Mariner Manning Pilot

From Commander, Military Sealift Command

Mariner Manning Pilot

The MSC Voyage Plan, our roadmap for moving the command in the right direction, includes a focus on harnessing and developing a diverse, capable and talented workforce. A supporting effort is cultivating a proper work-life balance, ensuring our workforce has enough time to take care of the business of life.

When talking with our civilian mariners the number one concern I hear is overdue reliefs. It frankly dominates the conversation when visiting our ships around the globe.  In addition to this direct feedback, I have serious concerns about whether the current crewing model provides enough time to train, plan life events, and to recuperate so that each mariner is able to approach his or her job with focus and energy.


Under the current model, 23 Marine Placement Specialists manage ship rotation actions for a population of over 5,600 mariners, each of whom have a unique rotation timetable and schedule requirements. The ratio of detailer to customer support combined with the variability of four-month rotations creates an unlimited number of potential transactions and results in a significant manning model challenge.  Clearly, our mariners are underserved by this process.

In an effort to respond to the concerns of our mariners and to improve how our crews train and operate, we are implementing a mariner manning pilot program for our government-operated ships.

For this crewing pilot, USNS Joshua Humphreys and USNS Pecos will serve as our test platforms, with the goal for each ship to function independently of Marine Placement Specialists ashore.  During the pilot set to begin this summer, crewmembers will be assigned to a ship for a period of 12 months and all funded leave and training will be managed by the ship’s Master.

I believe the decentralized management of a ship’s crew and return to the same ship after taking leave will build unit cohesion leading to a more effective team and simultaneously provide opportunities for improved work-life balance.

Adding mariners to the pipeline is not the only option for solving our manning challenges. We must figure out new processes to more effectively and efficiently place mariners on our ships and manage the overall manning process.  The new maritime environment demands a modern and collaborative approach to employing and developing our talented afloat workforce.

Let me close by saying we don’t know that the pilot program will yield better results. But we do know that if we do nothing, we will continue to produce the same unacceptable results in the manning of our ships.  We do pilot programs to see what might be achievable and what might help us realize something greater than the status quo.  I look forward to your thoughtful feedback on this program as well as constructive ideas on how to improve our manning model to better support the joint warfighter, operate in the new maritime, and improve civilian mariner work-life balance.

United We Sail,

Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, USN

Commander, Military Sealift Command

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