Beard Ban At MSC

After reading this, I assume people know that beards will grow back? Having worked on H2S wells with 200 people onboard at any given time, with shaving and fit testing being the norm, never once do I recall this type of crying from working age adults. I guess with a tangible hazard, the tune is a little different.


When working with anything that can outright kill you, I will happily don a spacesuit with any kind of grooming standard you wish to apply, if required.

The issues at the beginning of this (now quite old) thread remain the same. Wanting a beard or facial hair takes a back seat to the safety requirements of the vessel and your employer. They say that it is a condition of employment and you follow suit. If you don’t like it, go get a job on a yacht where you can work barefoot and get a killer suntan to compliment your beard.

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How does this work in countries where pretty much everyone has a beard, anyway?

Exactly! There’s a tug company in the gulf that made a lot of people scream the same way as this over their no visible tattoos and absolutely no tobacco use policies. But you know what? Even though a lot of people screamed and carried on like entitled brats because they didn’t like it, there were people that met those criteria and filled the jobs.

Maybe some info is lacking here. Our bottles are rated for 60 minutes, we assume they’ll last for 30, and rotate people out after 15 minutes of being on air. We typically have 3 repair lockers with 8-10 people suiting up in each locker. Depending on the conditions, we’ll use 2-6 man hose teams. Each repair locker has 10 SCBAs and there are another 30+ spare bottles plus a few spare SCBAs around the ship. Several things have failed if you’re going in with a hose team and I’ve never seen it happen. Every drill I ask around, who has had to fight an actual fire before, only 2 people have- a switchboard fire in a shipyard where he put it out with CO2 and a main space fire 20 years ago. The chances of suiting up, and a seal being an issue are just so damn small.

I could entertain an argument for hose team guys to shave. Honestly, I’d like to suit them up and run them around for 15 minutes and see how we do on air before going one way or the other.

If you’re wearing a negative pressure respirator to protect yourself from H2S or whatever, that thing needs to have a perfect seal and you need to shave. The MSO (medical service officer) should be taking care of that. I’ll support that all day.

Gas masks… if we go to MOPP level 1, and there’s a credible threat, and I have a mask and suit in my possession, of course I’m shaving as my life may be at stake.

But this general everyone needs to shave thing is just bullshit. Shave, cut your hair, wear your uniform, meet annual fitness standards, oops we’re the Navy. Might as well just have the Navy man the ships, but then it would cost more and they wouldn’t run as well, and we’re right back to square 1. We’re the ones out there running the ships, we know what to do, USCG knows what to do… As soon as something comes from USCG or gets put in the CFRs, I’ll stop arguing, until then, it’s just somebody in the office who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

I agree with that. Everyone at MSC doesn’t need to pass a fit test at all times. Guys working in areas that may need respirators, guys on the hose teams, etc could be required to be clean shaven and if a believable CBRD threat is received such that gas masks are carried at all times then everyone. Otherwise it’s an admiral being a douchebag.

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I already knew the SCBA was positive pressure, thats all the instructor kept saying as he was donning it because the hair would allow air to escape. He was wrong. There will always be disbelievers until someone proves it. Same as running a mile under 4 mins.

But just to show you that its not the seal or escaping air that depletes your ability in a fire. Why nobody ever brings up the heavy smoker person? Or the extra overweight person? When we run drills, its people still barely getting out of the space because they cant walk and climb ladders with the pack on. No seal issue there, but they are out of air. We will get this point out and end all this in due time. You cant have facial hair because of a seal but you can be a chain smoker or overweight but cant do but 4 levels of stairs(8 steps per level) with a pack on before you need to sit down.

The British Royal Navy issued a “shave off” order as their ships steamed South for the Falklands in 1882 to all hands.

I like it. Straight razor in heavy seas. That is called trust.


1982 perhaps?


It’s now been extended to all personnel specifically those in training and assigned to the pool. I understand it while at sea but when I’m sitting in the pool for going on three weeks (as of this post) I would like to have my beard nothing crazy just a neatly kept beard while I twiddle my thumbs waiting for an assignment.

My ship is full of beards. That includes me. Nobody cares. That includes me.

What ship?

Here’s the funny part about the beard ban its enforced until your orders like mine specifically state to grow it out before you travel.

It is now official. The ban is now part of MSC’s Safety Management System. Violate it and your history.


How so?

There’s no chance that’s in any orders…

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I’m with you there Msceetard, and I second that “bullshit” call. Unless you’re on the Ocean Trader maybe, but that’s not a gray hull.

One could alway do what most mariners don’t. Read the SMS.

Seen it. Read it. Got over it. Moved on.

It’s not about danger, it’s about leadership. Not the Navy version of leadership. No real world leadership and respect.

I’ve been a Mate and a Master. I’m not going to compare who has fought the biggest or most fires. I don’t care. I did my MNTB fire fighting way back in the day when we used negative pressure sets.
With a full beard.
I had just come back to the Uk from the gulf with a beard in January. No way I was going to shave.
The firefighters were betting I would shave by the next day. Buggers burned my ears, singed my hair and singed my beard, with all the snot and sweat I had a perfect seal. No smoke.

So I wouldn’t personally be concerned about having a beard and being required to suit up.

My company decided a couple of decades ago, based on local (WCB) health and safety requirements for fire fighters. Beards would be forbidden.
I was Mate I didn’t have a beard. I didn’t want a beard, I don’t like having a beard. Even so I don’t like being told I can’t have a beard for a stupid chicken shit reason. Most of my deck crew had beards.

The company was chicken shit. They decided to let captains and chief engineers be exempted from this policy.

The day came. When the axe dropped. Direct order to shave issued.

The Capt I worked with at the time. Had a beard from the first day I met him. He was not a guy I got on well with.
The day he issued the order to the rest of us. He shaved first.

I then had to enforce the order. Which required me to suspend, some of my crew. Without pay and order them of the boat.
It was not a good day.

Personally I respected him for the way he gave the order, I was pissed at the company. Two of my crew, even shook my hand and his when I suspended them.
They wanted to make their point which went through a grievance process and arbitration for being disciplined.
The crew lost the arbitration.

To some extent I regret not refusing to shave even though I didn’t have a beard. I decided that really was stupid. Particularly since as a Mate who relieved as Master. It was my job to enforce company policy.

I respected the Capt. He did it right.

Other Capt, who wouldn’t shave, who still issued the order. And were prepared to discipline crew over it.
I didn’t respect, I thought they were chicken shit a-holes, hiding behind a loop hole.

The good leaders shaved.

When the fuss died down my Capt. grew his beard back. Which was fine and dandy. No problem with it water under the bridge.

I don’t have a beard today, my choice. I don’t like not have the choice.
I did have a choice work here or quit.

As Master policy doesn’t apply to me. To this day I believe company policy is poor leadership.

My wife’s Dad was Battalion Chief for VFDP. When he went out to a 3 Alarm call. He had his own driver, for his own vehicle. He set up the command post.

No way, he would be entering, even so up until he retired he was still required to be able to suit up.

Every now and then.

I suit up, for drills. Just because I can.

If I ask someone to do something, I know how to do it. I can do it.
Doesn’t mean I am going to do it. Or will have to do it.

I respect those who I know, know their stuff and can.

MSC have decided to put this policy in place, it will hold up, if challenged.
My opinion the MSC Mates and Master who lead by example will be the ones the crews respect the most.