In a recent post I linked to an article about a thorough fatigue study carried out under realistic conditions. But at the time of the post, the study hadn't been released yet. Here, though, is an introductory video discussing the fatigue problem and how the Horizon study was done:
Also, the British MCA's guidance on fatigue:
As noted, the problem of mariner's fatigue is something that will be getting more and more attention from regulators. You and I have direct experience with it; and I can honestly say, as can you, that I've worked in a fatigued state at times. In our industry, it's usually taken as evidence of toughness to persevere regardless of how you feel. It's expected - deal with it, is the attitude I used to encounter, especially years ago. And to tell the truth, I had no problem with that most of the time. The ship needs you, shut up and get to work! And I did. It's still often the case today.
But as the video points out, that wouldn't be accepted in other industries. When fatigue is the proximate cause of expensive or fatal accidents, then it's worth dealing with, in both the dollars-and-cents and the moral senses.
And yet, there is the manning question - it would radically increase manning costs, especially as wages rise to retain personnel - and in tugs and small vessels, for instance, there's the question of accommodations for more men if you were to move from two watchstanders to three (as in changing from 6&6 to 4&8). In the throes of a seafarer shortage, where would more watchstanders come from? With pressure already on many company's bottom lines, how are they to be paid for? What about fishing? Big change for the maritime industry, and lots of things to balance.
The fatigue question isn't going to make many friends and its resolution will affect us all. But with most accidents taking place because of human error, and human error being strongly affected by fatigue - in a modern maritime environment involving higher speeds, more traffic, and shorter port stays - fatigue will have to be looked at.
Do you have any thoughts about working hours - how does your end of the industry stack up? Share your thoughts in the Comments section!