Physical exams as part of shipboard employment

I agree, it shouldn’t happen at all. Perhaps with some things it would be in the person’s best interest not to sail, but that should be their decision if they’ve been isssued a med cert saying they are fit to sail. As long as they carry their weight (pun intended), it’s fine with me.

The SIU physical is stricter than Chouest’s in many ways and they require a new one annually which Chouest doesn’t.

I haven’t but we had a really close call. A seriously obese captain went home for the evening because there was no work and had a heart attack at home (during his hitch). Imagine if we’d had a job and he’d been running the tug that evening…

If the USCG wants to require that obese people have a stress EKG, ultrasounds of the heart, neck, and legs, and a MRI of the heart along with a favorable cardiologist’s report in order to issue a USCG Seamen’s Medical Card, that’s fine with me. In fact, its probably a damn good idea.

But a private company’s in house podiatrist has no business second guessing the USCG medical staff’s objective judgement of fitness for duty. That should not be allowed.


Do of these companies that use their Company Physicals as a tool to weed people out, do anything to make sure that there is Healthy Food to eat? When I was sailing and ended up on a crew of mostly Southerners, you had better like Fried Food as that was what was served!

Feeding the crews is a necessary evil to the companies and they will try to get away with it as cheap as possible.

So as far as I’m concerned, if they want to preach that this is for “Safety” they had better step up and feed better!


In the Early 80’s my Company started making all officers (Deck and Engine) undergo a Stress Test once a year (it might have been every other year). In the first couple of years, quite a few guys not only failed but a couple of them had heart attacks! I was scheduled to have my first one and was waiting to here when my turn would come when I was told that they had discontinued this policy. I wonder why???

And working cardio gym machines or at least a place to skip rope. And don’t make rules prohibiting boxing etc. And potable water.

It been my observation that the Southern companies serve the cheapest southern fried grease they can find. Grease is filling, it’s cheap, and it’s what a lot of people down there consider acceptable. The food will be the lowest quality institutional food that they can find. It will all be highly processed packaged food and full of preservatives and other chemicals.

The companies are only interested in short term profits. They do not give a damn about mariner’s health. They don’t care about safety either, beyond the bare minimum that regulators, insurance companies, and clients require.

A lot of boat operating companies, and especially the bayou boat companies, have a really bad attitude toward their mariners.

That’s why I hate to see these southern companies expand into the north displacing local companies that provide plenty of good food and treat their locally hired mariners much better.


When I worked the oil field on supply boats 5 or 6 man crews we received a dollar limit and bought our own groceries. As mate I always went and bought well rounded stores. If I had sent the deck hand from Bayou Fourchon, yea we would have been up the bayou! This was with Argosy and Ensco. Seismic Steward dept would run the gamut from very good Cajun plus alternative groceries to very bad, deep fat fried turkey and twinkies. On deep draft union ships the Steward dept and master usually select a sensible grocery order and always two choices for main meals.

Be careful what you wish for, be very careful. The companies are not doing it for your best interest, They are looking at weeding you out if you present even a marginal increase in the probability of a medical issue afloat. Wow just getting the Bayou Buffoons years ago from blowing smoke in my face and having the brain dead bayou boys scream about stepping on their rights when the suggestion was made not to allow smoking inside the vessels to the ECO flight surgeon exams now, it’s not in your best interest…ever. Talking about flight surgeons, the first USCG rendition of marine physical overhauls was headed by a flight surgeon, again an example of in that case, the CG not dealing with reality.

I am familiar with the SIU physicals, however, I dare say the consequences are muted. They may go through the motions but how many are actually excluded??? Going by the monstrously out of shape and walking heart attacks we have all seen, ever ask yourself how they made it up the brow?, I have.

150% in agreement!

The Chouest physical isn’t really that bad. They look at your medical history, check your torso for surgical scars in case you lied about major surgeries, take blood pressure, listen to your heart, do a grip test, and do a physical agility test. (Not even as through as most reputable workboat companies physical agility tests.)

There are no x-rays unless you had previous orthopedic surgeries, then they want a letter from an orthopedic surgeon that everything is good to go, the in house doctor doesn’t evaluate your x-rays.

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“In the first couple of years, quite a few guys not only failed but a couple of them had heart attacks!”

Something similar happened to an Assistant Engineer that I worked with. He was at home & started to have chest pains that he described as “chest cramps”. He went to the doctor for the first time ever & found out he had diabetes & was on the verge of a heart attack. His doctor said a stress test might push him over the edge to the great unknown. He was instructed to go home, sit on the couch next to the phone & do absolutely nothing for a few days. His visit to the doctor caused him to get on diabetic meds & a life/diet change. I worked with him a couple of years after his health wake up call & he was still on the wagon, eating healthy, taking his meds & trying to live & work as long as possible. This is another reason I don’t have a problem with companies forcing their employees to be healthy & get thorough periodic physicals. Most people won’t visit a doctor unless they are forced to. I know the companies aren’t doing it for the employees but if I & my co-workers are benefitting from it as well, then I don’t care.

BTW, this guy was from Baltimore & worked NY harbor so obese, unhealthy mariners aren’t exclusive to the GOM. There’s a lot of junkfood eating, chain smoking tugboaters all alone the east coast. Tugsailor said he works with the occasional three-hundred pounder & I think he is a west coast guy. The US has unhealthy obese people everywhere.


The USCG required physical should do a better job of screening for type 2 diabetes, cardiac problems, plaque build up in the carotid and femoral arteries, etc. The USCG does not even require thorough blood labs.

Medical insurance and healthcare programs should include good annual physicals and age appropriate tests. Health is mostly a matter of genetics. If you have people in your family tree with cancer and heart disease, you’ll have it too. If your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents drank, smoked, and eat grease every day, but lived into their 90’s, so should you.

I pay $100 monthly for a concierge medical service (it does not accept any insurance). It provides a good annual physical, $20 routine doctor visits, complete blood labs, discount prescriptions, and referrals to specialists. There are no delays or insurance company BS.

Anyone over 50, overweight, or with any otherhealth issues should be getting appropriate checkups.


How do you pass the BMI test at 5’6" and 270?

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I sailed with this poor fellow around '03 or '04. I don’t know how he passed the physical? I don’t think the USCG had the medical board at that time & we didn’t have 2 year medical certificates then for sure.

Does the USCG have a BMI cut off to tell people they are too fat to go to sea?

No. The USCG does not have a BMI cut off.

It just requires that super fat guys, maybe it’s BMI over 40 or 50, have more testing, mostly a physical agility test to prove that they can climb short ladders, get through hatches, etc.

What about the kickout panel on the cabin doors. I thought we are supposed to be able to get through that. Is that a rumour?

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Don’t worry. No stateroom door is going to withstand a panicked 500 pounder.