The Ultimate Guide to Work Hours & Rest Hours on Ships (Including STCW 2010)

Working on ships isn’t one of the easiest jobs in the world. It is a taxing profession that needs every ounce of energies at all time. That is why fatigue on the ship is one of the major concerns for seafarers. And that is why ship working hours become a very important aspect of not only a vessel’s working but the efficiency of its crew and officers too.

To begin with, according to IMO, Work hours are defined as the number of hours for which a seafarer is required to be on duty, on account of the vessel where he/she is employed or to be at disposal of a superior outside the crew’s quarters.

Hours of rest on vessels are defined as hours outside hours of work. These hours do not include the intermittent breaks.

Representation Image -Photograph by Joerge Dordas

The legal limit on how many hours to work on ships is put by the International Labor Organization, taking into consideration the needs of the marine industry.

 ILO Maritime Labor Convention states that a number of ship working hours should be:

  • Eight hours a day, under normal circumstances, with one day as a rest day
  • A maximum of 14 hours in any 24 hour period
  • A maximum of 72 hours in any seven day period
  • Provided with a minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24 hours period
 The minimum hours of rest, as per the ILO maritime convention should be:
  • A minimum of ten hours in any 24 hour period
  • A minimum of 77 hours in any seven day period

The hours of rest can be divided in a maximum of two periods, one of which should be at least six hours in length. Two such consecutive periods should not be separated by more than 14 hours.

A seafarer must be granted a compensatory rest period in case he/she is required to be on call during rest hours.

Operations like lifeboat drills, fire fighting drills, and drills prescribed by national laws and regulations should be conducted in a manner to ensure minimum disruption of the rest period.

A number of ship working hours and hours of rest for crew members in all positions must be displayed in a place of easy accessibility for purpose of informing the seafarers in due time.

A log recording number of hours of work and rest for every crew member must be maintained at all times.

However, an exception can be made to all the above-mentioned clauses in case the master of the ship deems it necessary to require services of a seafarer in lieu of maintaining the safety of the ship, especially on an emergency basis.

Master can suspend the schedule of work hours and hours of rest in situations of vessels distress and require a seafarer to perform necessary duties until normal conditions are restored.

On return to normal conditions, seafarers involved in work during the period of distress should be granted a rest period to prevent build up of fatigue on the ship.

Deck and engineer officers, along with apprentices and cadets may be required to work in excess of the above mentioned limits, all of which shall be considered as overtime. For each hour of overtime work, the officer would be entitled to compensatory hours of rest and overtime remuneration.

It should be noted that all the above mentioned provisions shall vary for seafarers below 18 years of age. For all such crew members, how many hours to work on ships shall be governed by a separate set of rules which says:

  • Working hours on ships should not exceed eight hours per day or 40 hours per week
  • Overtime above these limits is allowed only under unavoidable circumstances and under no conditions, can be allowed on a regular basis.
  • Sufficient time shall be provided for purpose of meals, with at least an hour for the main meal of the day
  • A 15 minutes’ rest period shall be allowed after a period of 2 hours of continuous work
  • Exceptions in the above mentioned provisions can be made if they hinder effective training schedules or pose problems with watch keeping duties especially in the deck, engine room and catering departments.
  • Any exceptions made shall be duly recorded and compensated
  • Young seafarers, by orders of the master of the ship, may be needed to work during hours of emergency

According to ILO Maritime Labor convention, 2006, these conditions of ship working hours shall be followed by all member nations of the convention by means of setting the maximum number of work hours or a minimum number of rest hours, a limit which shall not be exceeded in a given period of time.

These hours apply for all vessels that fall under one or all of below mentioned categories:

  • Publicly or privately owned
  • Engaged in voyage by sea
  • Engaged in commercial maritime operations i.e. transport of cargo or passengers for purpose of trade

These rules are not applicable for

  • vessels of traditional designs such as junks and dhows
  • vessels of less than 500 gross register tons
  • vessels engaged in fishing operations
  • estuarial craft

Rest Hours According to STCW 2010

  • A minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour period
  • 77 working hours in any 7-day period
  • The hours of rest may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours in length, and the intervals between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.

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  1. Hi. can you clarify the hours of rest for this situation.
    We work on Barrow Island western Australia for Chevron. When we start our swing we fly out from Perth airport at 5am arrive at island at 7 am get our room at 9 am. we are paid from 5am as our starting time. We start night shift at 5pm. Are we supposed to have 10 hours off before we start at 5 pm or 6 hours off. we work a 12 hour shift and up to 14 hours when required.
    We are land based accommodation our vessel is a 8 metre work punt. I believe we should be having 10 hours off as we get up at 3 am fly wait for accommodation to sleep so we can be going for up to 18 hours.

  2. Hi. I am seafarer on board.. Our contract have fixed overtime 90 hours..But we don’t know exactly that we work that time.. Now our captain command that we work 11 hours daily..we have no holiday..And we have our national holidays….But he doesn’t give money…My 2 contract have extra money for working that days..Now we don’t have…same company,,Please advice…
    monday to friday 8 am to 12 pm…13 pm to 18 pm …18;30 to 20 pm
    saturatday and sunday 8 am to 12 pm….13 pm to 17 pm
    thanks for reading…

  3. what are the possible dangers that seafarers may experience if they break the rules and regulations?

  4. My vessel is less than 500 grt..and it is ownership. Company..
    My office. Take 12 hours. Per day… (12*7= 84).. No extra. Money….. Give. By company.. And officer take more. Hard work. Cam you tell. Me actual. Rest hours… In a day or in a month

  5. Can anyone tell me or guide me with regards to mandatory rest periods required with respect to long haul flights.
    Taking two days to travel to vessel and then taking over duty with no rest.

  6. hi i want to ask if is really req. for us to 12hrs in monday to friday! and 8 hours on saturday and sunday. they say we need to have overtime 4hrs a day because company pay guaranted overtime and fixed over…130hours in a month only they will pay ask if got more than 130hours but mostly before you reach in 130 they make rest…my question is are we req. to work for this fixed and guaranted over…
    is the new law of mlc that we should only work 10hours a day expect on emergency and berthing…and can we say no for making 4 hours overtime a day

    thank you

  7. works on the great lakes self-unloaders
    I understand the limit is 14 hours of work
    the bosses claim its 18 as they include our meals

    can you clarify

  8. Is lunch time included in over time as working hour or else in rest hour pls ans

  9. To address some of the questions raised:

    1) The MLC does not cover travelling from and to the vessel. While it makes sense to allow for some time for handing over and rest, this is not covered by the MLC. It could be covered by Company ISM procedures.

    2) In case you have a contract with fixed overtime it will indeed be difficult to exceed this amount of time in order to earn some extra money. It is your choice to sign such a contract. However contracts without such a clause are rare.

    3) The Captain / Head of Department is required to provide all crew member with records of their working hours, including overtime.

    4) In case you as a seafarer suspect that your working hours are not in accordance with the MLC, you can make a Complaint according to your Complaint Procedure. In case you are worried about being victimised (targetted) because of your complaint, you can make the complaint also via a designated person on board, directly to your company, to the Flag State or to your country of residence. The party receiving a complaint should act on it. Alternatively, you can bring your comments to the attention of the attending MLC Inspector from the Classification Society during the periodical inspection.

    5) The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is an international convention and mandatory on the ships mentioned in the above article. Compliance is enforced by the Flag States, the Recognised Organisations (Classification Societies) acting on behalf of the Flag States as well as the Port States. In case of non-compliance, vessels can be detained, banned or have their certificate revoked, effectively prohibiting them from sailing.

  10. Are the Master and Chief Engineer required to record their hours of work/rest as well? The regulations are not crystal clear in this regard. It seems that accurately recording the hours of work/rest for the two individuals onboard who are required to be on-call at all times and dont routinely keep a set schedule would be difficult at best.

  11. Hi iam confuse about the time we work on board we start 8 to 6 so in total 9 hrs but the officer their going to minus 1 hr because we have break time half hr in the morning and half hr in the that correct sir.thank you.

  12. how many hour the duty of a deck cadet? on board the ship same as rating min rest of 10 hrr in 24hrs

  13. I work for a company on the Inland water ways and have a question. Above it mentioned certain working conditions are acceptable but not to be regular. So I’m curious. It usually takes 3 guys on call to double lock however our company has us rotating getting up on our rest hours to assist in locking, with a extra quarter a day however we don’t always get the rest we lost waking up early. Is this something that is allowed ?

  14. What is guaranteed overtime,,? We have 103 hrs guaranteed overtime on board,,my captain want us to fullfill this 103 hours ovwertime every month,,its said that in itf contract that 8 ours per day 40 hrs a week our normal job,,it is ok that the captain will extend our hrs of job everyday to complete this 103hrs per month,tnx

  15. you should explain when to work 8 hours and when to work 14/10 to all master on baord or we required to complay our gurarnte over time every month nothing is clear

  16. Can somebody please tell me if emergency drills should be considered as a working or rest hours?

  17. @Paul: Ideally, the drill to be marked as work hours but for calculation of compliance with work and rest hours, it is usually considered as rest hours.

