Human Resources

Alvin Operations Group (ALOPS) and Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) Policies

Policy Information
  • Issue Date: September 1, 1998
  • Revision Date: July 18, 2013
  • Primary Contact: Director of Human Resources
  • Responsible Member of Directorate: Vice President of Marine Facilities & Operations
  • Responsible Office: Human Resources
Policy Statement
Alvin Operations (ALOPS) and Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) members assigned to Institution research vessels will be guided by Institution policies, including the Submersible Engineering and Operations Group Management Plan, and the special provisions provided in this policy.

Reason for Policy
Alvin Operations (ALOPS) and Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) members assigned to Institution research vessels will be guided by Institution policies, including the Submersible Engineering and Operations Group Management Plan, and the special provisions provided in this policy.

Policy Information
Policy Statement
Reason for Policy


I. General

A. Alvin Operations (ALOPS) and Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) members assigned to Institution research vessels will be guided by Institution policies, including the Submersible Engineering and Operations Group Management Plan, and the special provisions provided below.

B. ALOPS personnel are recruited and hired on the assumption that their primary work place will be at sea aboard ship for extended periods of time (see VI and VII, Vacation and Shore Leave). As such, it is not a requirement that ALOPS personnel secure or maintain a place of residence in or around Woods Hole, MA while assigned to the submersible support vessel. During operational periods, assigned personnel will be classified as being on Extended Voyage Status and, hence, eligible for Shore Leave.

It is a requirement, however, that at certain times the support ship and submersible return to their home port of Woods Hole to undergo major maintenance and overhaul. This typically occurs every 3 to 5 years and can take as long as six to eight months to complete. During those times, the at-sea operations group is required to participate in these overhauls which will require that they, for a time, establish and maintain a residence at their own expense within commuting distance of Woods Hole as do most regular shore-based employees. Also during these periods the support ship will no longer be on Extended Cruise Status, or assigned to other operational duties, and Shore Leave will no longer be earned.

II. Conduct

A. The confident use of the submersible by the general scientific community depends heavily upon the reputation of the ALOPS and SSSG in areas not necessarily directly related to the group's operational competence. In this regard ALOPS and SSSG personnel are expected to conduct themselves appropriately at all times, both on and off the vessel. The close environment of shipboard life requires special consideration of shipmates, especially during long periods at sea. Actions which adversely affect the harmony of the vessel or its ability to function properly will not be tolerated.

B. The following are examples of behavior that may be sufficient to justify disciplinary action up to and including discharge:

  1. disruptive or destructive behavior;
  2. insubordination;
  3. theft of Institution or personal property;
  4. sexual harassment and discriminatory harassment
  5. possession of drugs (controlled substances);
  6. being under the influence of alcohol or drugs (controlled substances) during work periods; (see WHOI Substance Abuse Policy, as this behavior may support the employee's participation in a treatment program rather than immediate dismissal);
  7. missing a sailing;
  8. continued unsatisfactory performance of assigned duties despite repeated warnings (see Involuntary Termination, and Progressive Disciplinary Action).

 III. Pay

A. The rates of pay for the Operations Group member will be based upon position classification and performance in the same manner as other employees at the Institution.

B. ALOPS and SSSG personnel may arrange for a ship's draw, the money to be distributed by the vessel Master at least once a month.

C. The Payroll Office will credit each active ALOPS and SSSG member with 80 hours of regular pay for each pay period. While at sea, graded (non-exempt) ALOPS and SSSG personnel will receive overtime pay at one and one-half times the base hourly rate for work performed in excess of 40 hours per week and on Institution holidays. In addition, for graded employees, preliminary overtime totals will be reported bi-weekly to the Payroll Office by fax or other appropriate hard copy. Any adjustments to these overtime totals will be made by the Payroll Office after the approved time sheets are received. While overtime is common, it is not guaranteed, and is assigned at the discretion of the ALOPS and SSSG managers, or the ship’s Master, based on need or budgetary constraints.

IV. Health and Life Insurance

A. As WHOI employees, ALOPS and SSSG personnel, as well as their eligible dependents, are eligible for Medical and Dental coverage based on their qualifying status. The choice of coverage is the same as available to other eligible Institution employees and their dependents. The employee's share of the total premium is determined at the beginning of each Plan year (or when there is a major change in the Plan).

B. Basic Life insurance provided by the Institution is available for all ALOPS and SSSG personnel. Supplemental Life insurance, for the employee and his/her eligible dependent(s) is available, and is paid entirely by the employee.

