried out same as with any profession.

It is all covered in 46 USC Chapter 115 - but I think it is only 2 years maximum. It looks like your company took some liberty.



  1. Penalties for specified offenses.
  2. Entry of offenses in logbook.
  3. Duties of consular officers related to insubordination.
  4. Enforcement of forfeitures.
  5. Disposal of forfeitures.
  6. Carrying sheath knives.
  7. Surrender of offending officers.

§11501. Penalties for specified offenses

When a seaman lawfully engaged commits any of the following offenses, the seaman shall be punished as specified:

(1) For desertion, the seaman forfeits any part of the money or property the seaman leaves on board and any part of earned wages.

(2) For neglecting or refusing without reasonable cause to join the seaman’s vessel or to proceed to sea in the vessel, for absence without leave within 24 hours of the vessel’s sailing from a port (at the beginning or during the voyage), or for absence without leave from duties and without sufficient reason, the seaman forfeits from the seaman’s wages not more than 2 days’ pay or a sufficient amount to defray expenses incurred in hiring a substitute.

(3) For quitting the vessel without leave after the vessel’s arrival at the port of delivery and before the vessel is placed in security, the seaman forfeits from the seaman’s wages not more than one month’s pay.

(4) For willful disobedience to a lawful command at sea, the seaman, at the discretion of the master, may be confined until the disobedience ends, and on arrival in port forfeits from the seaman’s wages not more than 4 days’ pay or, at the discretion of the court, may be imprisoned for not more than one month.

(5) For continued willful disobedience to lawful command or continued willful neglect of duty at sea, the seaman, at the discretion of the master, may be confined, on water and 1,000 calories, with full rations every 5th day, until the disobedience ends, and on arrival in port forfeits, for each 24 hours’ continuance of the disobedience or neglect, not more than 12 days’ pay or, at the discretion of the court, may be imprisoned for not more than 3 months.

(6) For assaulting a master, mate, pilot, engineer, or staff officer, the seaman shall be imprisoned for not more than 2 years.

(7) For willfully damaging the vessel, or embezzling or willfully damaging any of the stores or cargo, the seaman forfeits from the seaman’s wages the amount of the loss sustained and, at the discretion of the court, may be imprisoned for not more than 12 months.

(8) For smuggling for which a seaman is convicted causing loss or damage to the owner or master, the seaman is liable to the owner or master for the loss or damage, and any part of the seaman’s wages may be retained to satisfy the liability. The seaman also may be imprisoned for not more than 12 months.

I daydream about any of these scenarios coming to fruition with ironclad proof. What better way to break the monotony and build a new sea story (fewer and far between nowadays) than a crew member taking a swing at me!?!

The closest I’ve ever heard of it was a, how do I say troubled, second mate picking up the old mans phone and throwing it at him as he was being fired. Not a cell phone, a phone. He was already fired so besides a WHOLE lot of screaming from the captain to get the fuck off his ship, nothing else happened besides recounting the story for several years.

Honestly I’d be surprised if the companies HR department allowed me to enforce the CFR’s quoted without some sort of “come to Jesus” meeting in the office with all parties involved. I think I’d still try though :woozy_face:

Yeah, I actually had a deserter on my ship earlier this year and the office completely nixxed my demand that he forfeit his unpaid wages for the offense. Would have saved G-money quite a bit since he walked off two days before the end of the pay period, but whatever.

TL;DR- HR doesn’t want to deal with the additional headache.

I have been threatened a few times, but no one has ever hit me.

It is a question on the as of rules for 1600. A friend just mentioned it being on his test. I don’t know tbe answer but , I thought he said a $5k fine in addition to jail time. Don’t take my word for it.

With the quality of Mariner that many companies low wages are attracting the CFR’s do not hold much weight .
Most incidents are handled by HR " in house " and swept under the mat no matter how it goes down , or what your log book says on the cover .
Piss poor hiring practices along with weak management result in problematic situations on board any vessel .
A good number of 4.0 sailors have walked away from the industry , leaving behind failing companies and their slackers .
Respect , and the days of old , are finished regardless of the CFR’s .


I agree with most of that, at least in the small vessel segment.

HR in 2018 does not know how to hire or fire or manage vessel crew. HR textbooks are written for shoreside jobs, not seagoing jobs. The HR staff don’t believe there is any difference. Most of the port captains today, are guys who were just mediocre mates for a couple of years. No seagoing expertise in the office.

The lawyers, accountants, MBAs, and HR staff that run small vessel operating companies today don’t have much respect for the Master, so why should the crew. That’s half the problem.

