Shore Leave Being Denied by Company

Hello fellow Mariners,

I’m putting the feelers out there to see what some of your thoughts are on companies denying shore leave to their employees for no apparent reason other than they consider it to be a liability and its easier to just make everyone stay aboard, even if the vessel is tied up with a gangway down for a period of several months.

I have found a lot of information on the interweb from ILO/MLC regulations to Flagstate requirements for seamen to be granted shore leave “wherever and whenever possible”. It would appear that we have certain rights as seaman to take a shore leave, but most of the info I find has more to do with certain countries not allowing foreign seaman to go ashore, but what if its your own company that is threatening you with job loss if you dare to step foot off the ship.

It just doesnt seem fair to me. I know some of you will say that it is your choice to work for a company like that in the first place, but I really don’t feel they should be able to make threats like that. nobody should have to feel like they are confined to the vessel for no good reason at all.

If anyone can point me in the right direction on international regulations that may cover this topic or if you have any experience with it yourself I would love to hear about it.

It doesn’t sound to me like you are actually being denied shore leave, you are 100% free to go ashore. If it’s at-will employment and there’s no contract the company can fire you for that reason, or for any reason, or for no reason. So, you’re free to leave, you just can’t come back.

Thanks so much for your input. It certainly is “at-will” employment, and I’m not saying that we are being held prisoner on the vessel. Only that it feels that way. There are flagstate circulars that cover this topic but they are a bit vague. I personally don’t feel a company should be able to threaten its employees with job loss for taking shore leave and I feel like seaman should have some recourse against this whether the employment is at-will or not. I’ve seen plenty of wrongful termination lawsuits arise from non contractual “at-will” employment terminations. Companies still need to be held accountable and treat their employees like human beings.

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When I worked for a oil major on a project a few years ago I spent a lot of time on several Chouest and Harvey Gulf vessels. There were a number of times where the crews were confined to the ship. This, even when they were in port for several weeks at a time.

Welcome to the GOM

Good luck getting off the vessel unless you’re crew changing.

It’s not going to change anytime soon!


PS: even though the E in MEBA stands for Engineers, we represent deck officers also)


Well Its comforting to know other people are dealing with similar situations. I’m personally tired of being treated like a prisoner or a child and am going to do something to change it. Perhaps that means walking away from a career at sea all together or joining the union. I’m really not sure, but treating sailors like this is unacceptable to me.

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In the rest of the world seamen are on contracts of ~12 months (sometimes officers only do 4-6 months). Those are the people the shore leave rules are there to protect, not American workboat crews that are only onboard for 2-4 weeks at a stretch.


So it’s ok these crews are confined to the vessel?

Thanks for your input Sir. Perhaps there is some validity to what your saying, but many folks on workboats do 4 weeks on 2 weeks off and spend much more of their lives on the boat then they do on land. I don’t think that the fact they do shorter hitches means they should have less of a right to go ashore then any other seaman.

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I can’t find it now but a few years back a transocean rig was in Scotland doing repairs or something and the repair team left for Christmas. Most of the crew was Scottish and wanted to go home for Christmas morning, they were denied. Some families drove to the dock and tried to come aboard for Christmas. They too where denied.

The BBC picked up the story and it went viral. Admiralty lawyers weighed in saying it was illegal, politicians demanded release, cops were called to free the crew.

Transocean pretty much ignored the entire thing and kept there policy the same.

So, sure, with some research you can probably find a law that states your case but unless you can convince the local coast guard to arrest the ship… then the company can basically just shrug their shoulders.

You can walk off, get fired and sue but good luck finding s lawyer to fight your case for free.

You could also vote union.

P.s. I could be wrong about the details of the story… I’m on my phone and can’t find it right now but… the broad strokes are correct.

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Perhaps you can find usefull information from the Department of Labor? Some countries have strict laws concerning shore leave for mariners on their off hours but I don’t think the US is one of them.

I have worked union & non-union jobs & it was mostly up to the master to interpret the companies policies concerning shore leave. But if you work for a union maybe it is something that you can bring up to put in your next contract?

I see no reason why not.

What do you want to do ashore?

Capt Phoenix, something tells me you are one of those zero shore leave captains.


Two things are required to go ashore, permission to leave the ship and permission to go ashore. I’m not sure but I believe the laws are regarding allowing permission to go ashore only, nothing to do with permission to leave the ship.

On a U.S. flag ship the captains permission (in foreign ports while on articles) is required before going ashore. The union contracts I am familiar with require payment of penalty time if the crew is confined to the ship.

It’s not payable if the crew is not cleared to go ashore by port authorities.

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Then ‘something’ told you wrong. I have worked for companies before that didn’t let people go into town and it wasn’t any big deal. In Fourchon I never saw anyone not allowed of the boat; people would go to other boats, regularly go for a run on the dock, occasionally even walk to the gas station to buy something (a bit of a hike), etc. Plus, you can have anything you need delivered to the boat.

Given my background (sailing deep sea) I found it somewhat surreal. It kind of goes back to what I said in another thread about how you treat people aboard ship, like children…or adults.

Hmmm??? When I read your question I got this crazy mental image of some overweight, middle aged white man asking Rosa Parks why she wanted to sit in the front of the bus so bad anyway. I suppose the only answer I can come up with is that its none of your business.

Ahh, you want to go to the bar, that’s what I thought.