by Captain Kirk Greiner
In an article published in 1988, I indicated that a deck crew was not required on ocean going tugs.
This pronouncement was based on the lack of a specific regulation requiring a deck crew and upon the lack of authority absent a certificate of inspection of the Coast Guard to set specific levels of manning.
Notwithstanding my opinion, both the Portland, Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii Coast Guard offices have stated that deck crews are required. As indicated in our last issue of the EXPERT, some towing companies are sailing with two operators, two engineers and a cook. This avoids the necessity of carrying AB's and where the voyage is over 600 miles, a third person in the deck crew.
Faced with the obvious contradiction between the advice I gave our readers and the practice of at least two Marine Safety Offices (MSO's), I wrote to Coast Guard headquarters. Set forth below is their opinion to two issues - is there a requirement for a deck crew and can a person in the engineering department perform duties traditionally performed by deck personnel without violating the crossover rule (46 USC 8104(e)(1)).
When reading this, be aware of the contents of 46 CFR 15.850 which states that a lookout [when required] must be a member of a navigational watch. This requirement is also set forth in 46 CFR 15.705(b).
A deck crew is not required by regulation or statute. Nevertheless, a deck crew man may be needed to meet operational requirements and to satisfy certain statutes or regulations.
For example, a vessel must operate with a proper lookout in accordance with both inland and international regulations. In certain situations, this requirement would make a watchstanding deck crew necessary. The legislative history of the lookout rule (rule 5) serves as a guideline for determining when persons other than the licensed operator are needed to complement a navigation watch. It indicates that when an unobstructed all-around view is provided at the steering station or when there is no impediment of night vision or impediment to keeping a proper lookout, the watch officer or helmsman may safely serve as lookout. If these conditions do not exist, then a watchstanding crew may be required.
Moreover, it is unlikely that a towing vessel can be operated without seaman performing tasks normally assigned to a deck crew. Duties such as stowage of lines, preparation of bridles, cables, hawsers, etc., and other duties not associated with maneuvering, shifting of birth, mooring or unmooring must be accomplished by persons who by the nature of their tasks would be considered "deck crew." If these deck related tasks are performed by engineers and if the vessel was seagoing and over 100 gross tons or operating on the Great Lakes, then there would be a violation of the cross-over rule USC 8104(e). Hence, we conclude that certain operational situations occur whereby a deck crew is required if not only to operate the vessel without violating the cross-over prohibition.
MSO Honolulu may have been somewhat imprecise in indicating that the cross-over rule
does not apply simply because there is no requirement for an engine department. It is our
view that department exists when a seaman's duties parallel tasks which are normally
associated with a particular department. Therefore, the cross-over rule applies when
engineering personnel are onboard regardless of whether they are required by regulation or
are employed as a matter of choice by a vessel's operator.
Thus it would appear that a tug must have a deck crew although not required specifically by regulation. When it has a deck crew, the requirements for AB rating set forth in 46 CFR 15.840 apply.
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