As far as assulting the Master goes, if a crewman assaults me, my first calls will be to the USCG and the police, and my own lawyer, not to the office.


A while back I was sailing 2nd mate and the bos’n accidentally punched the master. He was waiting around the corner for the Chief Mate.

I got a couple calls at home from the FBI. I heard that the bos’n had his ticket pulled for a year. The union put him to work at the hall as a janitor till he went back to sea.


I have a friend who used to work at UOS (before that it was TECO) who as a new 3M had an AB who refused to follow any of his orders because, as it was explained to me:

1.) “You’re just the Third Mate…”
2.) I have a license too (turned out it was limited tonnage) and
3.) I only work for and answer to the CM

Guy went so far as to make adjustments to the radars without the watch officer being aware of it!! Never got fired or even letters of warning for it despite the officer’s protests and a history of aggressive/violent tendencies and words with his superiors in all departments… I hear now the guy is a new MMP mate… God save us. The company seemed scared to enforce the rules and the Master seemed defeated or relucant to assert himself. Guy should have had his ass kicked like a field goal from what I heard. Ideal candidate for enforcement of the above mentioned penalties.

There are actually two AB’s I can think of that sail out of Florida who would regularly try and pull this shit. I think I know the particular person you are describing though.

I have never understood this mentality or the lack of effort put forth by the senior officers once this behavior is reported. It’s a sorry state of affairs of a captain or chief mate won’t maintain discipline when the crew acts up like this. Personally I make it a point to have the AB on watch in earshot while I’m giving the new third or second mate the rundown of my standing orders. I want them to hear me tell that young officer that it is their watch and they are in charge and to act as such.

Also, I wouldn’t mind if a junior officer presented me with a letter of warning they wanted to serve an insubordinate AB. It shows initiative and is the kind of officer I start paying attention to for possible promotion. An officer that wants to get walked all over even when they are within their rights to correct bad behavior is not someone I want onboard for any long length of time. Now that is coming from my perspective where I will do everything I can to back up my officers and keep the ship running smooth. It does not sound like this young mate had that support.


I agree, a lot of masters talk a big game but when it comes time to step up they start with the pathetic whining they can’t do anything etc.

For a lot of captains if the crew problems don’t directly involve them they are not going to do anything regardless of how much problem it’s creating on board.

The big talk captains want to avoid the 10 or 15 minutes of unpleasantness it takes to fire someone so the crew has to suffer for an entire trip.

The biggest blowhards are the worse.


Unfortunately the guy is now an officer in MMP, though I have not had the displeasure of meeting or sailing with him. I know some of his extremely sexist and violent comments online towards other union members and people of the opposite sex have become viral around the offshore group. If I had to place bets on anyone falling under the penalties in the above mentioned CFR, I’d put everything I had on him.

Masters of ships and masters of desks in the offices are afraid to discipline people these days, but hopefully the union leadership is not. As my career winds down to an end I hate to think that these are the kinds of officers who will one day progress to top ranks on our ships with A-Books, potentially even becoming our representatives in union office.


I don’t think it’s anything new, it’s been that way. Poor leadership.

I recall a bos’n threatened me when I was third mate because I told him to do something.

The bos’n was on the bow with the 2nd mate for mooring/unmooring so later I told the 2nd mate what happened and asked how the bos’n was on the bow. Second mate said the bosn’t had threatened him as well.

I asked the second mate if he was going to report it to the mate and the 2nd mate told me he was going to wait to see which way the wind was blowing first. He never did report it.

Later the bosn’ didn’t come out for all hands and he got fired. It was typical, cliquish senior officers, clueless about what’s happening on deck.

I for one can’t stand when I hear about shit like this second hand well after it happened or that the mate was informed but no further action was taken. I want all of my mates to know that they can come to me with whatever problems they may be having and the next thing that is going to happen is a sit down with the transgressor. I tell all of them they can use me as the bad guy if they need to. Something to the effect of “the captain wants it this way and I know it sucks but if you don’t fall in line I’m going to have to answer for it so let’s just get it done.” Then if they keep up the bullshit, they were warned and we move straight to the letter.


Because HR doesn’t have to deal with the consequences.

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I’ve gone years without seeing a copy of the Masters & bridge logs. As far as I’ve seen, its only the Master, CM, 2nd & 3rd who write & read them. I don’t even know where they are kept. Perhaps your company is sending the message to the bridge team to get along by putting the stamp in the bridge logs?

Maybe they should post the rule about bread and water rations somewhere in the galley for all to see.

If they are on articles, they are required to post it, but maybe not in the galley.

I post the forecastle card near the galley after the articles are signed every voyage.