General information on hours of work and rest

International conventions offer an opportunity to choose between regulating the hours of work or the hours of rest. Like many other countries, Norway has chosen to regulate the hours of rest for seafarers. Norwegian legislation is based on the standards for hours of rest laid down in the MLC and STCW Conventions.

The conventions acknowledge that the normal working hours' standard for seafarers, like for other workers, shall be based on an eight-hour day with one day of rest per week and rest on public holidays. The parties may enter into collective bargaining agreements beyond this, but compliance with the minimum standard for hours of rest is a precondition.

In addition, the following should be taken into consideration:

  • Provisions laid down to prevent fatigue should ensure that the total hours of work are not too many or unreasonable. In particular, the minimum required hours of rest should not be interpreted as implying that all other hours may be spent on watchkeeping or other duties.
  • The frequency and length of leave periods and the granting of compensatory leave are key factors in preventing fatigue from building up over time.
  • The provisions may vary for ships engaged on short international voyages, provided that special safety arrangements are established.

Working hours is defined as the time spent carrying out practical work or the time  when the employee is required to carry out duties, typically in a watch system.

Hours of rest is a continuous period of at least one hour outside of working hours that the employee is free to use.

Working hours

The regular working hours shall be 8 hours a day, with one day of rest per week and rest on holidays.

On passenger ships engaged on regular domestic voyages with shift or watch systems and other ships of less than 300 gross tonnage, the regular working hours may be exceeded, however not to the extent that the total number of working hours during a period of 12 weeks exceed an average of 56 hours a week.

Persons under 18 years of age

Employees under the age of 18 must not work between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. for periods that do not allow you to get at least 9 hours of continous rest during this period.

However, this does not apply to extra work due to safety issues.

Planning of hours of rest

Persons working on board must be sufficiently rested to perform their tasks in a safe and proper manner.
The ship shall be safely manned so that the provisions related to hours of rest are met.
Records of the working hours arrangement for the seafarers on the vessel shall be kept on board. The records shall state the start and end of each seafarer's ordinary working hours, as well as the daily total hours of rest. The working hours arrangement form shall be posted in a readily accesible place on board.

Registration of hours of rest

All seafarers shall have a form for registering their hours of rest after each 24-hour period.

The master, or a person authorised by the master, must monitor and record the hours of rest in every 24-hour and 7-day period. The registration must be based on the actual rest period of the individual employee and consequently correspond with the record keeping of the working hours.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority has issued a form in standard format "Record of hours of rest for seafarers" (KS 0300). If a shipping company wants another design of this form, the content must be based on the standard form. This is with regard to international controls. The registration of hours of rest may be done using electronic systems. This information shall be brought to the attention of the seafarers on board. Records must be made available to the seafarer concerned and otherwise for the purpose of inspections by the supervising authorities or the competent authority of a port State.

Regular requirements for hours of rest (main rule)

The following intervals in the Ship Security Act section 24 first paragraph must be complied with, unless the provisions in the second to fifth paragraphs provide an exemption from the main rule.

The hours of rest shall not be less than ten hours in any 24-hour period and 77 hours in any 168-hour period (equivalent to a consecutive 7-day period).

Converted to weeks and 24-hour periods, this means that an employee who works 7 consecutive days must have 11 hours of rest per 24-hour period.

The 24-hour period is defined as a person's working day, which commences the first time the seafarer starts to work (first watch) on a calendar day and ends at the same time the following day. In other words, the first hours of rest to be recorded are the hours of rest following the first work period. For instance, if the work starts at 8 a.m., it shall end no later than 10 p.m. if the work is continous. The next rest period in this example must be at least 10 hours, and the hours of rest are recorded with a line (or cross) going at least 8 hours into the next date, that is until 8 a.m. the following day.

Illustration - register hours of rest

Hours of rest may be divided into two periods, one of which shall be at least six hours in length. The interval between consecutive periods of rest, the duration of the working hours, shall not exceed 14 hours.

Short breaks, meaning breaks of less than one hour, are not considered rest periods. Lunch breaks are not included in the hours of rest.

If the employee is on standby, for example when a machine area is unsupervised, the employee shall have a sufficient rest period as compensation if the normal rest period is disrupted by call-outs (cf. MLC A2.3 item 8).

Emergency situations due to security service

The master may require seafarers to perform any hours of work necessary for the safety of the ship, persons on board or cargo, or for the purpose of giving assistance to other ships or persons in distress at sea. The same may be made applicable to the enforcement of customs regulation, as well as quarantine and other health regulations. The master may suspend the schedule of working hours or hours of rest and require a seafarer to perform any working hours necessary until the normal situation has been restored.

In situations with extra work due to emergency situations pursuant to section 24 second paragraph of the Ship Safety and Security Act, the master shall ensure, as soon as practicable after the normal situation has been restored, that any seafarer who has performed work in a scheduled rest period is provided with an adequate period of rest. If the planned rest period is disrupted, you must register the rest period in question and note in the comment field that the deviation was caused by an emergency, muster, drill or overriding operational conditions (specify in brief).

