HE01265 - The Human Factor

David Smith reports for Shipping World & Shipbuilder, June 2014, on the latest research into seafarer fatigue, as it relates to ships’ engineers, and the importance of safety culture in marine casualties. Keywords: seafarer fatigue; engineers; safety culture; casualties; casualty

The widely acclaimed book The Human Element:
a Guide to Human Behaviour in the
Shipping Industry, published by the UK2019s
MCA, comments that issues of reduced
manning, increased workload and resulting
fatigue have continued to play a major role in
many maritime accidents to the present day.
While groundings and collisions are often the
types of accidents in which fatigue is identified as
one of the causal factors 2013 usually within the navigation
watch there have also been incidents where
fatigue within the engineering staff has been cited,
but perhaps with less spectacular consequences,
such as Safe Concordia (2005), River Embley
(2010) and Ever Excel (2010). Furthermore, while
fatigue is relatively easy to identify as a causal
factor in a major casualty, when for example, work
records might establish that the officer-of-thewatch
held responsible for the casualty had had
little sleep in the previous 24h, it is less likely to
come to light if, for example, an engineer suffering
from fatigue had made an error during machinery
overhaul which subsequently lead to a much later
significant failure or loss of life.
The most recent research into fatigue of seafarers
was the Horizon Project which looked into
the effects that watchkeeping patterns have on
the performance of deck and engineering officers.
The research, carried out under controlled conditions
using bridge and engine-room simulators at
Warsash Maritime Academy (UK) and Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) simulated a
one-week voyage in the North Sea under six on
and six off and four on and eight off watch systems.
Experienced deck and engineer officers participated
in the study during which subjective and
objective performance measures were monitored
during a range of real-life, real-time scenarios of
voyage, workload and off-watch interruptions.
As well as providing further evidence of degraded
performance on six on/six off watch systems and
a better understanding of sleepiness under both
watchkeeping regimes, the study findings were used
to generate data to enable the development of a mathematical

model that predicts sleepiness at sea which
is a critical predictor of fatigue. This culminated in
the development of a prototype tool 2013 MARTHA an
acronym derived from a Maritime Alertness Regulation
Tool based on hours of work. While the report
on the research project (available at www.projecthorizon.
eu) recognises the need for further research
on the impact on fatigue of parameters such as
weather conditions, onboard noise and the effects of
long periods at sea 2013 and prototype testing of the tool
at sea has revealed some problems with user-friendliness
which are currently being addressed 2013 the work
is nevertheless significant. The outcome of the project
was presented by the UK to IMO2019s sub-committee on
Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) in
April 2013 and following from the discussions of the
work there was general recognition that IMO should
look afresh at fatigue issues.
At the beginning of this year the revised IMO
sub-committee structure came into effect, which
resulted in the former STW sub-committee taking
on the earlier role of the Human Element Working
Group to become the sub-committee on Human
Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW). At
its first meeting, held in April this year, Australia
contributed to the debate with a paper setting out
its proposals for the development and adoption of a
holistic Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS).