Maritime and Coastguard Agency: Reports on Seafarer Fatigue

Maritime and Coastguard Agency: Reports on the effects of Seafarer and Merchant Navy Watch Keeping systems on fatigue.

On 15 May the Maritime and Coastguard Agency released two reports it commissioned in relation to the effect of different Seafarer and Merchant Navy Watch Keeping systems on fatigue.

Merchant Navy Watch Keeping

The aim of the project was to examine the effects of working various hours of work and rest patterns, commonly found in use by Merchant Navy watch keepers.   

The following 2-watch systems were investigated:

  1. 6/6
  2. 8/8
  3. 12/12
  4. 7/5/5/7 with 2 variants
  5. A Royal Navy ”dog” watch

The three 3-watch keeping systems investigated were:

  1. 4/8 3-watch system
  2. 5/5/4/5/5 – the “so-called” five and dime system
  3. US submarine system: 6/6/6 starting 30 minutes earlier (e.g. 1130)

The results of the study suggested that ships operating the "five and dime" and 4 on 8 off systems are at a lower risk than a ship running any 2-watch system.

The full report (which also includes work related to the working patterns of selected tug crews) can be accessed here.

Seafarer Watch Keeping

The aim of the second report was to investigate the effect of working an 8 hour on / 8 hour off watch keeping system on seafarer fatigue, performance and safety.  

The other 2-watch systems considered were 6/6 and 12/12. There were some issues with data collection and the report warns that because the investigation was carried out in respect of dredging vessels, the special nature of the operations conducted by these vessels, means that the conclusions reached in the report may not apply to other 8/8 situations (further testing is recommended on a case by case basis).

However, the project concluded that the 6/6 watch keeping regime is worse than the 8/8 watch keeping regime in terms of the quantity and quality of sleep obtained. Both more and better sleep is obtained when working under 8/8 conditions and the levels of experienced sleepiness, stress, and fatigue are lower.

The full report  can be accessed here.


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