Defence Q&A How do shift patterns work on a naval vessel?

CynicOpt

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Could someone help me to understand how shift patterns work on a naval vessel?

For example, do they mimic a civilian environment, with the majority of personnel working in the late-morning to mid-afternoon, and then reduced personnel on evening & night shifts? If this is the case, do amenities like mess halls mimic civilian equivalents (e.g., restaurants) - i.e., they serve the various meals of the day between set times and shut up shop at night?

Or, are there equal numbers of personnel on shift at all times to ensure the ship is always essentially "fully" manned around the clock? If this is the case, how do amenities like mess halls function? Wouldn't the mess hall serving, say, lunch for one of the shifts potentially clash with breakfast for another, for example?
 

DAVEBLOGGINS

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Could someone help me to understand how shift patterns work on a naval vessel?

For example, do they mimic a civilian environment, with the majority of personnel working in the late-morning to mid-afternoon, and then reduced personnel on evening & night shifts? If this is the case, do amenities like mess halls mimic civilian equivalents (e.g., restaurants) - i.e., they serve the various meals of the day between set times and shut up shop at night?

Or, are there equal numbers of personnel on shift at all times to ensure the ship is always essentially "fully" manned around the clock? If this is the case, how do amenities like mess halls function? Wouldn't the mess hall serving, say, lunch for one of the shifts potentially clash with breakfast for another, for example?
Hello CynicOpt.
As a retired RCN member I will try to explain the Canadian watch system which I believe mirrors the British model. Normally when a Canadian naval ship puts to sea, the entire crew including all officers from the Captain on down sail in what is called the 2nd Degree of Readiness-Port & Starboard watch system or 1 in 2 systems-5 hrs on 7 hrs off/7 hrs on 5 hrs off 24/7. This watch system is really centered on crew meals (including cooks) who serve meals continuously (Breakfast at 7-8 AM; Lunch at 11:15 AM/12PM-Dinner at 5-6 PM) with crew rest through it all. After the ship departs (usually at 8AM) the Port watch normally "closes-up" until they are relieved by Starboard watch at 1PM. The Starboard watch then goes on watch until 6PM when the Port watch then comes back on until 1AM when the Starboard watch then comes back on until 8AM until Port watch relieves them at 1 PM where it starts all over again until the ship arrives at it's port-of-call. When the ship sails again, they would normally shift the watches around where the Starboard watch would come on in the AM. If you think that is crazy, we also have a 3 watch (Red, White & Blue) and 4 watch system (1st/2nd to Port/1st/2nd to Starboard) and along with this a 1st Degree of Readiness system which is when the whole crew closes up on watch (Action Stations! Ready to fight). All of this of course is geared around 3 meals a day served by a very busy group of cooks (some cooks bake throughout the night to fill the bellies of sailors with sweets). I know it sounds very confusing....but it works. Not like any other civilian system that I can think of. Clear as mud right?o_O
 

CynicOpt

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Hello CynicOpt.
As a retired RCN member I will try to explain the Canadian watch system which I believe mirrors the British model. Normally when a Canadian naval ship puts to sea, the entire crew including all officers from the Captain on down sail in what is called the 2nd Degree of Readiness-Port & Starboard watch system or 1 in 2 systems-5 hrs on 7 hrs off/7 hrs on 5 hrs off 24/7. This watch system is really centered on crew meals (including cooks) who serve meals continuously (Breakfast at 7-8 AM; Lunch at 11:15 AM/12PM-Dinner at 5-6 PM) with crew rest through it all. After the ship departs (usually at 8AM) the Port watch normally "closes-up" until they are relieved by Starboard watch at 1PM. The Starboard watch then goes on watch until 6PM when the Port watch then comes back on until 1AM when the Starboard watch then comes back on until 8AM until Port watch relieves them at 1 PM where it starts all over again until the ship arrives at it's port-of-call. When the ship sails again, they would normally shift the watches around where the Starboard watch would come on in the AM. If you think that is crazy, we also have a 3 watch (Red, White & Blue) and 4 watch system (1st/2nd to Port/1st/2nd to Starboard) and along with this a 1st Degree of Readiness system which is when the whole crew closes up on watch (Action Stations! Ready to fight). All of this of course is geared around 3 meals a day served by a very busy group of cooks (some cooks bake throughout the night to fill the bellies of sailors with sweets). I know it sounds very confusing....but it works. Not like any other civilian system that I can think of. Clear as mud right?o_O
Gosh, that is complicated!

I guess what I'm getting at, is, say for simplicity a ship has a three-watch rotation, 8 hours each. One from 00:00 - 08:00, another from 08:00 - 16:00, the other from 16:00 - 00:00, and the ship has a crew of say, 1,800.

Would there be 600 personnel on each shift? Or would, say, the 08.00 - 16.00 shift have a majority of personnel, being the "day" shift, say, 1,000? The 16.00 - 00:00 shift have a bit less, say, 500, and the night shift have the fewest personnel, the remaining 300?

Also, how would all three shifts, say, eat breakfast at the same time, if breakfast is only served from, say, 07.00 - 09.00? Wouldn't some of the personnel be sleeping at that time?
 

DAVEBLOGGINS

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Gosh, that is complicated!

I guess what I'm getting at, is, say for simplicity a ship has a three-watch rotation, 8 hours each. One from 00:00 - 08:00, another from 08:00 - 16:00, the other from 16:00 - 00:00, and the ship has a crew of say, 1,800.

Would there be 600 personnel on each shift? Or would, say, the 08.00 - 16.00 shift have a majority of personnel, being the "day" shift, say, 1,000? The 16.00 - 00:00 shift have a bit less, say, 500, and the night shift have the fewest personnel, the remaining 300?

Also, how would all three shifts, say, eat breakfast at the same time, if breakfast is only served from, say, 07.00 - 09.00? Wouldn't some of the personnel be sleeping at that time?
Hi again CynicOpt. The 1 in 3 Watch system (Red, White, Blue-called the Third Degree of Readiness) is simple no matter how many people you have on board ships (either 200 or 1800 or 2000-6000)-Day Sift/Night Shift it doesn't matter. For example say Red watch (600) comes on at 08:00 (Red & White have their breakfast at the same time). White Watch (another 600) comes on watch at 12:00 (White would eat lunch at 11:15 AM) and is then relieved by Blue watch (the other 600) relieves White watch coming on at 16:00. Red and White watch eats Supper at 17:00. What is called the "Dog watches" are divided into two hour watches. Blue watch is on watch from 16:00 for 2 hours until 18:00 (this is called the "First Dog"). Then the Red watch relieves Blue at 18:00 until 20:00,(called the Last Dog) having already had Supper at 17:00 with White watch. Blue watch would then have supper at 18:00. White watch then comes on from 20:00 until midnight (this is called "First Watch"). Blue Watch then comes on at midnight until 04:00 AM (this is called the "Middle Watch"). Then Blue is relieved by Red at 04:00 until 08:00 (this is called the "Morning Watch"). Then the cycle continues with White Watch coming on at 08:00 and so on for the next day with the same rotation. This system can carry on for days or even weeks or until the CO orders a change in a Degree of Readiness. I'd hate to be the galley staff though as they would have to feed either 600 or 1200 sailors at any given meal time! Simple right?:confused:
 

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