  18. We are currently in anchorage and have 12 hours of work daily(6 on, 6 off) due to security watch, and at the end of the month will total to about 172 hours of overtime. But my company has a limit of 120 hours overtime and will only pay us up-to 120 hours. Is this illegal? Can we file a complaint if the company refuses to pay our overtime?

  19. I have had a house fire and am needing to reaquire my seatime and the work rest hour pages I had for my new licensing. How do I get them when I worked for companies through the union? Thank you in advance

  20. I jst want to know that from monday to saturday we work 6 to 6 and on sunday half day , after that they call for drill , so is this drill period is calculated in overtime ?

  21. @Natvar:
    MLC still have many loopholes and allows the owner to manipulate the overtime. A drill period conducted during rest hours of few seafarers will be considered as Rest hours and not overtime.

  22. I work on a private vessel. My normal work day is between 15 and 16 hours with no break. It is a cayman islands flag and this past month i only had 3 days off. I feel very overworked because the rest of the crew get breaks or finish early

  23. Max working hours fir seafarers below 18 yrs is 40 hrs a week as per mlc 2006, may be by mistake you Mentioned 49…

  24. All of these stipulations are well and good but totally unrealistic because the top priority is always the commercial interest of the company and never the safety. The master of the vessel may pull out all of the ship’s resources, say for instance, for cargo hold cleaning just to be sure that the ship is inspection ready for its loading port. He may order his crew to work long hours just to meet the deadline only to tamper with the work/rest records when it starts to show red flags and rest violations. What’s worse is when things like these were reported to the company’s superintendent, he becomes deaf. All because everything was done for the commercial interest of the company. While I am fully aware that there is no shipping without commerce, we must also not forget that companies all over the world are given a license to operate if they are compliant with every shipping laws. And these include the laws concerning maritime labor. We, the crew, earns our living by operating and maintaining the ship but the company’s non-compliance to international labor laws may cause it to lose its license to operate. So, really, commercial interest? Then in worst cases where a crew squills the misdeed to the ITF, he loses his job while the Master lives to become an evil for another day. How unfair!

  25. I am having to find a way to get my son off of a Holland America Cruise ship. They lied to him about his pay (650 a month????) And commissions totalling $3000 for 6 months work? For 14 hour days! And they are not giving him his rest time. He’s rarely allowed off the boat. When he went to resign he was told he had to work another 60 days, which is a violation of his contract. I need help. I feel like my son was kidnapped and made a sla! Gees, this isn’t ye olde England, it’s 2019 United States! How does this happen? What recourse do we have? They have his passport so he can’t just walk off.

  26. @Rebecca: Kindly consult your son to refer to MLC 2006 pdf available on the website and then match it with his CBA and Contract.
    He can also complain the Harbour Master and use Grievance procedures… Forced labour is gross offense

  27. I currently work for American cruise Lines and am a server, they have us working 7 days a week for about 12 hours a day and on certain days, most of the time on turnaround days where passengers get off and new ones get on, they will have us skip our lunch period to work through it. All of the servers are temp workers that work for 7 months. Is any of this ok to do? And if not then where can I go to do something about it?

  28. Need advice please. I’m on a UK vessel operating from a EU port sailing outside EU waters but returning every night. I work a 3 week shift. 12 hrs on service. 1 hr getting the vessel ready for sea. I then have 3 weeks off. “SEA says Wages will be a consolidated wage of of £….per working day. Inclusive of seafarers paid annual leave entitlement”. No brake down of holiday pay etc. I’m told the 3 weeks off is holiday. My normal working week is 84 to 91 hrs so in 3 weeks I work 232 to 273 hrs. Need advice on what my off time is, rest period, leave or holiday. Is it legal to roll up my pay and holiday pay. Where can I get information on this subject.

  29. What my issue is the word rest. Rest is being off watch but sleep is the important word. This is where companies get away with rest. If your off watch then you are resting but sleep is different. If a person is laying in bed not being able to sleep they are not resting. I am having this issue being on what is called a shift boat but is actually a live on fleet boat. This boat vibrates and is very loud as a small boat.

  30. hello @Ross in which company do you work? How long do you stay on board and how much time on land, and what are your vacations? I am doing a program to improve the health of the sailor of oil tankers, in my company they work for a year and go down for a week on vacation.

  31. Now a days companies saying forceing that u have to work for 11 hours a day,because we are giving u a fixed overtime of 109 hours….is it right…????

  32. Is there a written definition or official guidance on what constitutes sufficient “rest.” My there be a bunk or rack available for a person to rest upon? Is “hot-racking” (one bunk or rack is shared by two or more people) permitted according to STCW? Is there any discussion in STCW regarding “rest.”

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