Fatigue, Sleep and the 6 hr / 6 hr on/off watch schedule

“That’s similar to STCW which allows only 14 hours in any 24 hour period and no more then 77 hrs in a 7 day peroid.”

That’s 11 hours a day max, not including drills. It is no wonder there is such confusion.

That 600 mile requirement seems to have faded away, too. My tug’s new COI under SubM only requires two wheelhouse watchstanders, and we’re regularly doing transits of 2500 miles.

46 U.S. Code § 8104 - Watches

If you think your company is violating rules contact the USCG.

The “77 hours in 7 days” is MINIMUM REST not maximum work.


What 12 hour requirement?

I am guessing that the 12-hr requirement applicable to some vessels has been misconstrued by many to think it applies to all vessels.
According to 46 CFR 81.04, on some vessels there are limitations of 12 hours in a 24-hour period. But it is not applicable to all vessels.

Yes, that’s correct, I got it backwards.

It gets complicated keeping track, we used Watchkeeper software for planning and record keeping.

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When l worked on tugs many years back at an oil terminal in lreland it was a basis of 24/24 on off for 21 days then 7 days off. As long as the boats were manned the company allowed the crew to work any agreed system. Most popular was 5/2 days then 2/5 days each week so one had every 2nd weekend free. As far as l know its not much different now.

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I’m guessing you’re referring to this post right before yours:

That’s almost definitely just company policy that everyone works 12 hour days and some captains/office personnel lose their shit if you ever report working over your designated hours (even if you actually did).

The only legally mandated 12 hour rule I’m aware of applies only to deck officers on towing vessels. No one else on tugs has work hour restrictions unless the tug is required to be STCW compliant.

5 posts were split to a new topic: Work / Rest regulations and actual work hours aboard ship

You hear some people say hat 6/6 are technically not legal because you are not getting a minimum 6 hour rest period.

People usually have to arrived 10-15 minutes before their watch starts for a handover, this time also counts as working, so people working 6/6 are only getting a 5 hour 45 minute rest period and not the 6 hours that is legally required.

6/6 is not an accurate name for the watch pattern 5.75/6.25 is more accurate. People working 6.25 hours on and 5.75 off when you include the time for a handover.


Another article on the (lack of) human sleep.

He thinks the evolution of human sleep is a story about safety – specifically, safety in numbers. Brief, flexibly timed REM-dense sleep likely evolved because of the threat of predation when humans began sleeping on the ground, Samson says.

But maybe insomnia, for example, is really hypervigilance — an evolutionary superpower. “Likely that was really adaptive when our ancestors were sleeping in the savannah.”

Studies have found that shift work also has a negative impact on female fertility. There seems to be a big push to try and get women into offshore roles that require a lot of shift work when studies suggest it harms them more than it does men.

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NOTHING will change until the MARINER has a powerful lobby in DC to counter the status quo. Until then, we will continue to have these conversations about incidents and how we walked to school in the snow uphill 25 miles to school each way when we were younger.

I believe the push is to offer women offshore roles if that is something they wish to pursue. The BS “baby” argument is all too often pulled out as a way to hold women back or discourage them from trying.

That said shift work does men no favors.

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Nothing will change as long as there are still people out there in the industry on the boats saying,

“This is the way it’s always been, tough it out kid!”

"You should have seen how bad things were back in MY day, you have it TOO easy now, I say!

“Guess you’re not man enough for this work then, are you!?”

“Just drink more coffee! That’s what we all have to do to get by!”

“You can sleep when you’re dead!”

“What are you complaining about? We’re getting off in a week anyway!”

“I don’t know what you mean, I feel fine! Can’t take it?”

Those people suck and don’t deserve their licenses or their jobs. They are the primary reason nothing will change.


I’m sorry that this discussion seems to have died. Obviously great for those who are interested in minimum manning. It’s an accountant’s thing isn’t it In order to operate a ship safely you need enough people, or at least enough active participants. The need to fudge the work/rest records for the benefit of the employer because to do otherwise will incur their wrath, are frankly depressing, but if you want to get on understandably necessary. But how can it be that for a limited expense, on what are sometimes multi-million dollar investments, managers would choose to take the risk of having their vessel damaged or lost, due to fatigue on the part of the watchkeeper? So in the hope of reviving the discussion I will attach a bit of my own experience.

I started working offshore when all supply ships were manned by two watchkeepers on deck and in the ER. Although it was hard going, the occasional night at rest made all the difference. I have also worked in Saudi where the fields were so close to the port that even though there was only me and the mate as watchstanders, the job was still really easy. But I was once mate of an early seismic ship which operated with a single streamer and, because the captain thought it was necessary for him to be in a sort of management position, the second mate and I worked 6/6. During our time on watch we were required to manage the course of the ship using whatever position fixing system we had been provided with, as well as protecting the cable, which made it necessary us to monitor, identify and contact, approaching vessels. Because we always used coast stations for phone calls we also acted as the radio operators. So we were always extremely busy. After doing this six on six off for 28 days without a break the Second Mate and I were both completely stuffed.

Later I was captain of the same ship and I felt that by keeping the 4-8 I would still be able to manage the ship’s activities, so we operated a three watchkeeper system like a traditional deep sea ship. It was a breeze!


I have stated as much in previous posts, and maybe even this thread. On an ATB in the 80s, starting with just two engineers. Between work on the boat and barge, it was a grind. I petitioned AND got an additional engineer. I guess I could have taken that “management” position, but that isn’t me. 4 x 8 was much more practical, but I did spend most of my afternoons tending to other work where needed.

Things will change quite quickly when vessels are automated and everyone goes on a 0/0 schedule.

Auto workers and steel workers once had the same complaints: too few workers on the line. Solution: automation—get rid of most of them. The auto worker and steel workers thought, “No robot can replace me. My job is too complex. My job is safe!”

30 years from now there will be a shift change of remote-container ship operators working in an office park in Vegas. Two people will operate the entire ship, working 8-hour shifts. 30-minute commute from home. Before the old watch goes home to take the kids to soccer practice and make dinner, someone will say, “Man, these shifts are killing me.”