Felons and the Merchant Marines? Advice and Experience


The Original post has been removed


Skip my previous advice about getting down to the recruiters office. :wink: I sailed MSC as an AB and a co-worker AB had done a several years stretch in Folsom. I think the issue may be, as it was with him, that it depends on what kind of security clearance you need for your specific shipboard billet. He continued his job, AB Maintenance. You have to get info for MSC from someone other than the recruiters, they aren’t Mariners, they are flunkies hired to answer phones and read from a script. I’ll contact a friend at MSC and see if he can shed some light.



2)Also, I gleen from skimming some of the MMD requirements that ‘Captains’ can not have any prior felony convictions. Whats the deal there and how far can I go in MMD rank…1st mate?

4)Oh…and what is up with US felons cant sail in Canadian waters?quote]

MMD requirements as in CFR’s? Reading 10.201 shows that time heals all. Looks to me like after a certain time frame depending on the issue you will be able to move on. I would also assume that if you got your MMD that you are clear to move all the way up the ladder.

Where do you get your info that US felons can’t sail Canadian waters?


I don’t mean to hijack the thread but this is very closely related. A few years ago the Canadian government decreed that any Washington State Ferries crewman with a DUI conviction was not allowed to work on the run that went to Vancouver Island.

It’s not like they said the seafarer was not permitted to go ashore, they actually prohibited the seafarer from working on that vessel on tha run even though it made many US stops before the single stop in Canada. Many crewmen lived in or near the US ports that were served by that run and this had a huge impact on their employment. For some reason I cannot comprehend, the State of Washington, the US State Department, the USCG, the IMO, and every other agency with a stake in international trade and the rights of seafarers did not declare war on Canada for this assault on US sovereignty. Even the unions didn’t comment. I thought we fought a war once to protect the rights of American seafarers from interference by a foreign government.

Canada claims that anyone with a DUI is personna non grata and is not allowed to enter the country. That is a peculiar take on how the US government used to describe a vessel sailing under the US flag. As long as the seafarer remains on the vessel, he remains on US soil.

The peculiar side of this is that when a passenger departs Alaska with a DUI history and drives off an Alaska Marine Highway ferry in Prince Rupert to travel to the US via road, they allow him to purchase a “dispensation” that allows him to enter the country. Canada doesn’t seem to care about the AMHS crews as there are more than a few who would be prohibited from working on a WSF vessel.


See pages 11222, 11223, 11224


It is very common on the Lakes for Canadian Immigration to board the vessels in Canadian ports and kick off anyone with DUI’s.

I’m not sure about felonies… but I would assume it is the same situation.

food for thought.


It applies to felons and DUI/DWIs. Several years ago, the company I was sailing for at the time had to re-shuffle the crews for the runs into Canada. I had to fly out for a 3 day relief job going from Anacortes to Burnaby.

I think you can buy dispensation but it is expensive.


Kick them off? You mean they put them ashore in Canada rather than just restrict them to the ship? Think about that one for a bit … They are saying they don’t want them in the country so they make them leave a sovereign piece of the US and walk on Canadian dirt … weird.

I wonder why they don’t have the RCAF intercept airliners in Canadian airspace, force them to land, and “kick off” passenges flying between the US and Europe or Alaska?

If the crewman is documented by the US government to serve on that vessel and that crewman is not requesting to go ashore or otherwise enter Canada, isn’t it the same as shanghaing the guy? We fought a war in 1812 over this issue. I guess the USCG and US State Department don’t look back that far when they get all weepy eyed over what that flag on the stern really stands (or stood) for.


This may shed some light on the “Canadian program”. Our outfit has had to deal with this issue recently and it understandably caused some shifting of personnel. It’s expensive and offers no guarantees that your application for “rehab” will be accepted. It can take up to a year to get an answer from the Canadian govt. and cost upwards of $1000.00 U.S.D…



My Brother was convicted of a class x felony when he was a kid. I think he had it exsponged. I think he has been to canada twice. I dont think his ship had been boarded though. Would they be able to see his felony beings it was a juvie deal?


Not really. If a seaman is not trying to immigrate or to otherwise 'land" in Canada, how can they remove him from a US sovereign vessel? Fair enough if the guy tried to go through immigration but just being on a US flag ship is hardly attempting to enter the country.

