How many shifts on a Starship?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by YARN, Oct 31, 2010.

  1. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 20, 2009
    I understand that aboard submarines the Navy observes a sixteen hour duty day, you are on watch for eight hours, followed by eight hours off, then back on for another eight hours. This way the submarine can carry one third less crew.
  2. Tora Ziyal

    Tora Ziyal Vice Admiral Admiral

    Feb 27, 2010
    Not just in Starfleet or (past/present) military. Most of my career's been in corrections, and if there's a significant incident, senior staff's called in, no matter what the hour.
  3. BK613

    BK613 Commodore Commodore

    Sep 3, 2008
    West of the Moon, East of the Sun
    A few anecdotal words about working on the ship I served on.

    First of all there was the work day. 8-4(-ish) Monday through Saturday at sea, Monday through Friday in port. Work performed depended on your department and rating. For example, as an Electrician's Mate (EM), I was part of the group responsible for the maintenance, repair and upgrade of the ship's electrical components while sailors in the Supply department would be loading, unloading, inventorying, and staging cargo. Chain of command was through your division officer and department head (who answered to the XO and CO.)
    Layered on top of this was duty sections. The idea behind duty sections was to ensure that enough of the correctly qualified personnel were on duty to meet the ship's readiness needs. The approach to this varied depending on whether the ship was at sea or in port. Duty ran from morning muster to morning muster (the duty day).

    In port, the ship's crew was divided into 3-4 duty sections (sometimes modified for a Department.) The "on" section was required to remain on the ship during the duty day while the "off" sections usually could go on liberty (or even home if we were in our homeport) at the end of the work day. The scheduling of duty sections was also dogged to allow for weekends off.

    At sea, duty sections were typically modified to meet a Division's or Department's needs. E-Division (the EMs) was a part of the Engineering department and while at sea, the Department usually ran at two sections.
    The section that had the duty that day was responsible for standing the day's watches. Watches meant manning stations like the ship's electrical switchboard and were typically four hours long (al though 6-8 hr watches were not unheard of.) What watches there were, again, depended on whether we were at sea or in port. Chain of command for watch-standers was separate and ended at the Command Duty Officer (who answered to the XO and CO.)

    In port, watch-standing responsibilities varied greatly from department to department; for the Engineering Department, the biggest factor was ship's power or shore power. Ship's power was the same as being at sea for us; shore power meant a minimal number of damage control watches and therefore more liberty for us (usually four sections on shore power.)

    At sea, we engineers ran in two sections and everyone stood at least one watch on a duty day, sometimes two.

    And if that wasn't enough, everyone was also assigned a damage control station. Damage control stations were, for the most part, either watch-stations or damage control lockers and were manned during general quarters or emergency situations like fire or flooding. (For these latter emergencies, we had a first responder team we called the Flying Squad that would assess and sometimes handle the emergency before a ship-wide response was required.) Chain of command for DC stations went through the DC Officer, who reported to the CIC and the bridge.
    Well that's not all (man-overboard, lifeboat stations, etc, could still be mentioned) but it gives you a glimpse I hope of how stuff actually works (or at least worked on one ship, many years ago.)
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2010
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  4. Subcommander R.

    Subcommander R. Commodore Commodore

    Jun 30, 2010
    Its an eighteen hour day (6 on, 12 off). I understand generally that half of the off time is sleeping.
  5. Shatnertage

    Shatnertage Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 20, 2010
    Ward Fowler's gofer.
    ^ That's pretty cool, Terror Grin Derivative. Thanks for sharing it.
  6. Gary7

    Gary7 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 28, 2007
    ★•* The Paper Men *•★
    ^ Wow, quite complex! I'd imagine that a real starship would probably emulate such a manning structure. Obviously for the series, it was depicted in a much simpler manner... generally 3 shifts (4 when Jellico took over).

    Because it's a TV series, Star Trek didn't go to the trouble of ensuring an accurate depiction of the full work cycle. But the structure described by Boxyno1 seems accurate. It was natural for Data to take the night shift, because he doesn't need sleep. What a nice relief for the senior staff to have him on board! So yes, there will be times when Picard's shift overlaps Riker's... or they're on different schedules. We do see situations when Riker is not on the bridge while Picard is and vice versa. Remember in the episode "Schisms", Riker goes to bed while Picard is commanding on the bridge; a good example of this.

    It would have been interesting to see some scenes where a senior officer was called to the bridge right before their sleep period and kept going... eventually showing the fatigue of being up for more than 24 hours later in the episode.
  7. milo bloom

    milo bloom Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Nov 14, 2008
    The varied and beautiful Chicagoland suburbs.
    Wow. I know the demands of TV storytelling yadda yadda preclude showing all of that, but I wish they would at least mention it more often to give the illusion there's some sort of system in place.

    Thanks for posting.
  8. Chaos Descending

    Chaos Descending Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 30, 2001
    Grand Canyon State
    Not in every case. Submarines do three six hour watches in an 18 hour workday.

    Reactor Department on aircraft carriers (or the USS Nimitz in any case) did four five hour watches and one four hour watch in every 24 hour day.
  9. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

    Sep 28, 2009
    Orbiting Urectum
    I think its a standard three shift rotation (alpha, beta, gamma) of eight hours each, but it's at the Captain discretion really. Jellico preferred four shifts. Starbases would be different based on the system they were in. DS9 had a standard Bajoran day of 26 hours, and they moved onto four shifts following a recommendation from Kira in "Starship Down".

    In fanfic I write I always have a separate Watch Officer (usually a LT CDR, though sometimes a LT depending on the class) and bridge crew for each shift. It just helps keep the main characters together for when you need them.

    In Voyager, why does Janeway give the night shift to Harry? Surely Paris and Torres would be ahead of him. As for Tuvok, I can only think of one occassion he has actually sat in the big chair (the episode where B'Elanna becomes a writers muse on a primitive planet, and even then he was falling asleep).

  10. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

    Jan 14, 2002
    When I was on the Enterprise, the bridge and CDC ran on five four-hour watch sections. (One section stood watch twice each day, to ensure that the watch times for each section rotated through the day.) The timing of the watches obviated the need for dogged watches at dinner.

    Oddly enough, while most of the bridge watches were led by a full lieutenant acting as officer of the deck, one was supervised by an ensign (though he was a former chief). Each shift also had a lieutenant commander acting as as command duty officer (the watch commander).
  11. ALF

    ALF Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Mar 12, 2005
    Program Melmac1 - Holodeck 3
    It's probably the same reasoning that nearly everything that happens to Earth in Sci-Fi happens in the United States of America.

    :techman: Push the story forward, son. Atta boy!
    I guess for more realism there should have been more stories including the captain stumbling on the bridge wearing PJs trying to rub the sleep out of their eyes.

    Shields, sir?

    Yes, yes. Once I have my tea!