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EC-Funded Investigation Into Seafarer Fatigue To Commence

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

06 July 2009

A major multi-partner European research project aiming to tackle the problems posed by seafarer fatigue has been launched with a two-day inaugural meeting at Warsash, UK.

The European Commission-funded project Horizon brings together eleven academic institutions and organisations with a broad range of interests from the shipping industry in a 30-month research programme to examine how fatigue affects the cognitive performance of ships’ watch keepers.

The EUR3.78m project will make extensive use of bridge, engine and liquid cargo handling simulators in Sweden and the UK to produce real-time, realistic scenarios in which the impact of fatigue on decision-making and performance can be assessed.

According to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the project has been launched to improve safety at sea by developing fatigue management guidance for the industry, which will include recommendations for improving work patterns at sea.

Manager of the project, Graham Clarke commented:

“Whilst we already have evidence to show the scale of the problem associated with fatigue amongst seafarers, this project will take the understanding to a new level based on robust and reliable empirical data that can be used to make concrete fact-based recommendations for avoiding or mitigating the dangers.”

The project brings together academics from Southampton Solent University in the UK, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the Stress Research Institute from Stockholm University and Bureau Veritas Marine Division, along with representatives from the European Community Shipowners Associations, the European Transport Workers Federation, the European Harbour Masters Committee, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, the Standard P&I Club, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

Sixty deck and engineer officers will be taking part in the project, with their performance measured by researchers as they undertake typical watch keeping duties on simulators over a succession of seven-day periods.

Experts will use a variety of scientific methods to measure the fatigue levels experienced by the officers and any resulting degradation in performance during a wide range of regular onboard operating conditions.

The investigation, headed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, is part of a larger three-year scheme, which began in 2009. The scheme aims to: place greater emphasis on enforcement regulation surrounding working hours; secure recognition internationally of the problem of fatigue at sea and of its link with seafarer manning levels; and, achieve a cultural shift in the average daily working hours of seafarers amongst employers.

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