Vessel tied up at company dock. Captain went home leaving 3/M in charge. Am I making too big a fuss?

There’s currently 6 people onboard (3/M, AB, 3AE, QMED, Engine Cadet, Steward). I have been looking through CFR’s but I can’t seem to find anything pertaining to minimum manning specifically when at the dock and the company rep said this is common practice and they typically only leave an AB and a QMED to “babysit” the boat between contracts. Obviously I’m a little weary of that.

The COI says what it says and obviously it has a Captain listed on board and a chief engineer. As the third mate, I mentioned to the company that I was uncomfortable being put in this position since the vessel is a little on the older side and obviously responsibility would fall on me if anything was to happen to anyone on board. Granted I’m pretty sure everything will be fine, but I’d like to cover my own ass and I’m wondering if I’m making too big of a fuss about this? Any advice is appreciated, it’s a small company and this is my first time being put in a position like this so I’m curious to the legality of this situation.``

Had a similar thing in the past, no Old Man onboard and having to deal with Old Mans stuff. Eventually got an agreement with the company that they would pay Chief Officer at Relief Master rate to take account of extra responsibility; if the crap is going to land on your head then may as well get paid for it…


COI minimum is a thing.

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What type of vessel you working? I worked a union job once & the contract said the company could go to reduce manning or no manning if we were off hire for 4 days. Of course it was tugs before sub M. I’ve seen a few small tugs over the years that went to no manning at port. Just a heavy duty extension cord connected for shore power & everyone went home until needed. I recall similar instant reduced manning scenarios when I worked on OSV’s & it was my understanding a phone call or email to the Captain of the Port was all that was needed.

In all the scenarios I mentioned the vessels couldn’t be moved unless properly crewed up again. It used to be pretty common on tugs & OSV’s.

I thought so too but people I’ve asked have said it’s “not uncommon”

Yeah on an OSV, appreciate your response.

I don’t know if was legal but it was common 10+ years ago. Now that you bring it up, I’m curious to know the legality of it. Maybe one day I’ll have absolutely nothing else to do & will email a regional marine safety office or captain of a port & ask them?

What are you concerned about exactly?

I think making any fuss is too big of a fuss here.


A couple of times guys complained there weren’t enough crew to make a fire team. My reply was if she catches on fire run onto the dock, call 911 & watch the bitch burn. If the company wanted you to fight a fire they wouldn’t of went to reduced manning.


Yes, but COI Manning only applies when vessel is navigating unless specifically indicated otherwise (I.e. for passenger vessels with passengers aboard).

46 CFR §15.515 Compliance with certificate of inspection.

(a) Except as provided by §15.725 of this part, no vessel may be navigated unless it has in its service and onboard the crew complement required by the COI.


Only other thing I could see being an issue is if the company doesn’t leave enough men to do shutdown maintenance, or wants it done in an unreasonable amount of time.

That can certainly be an issue but if you’re new to the industry you need to understand that a more common one is guys tied to a dock not doing shit and that has to be balanced.

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I believe it is an issue only when navigating, not all the time. Woke up on Christmas morning in port and the only other person aboard was the security guard. It sucked, but it wasn’t illegal.


I spent the summer of '08 or '09 in anchorage in Chesapeake Bay babysitting some derelict waste oil/water barges on a tug with reduced manning. No Master on board, only a halfass mate with a license. My mate, the tankerman & dayman didn’t do shit, same for all 4 on the opposite rotation. I took the old tow winch apart, chipped it down to bare metal, primed, painted, lubricated, installed new O-rings & gaskets & put it all back together almost by myself. The barges & outside of the tug looked worse at the end of summer than at the beginning, the ER & winch looked brand new. After that, the office/port captain would send those 7 lazy bastards home to the minute whenever the boat was off contract for 4 days. I always got to stay. I know most office personnel are shady folks but when a crew member complains about being furloughed, regretfully I have the memory of those 7 good-for-nothing’s in the back of my mind. I feel guilty about it.


I’ve done shipyards where it was only myself (third mate) and an AB for 12 hours over night. When I was a cadet I used to be the only one on the tug overnight sometimes. Definitely not out of the ordinary and definitely something you should get used to being comfortable with. Just make sure she doesn’t float away and if you get an engine alarm call the engineer. You’ll be fine.

Shut up! By the way, you’re fired!

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When I started sailing it was normal for the company to put the captain and chief in a hotel while in port leaving the first mate and engineer to handle off loading/loading, maintenance etc. Though I was jealous it was good training for the mate and engineer.

I was on a boat once where the captain would leave to go “up the street” before all of the lines were out.
The engineer would take the boat out of gear and shut off the steering.

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I believe it is legal as long as it is in agreement with port control/captain of the port. I was once the sole Licensed Deck Officer over 2 drillships tied up, with a single engineer and and a single electrician.
If an emergency arises try to handle it, but don’t put yourself in danger. If the gangway catches on fire, jump in the water.

if you’re on shore power vs ships power … that always made a difference. on generators a eng. got paid stby wages … he could work/sleep as long as he kept the lights on.

Back in the days of general cargo vessels the master departed to either go home or stay with friends, the mate, after the heavy lifts were over, worked on his golf handicap, and the second mate took charge with the third and fourth mate and two radio officers worked day about. The radio officers drew up the cargo plans under the direction of the second mate. It is worth noting that the second mate and usually the third mate had unlimited tickets.
Because I came from the navy some 50 years ago things were slowly changing and while my peers had experienced this I didn’t but I did find myself doing things as master, such as medical duties, that had been my expected duties as second mate.
In one joyful incident the mate had moved in to the master’s accommodation with a young Caribbean lady in Avonmouth in the UK. Someone got one of the Jamaican dockers to ring up on the ship’s internal phone and in a deep bass voice stated “ youse got my woman up there, I is coming up to sort youse out. “
The fallout was pretty to watch.