Quitting when foreign or in a U.S. port

Does anyone have anything that specifically talks about a punishment? My ship’s crew has been talking about the same thing as the OP.

I understand the Captain can’t just walk down the gangway. But what is keeping an AB or EU that is 30 days overdue from walking off in a port foreign or domestic?

In theory, nothing. But the USCG can revoke their credential. And the union will be heavily displeased.


That is what I figured. I was just trying to find where it says the USCG can revoke it for that reason specifically. Believe everyone is just getting flustered with the amount of jobs on the board and lack of on time reliefs.

I would personally be understanding up to a point. But I also can’t blame anyone being on a ship 30-60 days longer than they intended walking down a gangway.


Some years ago at Diego Garcia this question arose when an AB was having trouble getting a relief on one of the LMSR’s with CONMAR crew. I recall overhearing the Master say to someone that the officer or crewmember in question is on the hook for one year before they could walk off a ship without any repercussions from the USCG.

Not sure how accurate that statement is, but I remember him saying it. I have never experienced this issue before but it would be interesting to find out.

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Which one? Makes a big difference…

The union contracts I’m familiar with to quit in a U.S. port crew members have to give notice, it’s 72 hrs IIRC but it’s in the union contract. Company is not required to pay travel in the case of a “quit” but they may (not often) agree to in some cases.

As far as no relief available, that’s another matter altogether. The ship can sail short. I’ve seen the union ship out 3rd mates paid at third’s wages to fill AB positions.

If the seafarer is adamant about quitting, I would suggest they write a letter, stating mental and physical stress, then have them email it to the Captain, DPA, and HR. If the company doesn’t do anything to relieve the mariner at this point, then they are setting themselves up for possible legal action. Just be aware, if they go down that road, then they should follow up by seeing a mental health professional when they get home.


Or just fall down the stairs and claim your back hurts!

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46 USC Code 7703 – Basis for Suspension or Revocation
A license, certificate of registry, or merchant mariner’s document issued by the Secretary may be suspended or revoked if the holder
(1) when acting under the authority of that license, certificate, or document—
(A) has violated or fails to comply with this subtitle, a regulation prescribed under this subtitle, or any other law or regulation intended to promote marine safety or to protect navigable waters; or
(B) has committed an act of misconduct or negligence;

It is not clear to me how quitting my job fits in to any of the above. The idea that the CG could revoke a credential for quitting I think is more folklore than anything, even for the Master.

I guess you could make the case for a Master leaving a vessel at anchor, but at the dock is doubtful. Especially if another deck officer is a licensed Master.

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I’m most familiar with the SIU contract. I don’t think that contract is written to address when the mariner is due to get off. Instead they specify how long the crewmember can stay on. In other words when a job is called for say 30, 120 days or whatever that’s how long you can sail until you have to get off. If the ship breaks articles before the crewmember has gotten the time in they are entitled to stay on for another voyage.

Unless I’m mistaken the limit to how long a crewmember has to stay on is governed by the articles (or by what the company will agree to). I don’t know what the limit is there. The longest I’ve seen is 180 days but that ship was hitting the States every 90 days or so and the articles are broken at the end of the voyage.

Don’t know what would happen in practice but AFAIK this is the applicable law.

§11501. Penalties for specified offenses

When a seaman lawfully engaged commits any of the following offenses, the seaman shall be punished as specified:

(1) For desertion, the seaman forfeits any part of the money or property the seaman leaves on board and any part of earned wages

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I believe it only applies to Foreign Articles.

But you could ask the Bouchard guys who were stuck babysitting rigs without pay and were told BY THE USCG that if they walked without relief they would have their credentials taken.


When I was on a ship sailing foreign, and it didn’t come back to the US, we signed 1 year articles.


Don’t know what the CG was planning on, not desertion maybe but something safety related.

Well I don’t think you can leave an oil barge anchored in the middle of a harbor and walk away.

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Desertion is a specific legal charge. If the crew had “walked off” the CG presumably would have charged them not specifically with “desertion” but with something else, don’t know exactly what.

Or threatened to at least.


Were they really not getting paid?

The USCG would have a hard time justifying ruining someone’s career over an issue which could ruin their lives.

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The relevant section of the US Code makes no distinction as to voyage type. The USCG could try and make the case that the seaman who left the vessel “committed an act of misconduct or negligence” but I would suggest this is not a slam dunk if I have made multiple attempts to obtain relief and/or there is sufficient persons remaining to operate the vessel safely. Articles cannot be made equivalent to indentured servitude.

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There is a difference between revocation and suspension.

Revocations are generally reserved for the most serious offenses and are relatively rare. A revocation is permanent and can only be reversed by an appeal to the Commandant. I suspect that rare occurs.

Suspensions are common. It may take a couple of years for a suspension hearing before an ALJ to take place and a final order to be issued. Most suspensions are for a few months.

A Captain I sailed with once said desertion is pretty hard to prove. “If he leaves so much as a toothbrush aboard its failure to join” were his exact words.


The seaman shouldn’t desert. He should ‘unintentionally’ miss movement. He should leave personal belongings behind to evidence his intent was to return. The result would be the same - separation from the ship. The penalties are less severe.

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