Fatigue at Sea

“25% of all ships caused 51% of marine accidents and one reason behind these accidents is seafarers’ fatigue”- DNV study reveals.

Sailing industry is well acquainted with the increase of seafarers’ fatigue onboard. All shipping personalities and decision makers are well-aware of the damages that fatigue may cause to the life span of the human as well as to the environment. Stay away from home for long period, limited communication and consistently high work loads on seafarers are the reasons, which are traced to cause seafarers’ fatigue.

This may further lead to performance reducing, environmental damage, ill-health and reduced life-span of highly skilled seafarers. Healthy crewing and safety at sea are other issues but not the least, which will obviously suffer.

What is Fatigue

Physical Fatigue and Mental Fatigue are the two types of Fatigue. Loss of productivity is the primary symptom of fatigue at its earlier stages which follows by accidents within the ship or cause groundings, collisions even to the extent of sinking of ships at the advanced stages.

Literary review

Research and literary review, although less, illustrate ‘fatigue’ as a major problem allied with excessive work hours, odd shift pattern, poor sleep quality, negative environmental factors, high job demands and high stress. Adverse work condition, health disorder, frequent port visits are also some documented factors nurturing fatigue. The outcome of this fatigue is increased human error boosts the risk of collisions, groundings and risk of personal injury and injury to others.

Some more causes that provoke fatigue at sea are:

Usually, ships with age of more than15 sea years may face marine accidents as there are more possibilities of machinery failures. In such ships, panic workload increases seafarers’ fatigue.

Sometimes, small shipping companies minimize their expenses by appointing less seafarer in poorly maintained ships. This causes fatigue of seafarers and finally lead to marine accidents due to human error.

Outcome of fatigue:

Lot of statistical review findings reveal close connections between fatigue and accident at sea, caused from less manning and long working hours. In recent years, many accidents have occurred because of crew-errors who were suffering from physical difficulties. These physical difficulties also lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders. Researches also find that the current working conditions of seafarers, especially under-manning, have increased the risk leading to fatal injuries and consequences.

Measures to Prevent fatigue:

Currently, ‘Fatigue’ is the most severe and widespread factor that the sailing industry is facing and there is a strong need to create awareness on this issue. The industry should emphasize fatigue as a serious health and safety issue. The manning levels should be approached in a realistic way. Ships that are poorly maintained with insufficient seafarers should not be allowed to sail as well as the rest period of seafarers should be lengthened. Additional burden of paperwork related to security issues should be minimized. Proper training and guidance regarding avoidance of fatigue should be offered and this should be supplemented with the healthy working conditions onboard. Finally, an urgent holistic approach to solve out the problem of fatigue is needed that can benefit the industry as a whole.

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