Fatigue at sea


I should have clarified that I was being sarcastic, but I’m not good at speaking in “emoji”.

Have I come across this? Yes I have and I have also seen cases where other Surveyors/Auditors have passed such cases without comments.(Even PSC)

If I found something that looked suspiciously like “flogging the records” I would compare work hour records with log entries to verify the facts.


And taking the piss?!?


I’m land based now but when I was tugging I did them all. 4/8 was obviously the best but we only did that on long tows when we had a 2nd mate, 12/12 sucks because you die of boredom, 6/6 is brutal, 4/8/8/4 worked best especially for harbor tug and short tows.


I liked working 6/6 as mate. 28 days on 14 off.

Great schedule. Even on a bad day there would only be afew hours left before i could go to sleep. Usually slept 4 hours and 3 hours every day.

In the engine room i liked 12/12. Plenty of time to relax after watch, do laundry and even watch a movie while still getting 8 hours of sleep.

I knew a couple of engineers doing the 8/4-4/8 so they could use there sleep apnea machines and they liked that schedule.

4/8 bored me to death. What am I going to do? Sleep all day? Watch TV? If I am working I want 12 hours a day, no less.

The worst schedule was as an AB on tugs where they would have us work 6. Call us out 2 hours later to work 2. Then 4 hours later to work 4. Then start it all over again with us not being entirely sure what next emergency required painting… I am talking about painting a barge down to the waterline as its unloading. Then getting knocked off for 2 as it unloads. Then painting down to the water. Then off for 4 so they don’t have to pay us. Then out to unhook and depart. Then off. Then out of the river and switch to towing…oh and don’t forget to get up halfway through your sleep time and cook breakfast for the engineers.


Treating it with the contempt it deserves.


I liked the 4/8, especially when sailing as a watch standing chief engineer. On tugs where I was the solo engineer, it gave me time to do those things that came up off watch. On ATBs, it gave me time to work on the barge. . .


For most of my 30+ years, I worked 6+6. In the beginning it was running with a single “Chief” but you got OT for anything off watch.

Later, I did get to do 4+8 which was nice but there will always be guys that just do not understand that the off watch time is to relax and sleep, not to watch movies for 8 hours then bitch about being tired.

As CE and being on call 24/7 6+6 can be tough. It always seemed that if I was going to have any sort of breakdown, it would happen after me being up for 24+ hours in port doing repairs. There were more times than I can count that after being up for those 24 hours, I had to stand my 6 hour watch when sailing.

The times that I filled in on other vessels as an AE, I stood the 12-6 watch and if would take a day or two to get used to but after that it was no big deal.

Let’s face it there is no way that Tug Companies are going to 4-8 top to bottom as they will bitch about cost and the crews will bitch about overcrowding!

The number one thing that used to piss me off was how much the WH crew would bitch if they lost the third mate but turned around and bitch when we would get a third AE.
This argument is like most onboard, you can’t please everyone!


The really clever inspector will want to see the overtime sheets and pay records. Compliant crews may cheat on their hours of rest forms to comply with a directive but they will refuse to work for free.
Case in point a stevedoring company US East coast was paying the agent for the crew to lash the cargo because it was cheaper than having the longshoremen carry out the work even though they had to give them a sweetener as well. Surprisingly a Coast Guard inspector, must have been old school, picked up on it by following the money.


My dislike of the 4/8 i worked was the lack of overtime. 56 hours a week. If there was over time thrown in then I would have no problem with it. If i am gone from home and hourly I like to average at least 70 hours a week.


I think 8 off is pretty much a needed standard for any extended time at sea. i could (and did) do 4 on 8 off for months on end.
the rough one has to be that one where you end up working when the sun is rising in stead of setting or something, like the old time sailers did.
ps: if your roomate keeps you awake snoring you probably need to work longer hours !!! I could (and did) sleep atop a running generator … (for the warmth)


Most of the companies that work 6/6 or 12/12 do NOT pay overtime or keep any onboard hours and payroll records. They just pay a day rate and expect the crew to work as many hours as it takes to get the job done. They do not pay anything extra. There are no hours worked payroll records.


When i worked 6/6 the day rate was said to be based on a 12 hour day including 8 regular hours and 4 hours of OT. We worked a full 12 every day and anything over was additional paid overtime. It didn’t happen often but they did take advantage of the 15 hr rule so e worked past 12.


8104 is interesting reading and i am not sure how many companies want to know about it.

46cfr 8104©

On a towing vessel (except operated only for fishing, fish processing, fish tender, or engaged in salvage operations) operating on the Great Lakes, harbors of the Great Lakes, and connecting or tributary waters between Gary, Indiana, Duluth, Minnesota, Niagara Falls, New York, and Ogdensburg, New York, a licensed individual or seaman in the deck or engine department may not be required to work more than 8 hours in one day or permitted to work more than 15 hours in any 24-hour period, or more than 36 hours in any 72-hour period, except in an emergency when life or property are endangered.


You are correct, OT is a thing of the past in the towing industry. My old company had us fill in a spreadsheet everyday with our work hours. If you went over the allotted hours it turned red. My Captain used to get on my ass for “being in the red” to much and said he didn’t want to hear me bitch when I called out by the office for it.

Well, a couple of weeks later I got that phone call. After listening to them rant on for close to 45 minutes on how I should watch my time better, I told them that “just so you know today will be in the red”. They all but flipped out and wanted to know why! I told them that as I stand 6 on 6 off on the 6 to 12 watch and that they called me at 1430 that I was writing this down in the log as I did when ever I had to work past my hours. They bitched until I asked “well isn’t this vessel business”. They all but hung up on me and I never heard another peep out of them for being over my hours!


I first heard it framed this way with regards to bicycles; light, strong, cheap, pick two. It applies here as well.

An ideal watch system would have:

Short periods on-watch for alertness/effectiveness.
Long uninterrupted periods of rest during the natural sleep cycle
Use as few crew members as possble

Can’t have both, whatever system is chosen is going to be a compromise.


You worked for a good tug company during a good time when some tug companies let the chiefs be honest & write their own OT. The last company that I worked for that paid OT only did so according to the timesheets the captain kept. If the CE requested OT because the A/E needed help then the A/E would be frowned upon by the Capt & company. Of course I never complained to the A/E because the last thing I wanted was an A/E who was hesitant to call me. It was an all win situation except for the CE.


MLA,2006 as amended up to 2014 doesn’t do compromise.
Regulation 2.3 paragraph 5(a) gives the maximum hours of work as :
14 hours in any 24 hour period.
Or 72 hours in any 7 day period.
I used to have breakfast in the wheel house when 6 on 6 off so that counted legitimately as work time.
From some of the comments posted it would seem that some didn’t eat, shower, or do their laundry. The regulations were framed in the realisation that in addition to work and sleep seafarers have other things to do.


The AWO and the bayou mafia buy as many Congressmen, and hire as many retired USCG Admirals, as it takes to make sure that they can crew up 6/6 or 12/12 with the smallest possible number of men on the payroll. This is probably one of the reasons that the US did not ratify the MLC.

Safety is only important when it doesn’t cost money. It costs a company nothing to make crewmen wear hard hats, steel toe boots, googles, and a work vest to step out for a smoke. But having enough crew costs money and they won’t pay for it.


It certainly limits employment worldwide if a US boat can’t pass an OVID audit.


I think the vessels that must pass Audits find a way to do so.