I would love to know how and why the US has abandoned the concept of a US flag ship being American soil as far as US seafarers are concerned. Does this mean that any country through whose waters an American ship sails can board it and remove anyone they want for any reason? What if some nation decides brown eyed sailors are a threat their religion or politics? What if some muslim nation decides it wants to arrest female seafarers for not wearing a burka or wants to arrest them and stone them to death for premarital sex because that is illegal in their country?

If a crewman with a DUI or some other criminal history is enough of a threat to Canada that the US allows this travesty, how come it doesn’t apply to Canadian inside waters between Washington State and Alaska? Each year hundreds of fishing vessels transit BC waters and it is a fair assumption that those boats are manned with more than a few DUIs and worse.

It sure looks to me like the US no longer has any interest in protecting the US mariner from the sort of arbitrary acts that we used to go to war to defend against.


Well thanks guys. Seems like we covered the Canadian DUI issue pretty good. I’m still very interested in taking the MSC route at/after SUI Apprentice program in March…Therefore, I’m still looking for info regarding Felons and MSC. Any furter info and/or stories/experience or points of contact regarding this will be greatly appreciated.

I appreciate all the feedback thus far.



I work for MSC and worked with only one felon I knew of for sure. He had some extenuating circumstances that allowed him to be hired. I’ve heard though that several have slipped through the cracks. Occasionally a guy will get called into to the Captain’s office and get paid off under mysterious security related circumstances. One thing to know about MSC is there is alot of gossip. Believe half of what you hear.


Canadian Immigrations will deny entry for DUI, and other crimes. We have to send crew lists prior to departure, and the crew lists are vetted, EXACTLY the same as “No Fly” lists, or the 96NOA that ALL arriving from foreign vessels must submit.

Canada will call and say “So and So is inadmissable”. We have to get them off the boat before departure. If they tell us after sailing, the crewmember will be met by Canada Customs, and restricted to the ship.

It isn’t a US Soveregnity issue. It is the right to a govenment to control who enters their country. The US does exactly the same, with exactly the same results.

As far as transitting from Washington to Alaska, that is considered “innocent passage” and isn’t reportable to Canada Immigrations, per se.

Sometimes you can drive across the border, but sometimes they check and turn you back. The Olympics will have a lot of that going on.

Some ports are more lax, some ports have more time to look this up. Vancouver is easier, Prince Rupert looks harder. Results vary with time, but the end result is inadmissability.


The way I see it “restricted to ship” is what they have the right to do. I do not understand how they can deny a US citizen the right to work on a US flag vessel just because it goes to Canada. If that citizen remains on sovereign US territory (the ship) he or she has not “landed” on Canadian soil.

“It isn’t a US Soveregnity issue. It is the right to a govenment to control who enters their country. The US does exactly the same, with exactly the same results…”

We restrict crewmembers to the ship. We place a guard at the bottom of the gangway and charge the shipping company for that service. We do not tell shipowners who they can hire.

“Prince Rupert looks harder. Results vary with time, but the end result is inadmissability.”

Prince Rupert is where the Canadians were selling indulgences to DUIs who left the ferry southbound. The Canadians never prevented the employment of AMHS employees with DUIs, and there are several to be sure. So my point is that the Canadian rules are very flexible, not enforced consistently, and infringe on the sovereignty of an American flag vessel.


[QUOTE=Steamer;20174]If that citizen remains on sovereign US territory (the ship) he or she has not “landed” on Canadian soil.[/QUOTE]

You are welcome to argue the point all you want. A US flagged vessel is not “sovereign US territory” unless it is a warship. A US flag vessel in a foreign port is subject to Port State Control, as is EVERY vessel arriving in the US. Due to the nature of Customs, the vessel has “landed” once it anchors in foreign water, touched land on foreign soil, tied to a foreign dock, touched a foreign vessel. The Port State has every right to decide who may enter their country, whether they are restricted aboard, or free to go ashore.

STCW, IMO, TWIC, No Fly lists, e-ANOA/D are ALL manifestations of this.

In some ways, for the Canadians it is also a political “poke in the eye” for being run roughshod over by the US in many ways. Around here it’s for salmon wars.