C. It is the responsibility of the individual ALOPS and SSSG group member to advise the ship's Master of any prescribed medication that may be needed during any voyage (type, dosage and quantity) and to have enough of all prescriptions to last the duration of the voyage. If the employee is covered under the Institution's group medical plan, s/he should notify Human Resources for assistance in obtaining an exception for a six month supply.

D. Pre-employment physical examinations are required of all prospective ALOPS and SSSG group members. Drug testing is required.

E. Physical examinations required as a condition of employment or advancement will be paid for by the appropriate project.

F. During the period of employment aboard the support vessel, the regulations regarding drug testing shall apply to all ALOPS and SSSG group personnel.

V. Sickness and Injury

A. All ALOPS and SSSG personnel are covered under the Institution's Occasional Illness and Disability plans. (Refer to Paid Absences for details). Injuries sustained on the job while working in Woods Hole are covered under Workers' Compensation .

B. An ALOPS and SSSG group member who becomes sick or injured while "in service of" a vessel and is unable to return to work must have a physician complete a “Fit for Duty” form with current status of work capacity and follow-up appointment date for re-determination until point of maximum medical improvement has been reached. The Human Resources Department must receive each Fit for Duty determination within ten (10) days of each physician’s visit for the ALOPS and SSSG group member to be entitled to:

  1. Unearned Wages - Full wages to the end of the voyage leg or to which time the ALOPS or SSSG group member is found fit to return to duty, or until maximum benefit of treatment is met, whichever comes first.   Unearned wages consist of full base pay wages at the same rate of pay being earned at the onset of the illness/injury.
  2. Maintenance - When the ALOPS or SSSG group member is no longer eligible for unearned wages as referenced in para: V-B-1. above, Maintenance payments may go into effect. If food and shelter are not being provided by the Institution, the ALOPS or SSSG group member that becomes ill or injured while in the service of a vessel may be paid maintenance until maximum medical improvement is met.
  3. Cure - Reasonable, non-palliative medical expenses until the point of maximum benefit of treatment has been reached.
  4. Wages may be paid under the Institution's Short-term Disability (STD) plan if the employee is still disabled when paragraph V-B-(1) above is satisfied. If an ALOPS or SSSG group member is still disabled, Long Term Disability (LTD) benefits may be available. Maintenance, in accordance with V-B-1 above, is considered the first dollar of any payments with the balance deemed an advance to the ALOPS or SSSG group member against any future exposure. Payments are not to exceed 100% of the ALOPS or SSSG group member’s full base wage.

C. An ALOPS or SSSG group member who has been recuperating ashore and is declared "Fit for Duty" while the ship is at sea will remain covered under the wage provisions of V-B (1) until the ship reaches its next port. An ALOPS or SSSG group member in this situation may be asked to work for the Institution in another capacity.

VI. Vacation and Shore Leave

A. Vacation: Each group member will earn vacation at the rate designated by the Institution based on length of service (see Paid Absences).

B. Shore Leave: The purpose of shore leave for sea-going personnel is to allow paid time off from assigned duties for rest and recuperation.

Each non-exempt ALOPS or SSSG group member will be credited with 16 hours of shore leave following the first seven consecutive days of duty while assigned to an Institution owned or operated vessel designated as in Extended Voyage status and, thereafter, prorated Shore Leave will be accrued for each consecutive full day worked. Exempt employees (e.g. Alvin pilots) with less than six consecutive years of service will be credited with 22 hours of shore leave for each seven consecutive days of duty (prorated as necessary). After six consecutive years of service these exempt employees will be credited with 28 hours of shore leave for each seven consecutive days worked, prorated on a daily basis.

  1. Consecutive days of duty may include up to three days spent in a non-working status on or off the ship but subject to call and immediate return.
  2. Designation of a vessel as engaged in an Extended Voyage status will normally continue while the vessel is undergoing voyage repairs, short maintenance periods, or changing the scientific outfit.
  3. A Shore Leave "bank" will be created by multiplying the number of hours of Shore Leave earned by the hourly rate of pay at which the Shore Leave was earned. The funds in the "bank" will be held until a Group member either uses it as time off or takes it as additional pay, normally as part of the first paycheck in December. Group members are expected to use shore leave and vacation in the same calendar year as accrued, primarily as time off. When shore leave is accrued in the last quarter of a calendar year, the group member may request that any fund balance be carried over into the next calendar year, subject to approval by the group manager. Group members may request that shore leave be paid out at ¾ or ½ that member’s normal rate of pay in order to extend time off the ship while maintaining WHOI benefits, subject to the group manager’s approval.
  4. Requests for an earlier payment date will be reviewed by the managers of the ALOPS and SSSG groups. If the Shore Leave is used as time off, the number of hours of paid Shore Leave available will be calculated by dividing the Group member's rate of pay when the time is taken into the funds in the "bank".

