Fatigue at sea


One thing that comes up a lot is that non US ships falsify work hours, and I’m sure they do since they’re mostly salaried and it’d be trivial, but another thing is that they often carry large riding gangs which really amount to larger crew sizes a lot of the time.


But are those riding gangs “watch-standers” that STCW rest hour regulations would have bearing on anyway?


The wording of the rest period regulations is such that anyone onboard with firefighting or environmental protection duties must toe the line on STCW rest rules. That environmental protection part is the one that a port state inspector hangs you on. Everyone onboard has some form of environmental protection duty is what I have been told by port state and nowadays everyone signed on the articles is accounted for in a rest log. I don’t agree with it but I don’t make the rules.


Non-US ship; that is a pretty broad characterisation. Do you have any base for that statement, or is it just something you believe?

I believe that US ships usually have more manning than most foreign ships today, it for no other reason than that they are generally older, thus requires more crew to handle and maintain operational.

It is true that the officers and most crews on many (not all) foreign ships are salaried and on permanent employment, not daily rated. That does not mean that they do not earn overtime when working more than the hour they are required to do by union agreement and national labour laws.


I always feel a bit anxious when I hear about how much lower manning levels can go. 20 crew on a US container ship always leaves me feeling a bit like the maintenance fight is being lost, slowly, and most of what we operate is quite small by international standards (<9000 TEU) and not particularly old at all, maybe 10 years give or take. Perhaps foreign mariners are simply much more effective man-hour for man-hour.


I was heading out of a European port a few weeks ago and watched a feeder go past with two crewmembers scrubbing the house and decks at 2300. Those guys were really getting after it too. I’m all for equitable work rules but good luck getting that kind of work out of an American seaman at 0900 let alone the middle of the night.

I wonder how those guys rest logs looked. I can imagine how good the decks did, and I was jealous of that other Captain. :grimacing:


You must have been somewhere far north in Europe in summer to see somebody scrubbing decks at 2300 hrs. They were probably on their normal watch schedule though, not doing overtime.


It is a proven fact that the average age of US-flag ships are substantially higher than the world average, even if there are some newer ship in the fleet. The US OWNED fleet are among the largest, newest and most valuable though.

Here is an article that give an overview of the world fleet in few words and some statistics for those who are interested:


Happens on the Great Lakes every single load/unload actually


The main affect of 6/6 watches, once one becomes accustomed to it is APATHY.
The fault lies with the USCG allowing 6/6… period.


Two different things here, keeping up with cleaning, maintence and operations.

Depending on the schedule maintence and cleaning, to some degree at least, can be shifted to less busy times in the schedule. But it’s very difficult to shift operations, it is to a large degree not subject to control by anyone shipboard.

Increasing the size of the crew using riding gangs and the like doesn’t necessaly help during operations because the shortfall hits first with the most skilled officers in many cases.


The lakes being the exception. I have heard this many times and can believe it since I occasionally get unlicensed crew who have been on the lakes and they generally do a more conscientious job than some of the crew accustomed to the standard freight ship agreement.

That being said, the fresh water environment has to have a more desirable effect on overall wastage on deck, no?


It was pitch black out and their deck lights were on. It was a feeder so I don’t know what kind of watch they could be running with two extra men available in foul weather gear scrubbing down in the dark.


It appears you stumbled on an episode of Dexter. The case of the missing obnoxious messman.


That’s what I was thinking, perhaps the two crew out scrubbing were responsible. It’s called taking ownership.


I know it is popular here to believe that foreign ships are owned and operated by scrupulous money grabbing capitalists with no consideration for the safety and welfare of their crews, who man their ships with unqualified “3rd world villagers” on slave labour contracts that is willing to put up with lousy living conditions and long hours.

Fortunately that is the exception, not the norm in the world of shipping. For most ships IMO and ILO rules for working and rest hours and ITF agreements for minimum pay applies, regardless of flag and nationality of the crews. Flag state authorities govern the way things are run, but with PSC to keep an eye on compliance.

In the offshore industry the practise is a bit more fluid, but I have had cases where the Master of AHTs has shut down operations because the crew had gone over their allowed working hours. Admittedly, this has been mostly in Australia, or on boats with European Masters.

Are there cases of false entry in the work/rest hour records? Yes it happens, but it is not the norm, especially on ships in European trade, where checks are frequent, the Unions are strong and the crew know how to complain if they feel they are being exploited.

Small crews doesn’t mean that they break the rules as a matter of routine. Cleaning in the middle of night may indicate that they have had a spill, or just completed discharging a dirty cargo etc.

PS> I forgot to mention that there is also MLC’06 that cover living condition, welfare and a whole host of other things that protect seafarers from scrupulous Owners/Manager exploitation.


I’m down with that. Question is. Have you seen a lot of that recently with the sailors employed on your ship? I watch guys walk past trash left by longshoremen at the last port and when I ask them why they don’t just pick it up, I get a shrug and a begrudging look as they pick it up. Very few American seamen I sign on take pride in what they do or how good the ship looks. It’s something that needs to turn around if the US flag is to survive but that kind of work ethic is ingrained not learned. We can teach you how to properly apply paint but you have to want to do it properly to begin with. I know there are good sailors out there, I’m just not getting them on a regular basis I guess. I can’t be alone.


It’s hard to stay motivated on, say, an MSP ship that is already in horrible shape when it flags in and doesn’t get the kind of steel repairs etc. that’d be needed to rehabilitate the decks before it gets flagged out or scraped. I wonder if you get that mentality on actual newbuilds instead of reflag basket cases.


And that is where I reside. You are very correct.

I feel we have strayed from the original topic though


Sure, unless the ship in question is hauling salt. The work done during annual lay up period helps too.