A study by Sweden’s National Road and Transport Research Institute has found that fatigue can have a similar effect on ships, officers as drinking alcohol.
The report “Fatigue at Sea: a field study in Swedish shipping“, found that risks were particularly high where a two-watch system was used with “really high levels of fatigue in 2.5 per cent of cases”.
On occasions the study found the officers had to struggle to keep awake. Data collection included interviews with shipping companies and a detailed examination of the working patterns on board 13 cargo vessels. Thirty-two officers and ratings took part, with some working on two-watch systems and some on three-watch. Researchers estimated sleepiness and stress every hour and also monitored eye movement and reaction time.
The study found that three-watch participants were more satisfied with their working hours and working situation, while two-watch participants were more tired although stress levels were the same.
All participants were less sleepy and less stressed when at home. Time on shift had an effect on sleepiness while reaction times were longer during night watches. Researcher Margareta Lutzhoft said it was the same result as when testing people who had been drinking alcohol.
One has to wonder when the companies and regulatory bodies will pursuit as aggressively, initiatives to combat fatigue, as they have to address alcohol on board.