"Signing on" on ocean tugs?

Hello all,
Ive recently gone from ships to tugs, ATBs specifically.
I was surprised when I “signed” on my first tour and wasn’t immediately instructed to grab my documents, find my relief and go see the old man to sign on/off.
Im even on a tug that is sailing to Canada regularly, which requires having my STCW OICEW, as I’m an engineer. Being STCW complaint was even a term of employment to be hired. Unsure if that is relevant or not though

I was told by the company that when the time came to upgrade my 3AE to 2AE. I would be able to obtain a letter from our licensing department stating my service time, but based on days I was paid. I should note I get a daily rate too, so even if travel is involved it would go towards seatime according to said letter…as far as the company is concerned.

Ive dug through some of the CFRs but with no luck thus far on info about this.

In summary,
Do any other offshore tuggers sign articles? How have you done your sea service letters? Has the USCG given you any hassle proving you were on board when you said you were?


I’m on ATBs and we sign articles every hitch. Whenever a letter is needed we just call the office and they provide us with a letter.

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I haven’t signed articles. Instead, a sea service letter detailing number of days, the vessel, and whether beyond COLREGS should be available from the company on request. Days were determined from pay, so not strictly accurate. Ask human resources.

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I’ve never heard of a tug crew signing articles but a few tugs issue discharges.

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A discharge can be issued at pay-off to a crew member regardless if the articles have been signed on not.

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We sign on and sign off and it gets faxed to the office and carbon copies are kept on file

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First company (‘81-‘87) got a Discharge after every trip. Since then I’ve never received a Discharge from any company. Sea service letters are the ‘proof’ you need. Years ago at REC BOS they pulled out a binder of signatures and verified the HR person had signed the letter. That was a surprise! I’ve never had anyone question my time, vessels, or veracity of my letters (other than that particular signature check).

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In my situation the place where crew needs to “sign-on” is an entry into the payroll program, NS5 or whatever. That’s what is going to led to them getting paid etc. The same program is also used to generate the discharge slip.

From that standpoint the articles is mostly just an irrelevant, obsolete piece of paper.This is even more true on a ship with a union contract because the contract determines the pay and conditions, not the articles.

The articles do remain a legally required document.

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Thanks Everyone!!!
Sounds like my situation is not uncommon, nor is it any serious issue.
I do miss getting the old ticket style discharges. Its always something to look at the stack of em.

Doesn’t sound the the USCG really cares either way, so I guess I wont either…

Is the USCG still giving 1 1/2 sea days for standing 12 hours of watch? If they are, then your letter needs to say you stood 12 hours of watch.

Back when I was dealing with the Baltimore REC, I was told that they liked the “Company Letters” much better than having to go though each and every discharge.

In all my years of sailing on Tugs, only one company issued discharges.

The only time I’ve signed articles was on a foreign voyage. Only one company gave discharges and they sailed foreign regularly. We do still get 1 1/2 days seatime for 12 hour watches.

The discharges are supposed to me mailed (or emailed now) to NMC and they enter them into your file as they come in. If everyone used discharges they’d always have a running tally of your sea time.

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