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 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 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.

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

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

  • Eight hours a day, under normal circumstances, with one day as 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 rest period.

-          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 ever 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 maintain safety of ship, especially on 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 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 separate set of rules which says:

-          Working hours on ships should not exceed eight hours per day or 49 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 deck, engine room and catering departments.

-          Any exceptions made shall be duly recorded and compensated

-          Young seafarers, by orders of 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 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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