C. Leave time taken must be charged as follows:

  1. Against any accrued annual vacation hours.
  2. Against any accrued shore leave. Against any accrued annual vacation hours.

D. The Payroll Office will prepare a report of accrued vacation hours and "banked" shore leave dollars. This report will be sent to the ship periodically.

E. While still in a probationary status, the employee should charge desired leave time as outlined in VI-C. If this is not adequate, a limited amount of vacation time may be advanced by the group manager if requested by the employee.

F. Leave requests will be reviewed by the ALOPS or SSSG group managers in relation to the operations schedule and manpower requirements. Every attempt will be made to grant leave at the times requested by the employee assuming staffing and workload permit.

VII. Transportation

A. Airline tickets will be issued to ALOPS and SSSG personnel for authorized travel. Travel requests will be made a minimum of four weeks prior to the intended travel date so that the most economical tickets may be purchased. ALOPS or SSSG personnel who fail to make a timely request for purchase of rotation tickets may be required to pay the price differential. Travel expenses will be reimbursed following submittal of a Travel Expense Voucher with all receipts upon arrival at the authorized destination. In cases where ALOPS or SSSG personnel are required to rotate off the vessel sooner than normal because of operational requirements, airline travel will be paid by the Institution.

B. Travel expenses to or from Woods Hole or equivalent will be paid by ALOPS or SSSG for any Group member taking leave from the support vessel, at the rate of one round trip per four-month period (120 days) aboard ship for graded employees; one round trip per 90 days worked for step 1 exempt employees, and one round trip per 60 days worked for final step exempt employees (as defined in VI B).. At the discretion of the group manager, these expenses may be paid as much as two months before being fully accrued but, if they are not accrued later, the Group member will be required to repay these expenses on a proportional basis. The Group member may request transportation for his/her spouse to join him/her in lieu of transportation for himself/herself when taking a vacation.

C. Operational Group members taking leave from the support vessel may elect to receive compensation in an amount equal to round trip airline tickets to Woods Hole. Such compensation is considered wages and is subject to normal taxation. Compensation in the amount of $500 (for a full rotation) will be paid to a Group member automatically if more than six months aboard ship have elapsed since the last travel reimbursement or compensation payment. A Group member who receives compensation in lieu of travel expenses and later requests the Institution to furnish travel to rejoin the vessel must reimburse the Institution for the travel cost.

D. If, while at sea, an ALOPS or SSSG member is involuntarily terminated by the Institution or if a voluntary termination date has been agreed to by the Institution prior to sailing, the Group member will be paid transportation from the ship to his/her Continental U.S. home of record. If, however, the member resigns or leaves the ship before a previously agreed upon date, the Institution is only obliged to return the crew member to the nearest Continental U.S. port. Any further travel will be at the Group member's own expense.

VIII. Leave of Absence

Upon written request to the Manager, ALOPS and SSSG personnel may be granted a Personal Leave of Absence. This is intended to allow longer periods ashore than might be possible with accumulated vacation or shore leave.

IX. Reviews and Promotions

  1. As per WHOI policies and procedures, and annual review of all ALOPS and SSSG personnel will be conducted. The purpose of these reviews is to inform an individual of their overall performance, to reinforce positive work habits, and to give constructive supervisory input for areas of improvement. These reviews are also used to help determine merit raises and promotions for which and individual might be considered.
  2. From initial hire, promotion to Pilot status and beyond for ALOPS personnel is an earned privilege, not a right. Due to the level of trust required by the science community for successful submersible utilization, any ALOPS personnel, regardless of position, who cannot, or will not, maintain a level of professional conduct or proficiency required for that position, may be suspended from that position by the Expedition Leader or ALOPS Manager until such proficiency is regained or conduct improved. Failure to attain either may result in reassignment to a lower level position with a corresponding reduction in pay and shore leave benefits or termination of employment altogether.

Should you require assistance in the interpretation of this procedure, please contact:

Alvin Operations Group Manager
SSSG Group Manager

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