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Shore leave


Shore leave is a period of approved absence with pay authorized by 5 U.S.C. 6305(c) for employees who regularly are required to serve aboard an oceangoing vessel on an extended voyage.


Oceangoing vessel means a vessel in use on the high seas or the Great Lakes. The term oceangoing vessel does not include a vessel which operates primarily on rivers, other lakes, bays, sounds, or within the three-nautical-mile limit of the coastal area of the 48 contiguous States, except when used in mapping, charting, or surveying operations or when in or sailing to or from foreign, territorial, Hawaiian, or Alaskan waters, or waters out-side its normal area of operations or outside the three-nautical-mile limit. 

Voyage means the sailing of an oceangoing vessel from one port and its return to that port or the final port of discharge.

Extended voyage means a voyage of no less than seven consecutive calendar days duration.

Eligibility for Shore Leave

Employees who are regularly assigned to duties aboard oceangoing vessels are entitled to earn shore leave. An employee is considered to be regularly assigned when his or her continuing duties are such that all or a significant part of them require that he or she serve aboard an oceangoing vessel. Temporary assignments of a shore-based employee, such as for limited work projects or for training, do not constitute a regular assignment.

Accrual of Shore Leave

Accumulation. Shore leave is in addition to annual leave and accumulates without limit.

Earning rates. An employee earns shore leave at the rate of one day of shore leave for each 15 calendar days of duty on one or more extended voyages. 

Duration of voyage. For an employee who is an officer or crewmember, a voyage begins either on the date he or she assumes duties aboard an oceangoing vessel to begin preparation for a voyage or on the date of boarding when a voyage is in progress. The voyage terminates on the date the employee ceases to be an officer or crewmember of the oceangoing vessel, or on the date on which the employee is released from assignment of duties relating to that voyage aboard the oceangoing vessel at the port of origin or port of final discharge, whichever is earlier.

Preparation for a voyage is defined as the performance of duties which must be completed before a voyage can begin (e.g., loading cargo), and are of such a demanding nature that the officer or employee will, in effect, be confined to the vessel up to the time of sailing. It is not intended to include the performance of duties which are in the nature of maintaining the vessel between voyages.

For an employee other than an officer or crewmember, a voyage begins on the date of sailing and terminates on the date the oceangoing vessel returns to a port of which the employee will disembark in completion of the assignment aboard the vessel, or on the date he or she is released from assignment aboard the vessel, whichever is earlier.

Computation. In computing days of absence, the following shall be included:

  • The beginning date of a voyage and the termination date of a voyage;
  • The days an employee spends traveling to join an ocean going vessel to which assigned when the vessel is at a place other than port of origin;
  • The day an employee spends traveling between oceangoing vessels when the employee is assigned from one vessel to another;
  • The period representing the number of days within which an employee is necessarily expected to return to the port of origin when his or her ocean-going vessel's voyage is terminated, or his or her employment as an officer or crewmember is terminated, at a port other than the port of origin;
  • For an employee who is an officer or crewmember, days on sick leave during a voyage (whether or not continued as a member of the crew) but not beyond the termination date of the voyage of the oceangoing vessel or the employee's repatriation to the port of origin, whichever is earlier;
  • For an employee other than an officer or crewmember, the days on sick leave but not beyond the date of return to the port of origin or the termination date of the voyage, whichever is earlier; and
  • The days of approved leave from a vessel (paid or unpaid) during a voyage.

Scheduling and Granting Shore Leave

Scheduling. Although shore leave is a benefit that accrues automatically to an employee, the leave-approving official may decide when the leave will be taken, except that shore leave may be granted during a voyage only at the employee's request. An employee's request for shore leave shall be in writing; if denied, the denial shall be in writing.

Charges for shore leave. The minimum charge for shore leave is one day; additional charges are in multiples of one day.

Terminal leave. Shore leave may not be granted as terminal leave unless the shore leave was not previously used because of circumstances beyond the employee's control and not because of his or her own act or omission. For the purpose of this paragraph, terminal leave is approved absence immediately before an employee's separation when an agency knows the employee will not return to duty before the date of separation.

Forfeiture of Shore Leave

Shore leave not used before separation, or assignment (other than a temporary detail) to a position in which shore leave is not earned, is forfeited. 

When an official assignment may result in the forfeiture of shore leave, the operating unit where practicable shall give the employee the opportunity to use accumulated shore leave before the new assignment begins, or within six months of the date of the reassignment when the opportunity cannot be given beforehand.

Payment of Shore Leave

Shore leave may not be the basis for lump sum payment on separation from the service.

Transfer of Shore Leave

When, without break in service, an employee transfers to a position in another agency in which he or she is entitled to earn shore leave, the shore leave to the employee's credit shall be transferred to his or her account in the new position.