Work / Rest regulations and actual work hours aboard ship

An interesting thread would be how many hours per day seamen actually work in different maritime trades:

  • Towing outside versus harbor work.
  • How many hours a day on an OSV.
  • How many hours a day on a tanker, MSC ship, etc.

Officers versus unlicensed. Not what the rules say, but what is actually done.

We had a lively discussion back in January about tug pay. A lot was learned. Would be interesting to see the same with hours, across the industry.

When I was on OSVs everyone worked 12 hour days and almost never more than that. You could get into technicalities about how much their watch people actually “worked”, but it was flat 12 hour shifts.

The harbor tugs I was on the deckhand got fucked if we were busy because there was only one deckhand per boat. Captain and mate worked 12 hour days and the engineer worked 8 hours plus call outs.


12 hours a day. Except the Chief Mate :joy:


But then it’s still “12”

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Always. Never in the red on Watchkeeper!

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The questions sometimes comes up “why not just go anchor until the crew is rested?”.

In practice what happens if the second mate says they have to knock-off for rest when something has to get done? The C/M gets called out and the second mate is unlikely to get a promotion to C/M.

If a chief mate can’t do what has to be done to keep the show on the road they have little chance of getting that master’s spot.

In many cases a mariner that can’t get things done is not going to land a spot as chief or master.


I have been in command of ULCC and VLCC’s for many years, when tankers were manned by Exxon there was a total crew of 42. After lay up in Norway, the same tankers sailed in more congested waters and I had a total crew of 21 included me. After completion of partial crude oil discharge in LOOP we had many ship to ship oil discharge in the Gulf and working hours where much in excess of requirements but we had no options because commercial requirements were very demanding despite we were time chartered to Exxon. When I left active duty on ships I started to do vetting and periodical inspection mainly on tankers. During inspections I found out that in many occasions working hours records were fake. At a certain point I left my vetting job because I found out useless to check paper works on ships. On my view it’s very simple: if on a VLCC total amount of crew is 21 and you take the worst cases I.e. navigating in the channel during heavy traffic conditions, deep draft ,fog and continuos communications traffic you simply realize that a total crew, Master included, of 21 is simply not sufficient and rue.s can’t be complied with. In addition to this officers have to spend ti e in filling up forms and/or software to show that rules are complied with. In the most of cases I inspected and irrespective of any watch and/or working hours it resulted that simply the total crew was insufficient. And in the most of cases the minimum safe manning. was absolutely unpractical . In my view the working load on board , including useless paper work, should be : the minimum safe manning certificate should take into account the commercial pattern of the ship taking into account the worst conditions encountered during voyage I.e. traffic,fog,etc. Many years ago officers were composed by Captain, senior Chief officer, chief officer , second and third mate and two cadets with two AB EVERY WATCH. Only in this condition he Master can be temporary relied by a competent officer and therefore comply with duty-rest regulations.


Coastal Transportation Inc.
Per day, over a 25-day voyage:


There are no legal work hour restrictions on these vessels.

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Everyone on ships knows this. Sadly whatever “rules” exist whether thru the companies own SMS , flag state or IMO are not written by people such as yourself.
In conversations with fellow retirees we often celebrate the fact that we were not involved in some catastrophe due to inadequate manning prior to our retirement. Many retired early due to that crap game and got out before the dice rolled the wrong way.


This doesn’t really paint the entire picture, though. I could have twelve hours off in one day, but if it’s broken into 12 1-hour rest periods (1 on/1 off) it’s not really doing me any good.


The work hours seem realistic but averages can be misleading. Annual pay per position would be interesting assuming overtime is paid.
At any rate we appreciate your continued input.


Under MLC one period has to be a minimum of 6 hours.

3 posts were merged into an existing topic: Thread Clean-up Dustbin

According to the MLC (Maritime Labour Convention) 2006, the minimum hours of rest for seafarers working on a ship should be: 10 hours in a period of 24 hours – This can be divided into no more than 2 periods. One of these periods has to be at least 6 hours in length.
US is not a signatory to MLC’06, so it does not apply to vessel under US flag,
Or do US-flag vessels in international trade have to comply, just in case they should get PSC inspected in a foreign port(??)

The company he works for is US flag and therefore does not have to comply with MLC. I’m not saying they do/do not comply, just that they don’t hVe to and that the graphic he provided does not paint a full picture.

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Underway, officers work 6/6 or 4/8. The normal watch patterns for, say, a tug. M/V Coastal Standard always sails with 2 mates. The other boats sail with one or two mates depending on how many mates are available (some years lots, lately not so much).

If there is a second mate aboard there will be a day crossing the Gulf where the captain and chief mate go 6/6 so the second mate can help the deck crew with maintenance. Also, if the 2nd mate does not have pilot waiver competency yet for the BC IP, then the other deck officers go 6/6 on the IP (maybe 1 to 2 days northbound, same southbound), with the 2nd observing until he gets his route time approved.

Cargo ops in Dutch Harbor are pretty much a breakfast to dinner thing these days. Once they knock off the day is over. DH cargo ops last about 5 days. Hence the reason why on a 6/6 boat the average drops to below 12 hours a day for a voyage.

Bellingham ops, near the end of the voyage, were usually a single jag of about 10-14 hours, more or less, because that is the window of time the cold storage dockers operate. Captain often goes to sleep during the ops to take the boat to Seattle afterwards.

This last A-season (Jan to March 2022, busiest time of the of the year) the longest single day for any CTI crew member was 16 hours. This was usually a captain, and usually on either a sailing day, or a day in DH.

(The stats shown were compiled by captains over ten voyages, in an annual survey. The captain sets the hours for the rest of the crew. For the survey the chef engineer self-reported his hours, and the assistant’s hours, to the captain.)


Back in the day chief mates sailing in product tankers were a class apart from the rest of the human race in not requiring sleep or rest periods. The 2nd mate and third mate were 6/6 but some port calls involving 4 or 5 berths the 6 off was elusive.
With the introduction of crude oil washing with its placement of the control heads, monitoring of ullage meters, mooring lines and the requirement to have the cargo control room manned by a certified officer 6/6 didn’t work for 3 people. In the company I worked for on ULCC’s the junior mates went 6/6 24 hours before our port call. The theory being the mate charged up sleep like a battery. Yeah, I hear you!
On sailing he repaired to his bunk for another 24.
I can remember as 2nd mate sailing from Rotterdam in a clean set of coveralls, one of the Indian ordinary seaman washed them for extra overtime. The coveralls were over an unwashed body after 6 hours cargo work, 6 hours on station, and into 6 hours on watch in one of the most congested areas for shipping in the world.


The relevant code for U.S. vessels would be 46 CFR § 15.1111 - Work hours and rest periods. At least AFAIK.

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At one time tankers carried an “extra third mate” and the chief mate was a day worker… They went away about the same time as the 2nd pumpman, watch standing OSs, and day working Bosuns.

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That’s only for vessels bound by STCW.

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