  • Emergencies
    An emergency may occur on your own ship or on someone else's ship and is an extraordinary critical situation threathening life or health, the environment or material values, including the vessel. Situations or work that is planned are not included in the exception.
  • Work as a consequense of musters or drills prescribed by or pursuant to law
    Drills often include the whole crew, which might affect the hours of rest for individual members. Musters and drills must nevertheless be scheduled and conducted in a manner that minimises the disturbace of rest periods and does not induce fatigue. The heads of department on board must be careful to ensure that it is not always the same people who participate in drills during their scheduled hours of rest.
  • Overriding operational conditions
    These apply to watchkeeping personnel whose duties involve designated tasks related to safety, emergency preparedness or prevention of pollution in connection with work resulting from overriding operational conditions.
    Overriding operational conditions mean work required for the purpose of safety or the environment, or work which could not reasonably have been predicted before the start of the journey.
    Ordinary operational functions, such as port calls or departures, or loading and unloading are therefore not overriding operational conditions. One example of what may be considered overriding operational conditions is that an additional navigator must be summoned on the bridge because the navigation of the ship is particularly challenging. Another is that problems in the engine room make it necessary to summon one of the engineer officers on call.

Conditions for regulated exceptions

Exceptions from the main rule can be made in a binding collective bargaining agreement, in which consideration shall be given to the health and safety of seafarers, including their need for rest. As far as practicable, exceptions shall comply with the provisions of the main rule, but may leave room for more frequent or longer leave periods or additional rest periods for seafarers on watch or seafarers working on ships engaged on short voyages. The collective bargaining agreement must provide compensation such as more spare time, compensatory leave or similar.

For seafarers forming a part of a navigational watch or engineering watch or who have designated tasks related to safety, emergency preparedness ore prevention of pollution, exceptions from the main rule may be set out in a collective bargaining agreement under the following conditions only:

  • The weekly rest period may be reduced to 70 hours for a period of no more than two consecutive weeks. The intervals between two periods of exceptions shall not be less than twice the duration of the exception.
    The 24-hour rest period may not be exempted, and must always be a minimum of 10 hours. The weekly rest period, however, may be reduced from 77 to 70 hours. This can be done for a maximum of up to two weeks, but it may not be repeated until four new weeks have passed where the employee has partly 11 hours of rest during a 24-hour period and 77 hours of weekly rest. If the exception is only done one week, two new weeks must pass before it can be repeated.
  • For up to two days per week, the daily hours of rest may be divided into no more than three periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours in lenght, and neither of the other two periods shall be less than 1 hour in lenght. The interval between two consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.
    While the main rule is that there should be two periods of rest, as an exception, the daily hours of rest may be divided into three periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours in length, and neither of the other two periods shall be less than 1 hour in lenght.
    The 24-hour rest period may not be reduced from 10 hours, but the rest periods may be split into 6+2+2, 6+3+1 hours etc. This may be done for a maximum of two 24-hour periods in any seven-day period.

Conditons for exceptions for passenger ships with a shift system operating in trade area 1 and 2

For personnel on passenger ships practicing shift work operating in trade area 1 and 2, the Norwegian Maritime Authority may lay down exceptions from the main rule pursuant to the limitations specified above. Further conditions for such exceptions may be laid down, and the concerned seafarers' and shipowners' organisations shall give reasoned opinions before exceptions are made.

In principle, the regular provisions on hours of rest apply to all seafarers on vessels subject to the Ship Safety and Security Act. For particular ferries of small sizesm and where extraordinary situations make it necessary, an extended exception from the ordinary exception may be granted. This is not an automatic exception which ferries in trade areas 1 and 2 are entitled to. For ships referred to in section 11, third and fourth paragraphs of the Ship Safety and Security Act, the Norwegian Maritime Authority decides the validity of the trading permit in each separate case. If the terms of the exemption have been met as described, further exemptions beyond the limitations of the fourth paragraph of the Ship Safety and Security Act may be granted. Conditions may be attached to the exemption. Such alternative conditions will be considered in each case, and depend on the actual facts and the situation as a whole. Traffic volume, summer/winter season, illness, plan for rest periods etc. may be relevant aspects when considering the exception.

The access to make exceptions only applies to short voyages with 24-hour shifts. Shift work is an arrangement where the ship's seafarers work on board for a specified period, and will then be replaced by other seafarers, and those who are replaced, may leave the ship. In such cases each shift on board lasts 24 hours, and the 24-hour rest period is reduced (for example to 8, 7, and 6 hours at night) and rest for the next 24-hour period.

The safe manning is determined based on an application from the company which satisfies the requirements for safe operation. For ferries connected to the national roas network, the minimum safe manning level shall in addition be assessed according to network, tonnage and capacity. A unified statement from the affected organisations must be available togehter with the application before the decision. The possibility for organisations to recommend exceptions from the main rule of a minimum of 10 hours of rest per 24-hour period applies only if the employee works one 24-hour shift and is off duty for the next 24-hour period.

The rest period may be done on board or ashore. Rest periods ashore are common for seafarers working on board a ship engaged on short voyages. However, the provisions on hours of rest must in such cases prevent an employee from having a different part time job ashore stopping him/her from spending the provided time resting. The intention behind the rest period requirements is clearly that seafarers should not use the rest periods working for another employer.

Documentation and survey

The registered information must be available to the person it applies to, and it must be available for control by the authority or by the relevant authority in a port State.

Registration forms for rest periods shall be kept and be available on board for at least 6 months after they have been completed. Additionally, registration forms shall be kept by the shipping company for a minimum of 3 years after being completed.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority may at all times require access to documentation confirming the seafarers' work arrangements and registration of periods of rest.

Sanctions/rectifications

If an inspection shows that the provisions on hours of rest are not observed, the supervising authority shall take such action as is deemed necessary to rectify any condition on board that clearly constitutes a hazard to the safety or health of the seafarers, and to avoid future breaches, including audits of the ship's manning.

When seafarers responsible for the first watch or the subsequent watches are showing signs of fatigue which could result in these persons not being able to carry out their tasks, it shall be seen to that the ship does not leave port before the found non-conformities have been rectified or the seafarers are sufficiently rested.