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!

Stanislas Oriot
2/12/2012 06:39:34 pm

Hello, I'm a 22yo student in the French merchant marine. I discovered your blog by wandering on Linkedin.
This video was really interesting. Since I'll have an essay to write when I finish my studies, I think about this subject as an important one and maybe I'll write about it.
I do not have a lot of experience but from what I saw, fatigue is the most widespread problem in our work. I think we can link what it seems to be more of a modern problem on ships with our modern life, which is more and more virtual, quick and - maybe I exagerate - inhuman. We need sleep, we need to rest to stay fit and do a good job. However, as we notice with road accidents, will this situation evolve with big accidents, involving many deaths, damage and pollution? I hope it won't...

2/13/2012 12:55:26 am


Good point, and I think the concern is that things like that are already happening.

No one likes regulation, but one observation in the video that rang true for me was that unless EVERYONE does it, NO ONE will do it - unless all companies take action with regard to fatigue (probably as a result of regulation), probably very few will do anything about it - because it will be seen as increasing costs and putting the company at a competitive disadvantage. Regulation is one way to a level playing field - just like pollution control on cars, or hours-worked regulations in the trucking industry. Too bad, but I guess that's human nature!

I think (as the video also noted) that an anonymous reporting system for violations could help, too, because very few individuals will risk the displeasure of their companies by openly reporting violations.

This could be a very good subject for an essay. It's certainly a hot topic and one we'll hear more about. And when you get back out in the industry, let us know what you find!




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