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Lloyds List article: Up to 45% of watchkeepers sleep while on duty, 1 February 2012

News & Insights 1 February 2012

Six on six off watches worst for sleep patterns

Six on six off watches worst for sleep patterns

David Osler - Wednesday 1 February 2012

UP TO 45% of watchkeepers are likely to doze off at least momentarily while on watch in a normal working week, according to experiments conducted ashore on simulators as part of a major research project into fatigue at sea.

The findings will be unveiled today with the publication in London of a report called Project Horizon — a Wake-up Call, which is sponsored by a range of bodies including classification society Bureau Veritas, the Standard P&I Club, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Marine Accident Investigaton Branch, Warsash Maritime Academy and seafarer union Nautilus International.

The exercise was conducted to undertake scientific measures of fatigue in various realistic seafaring scenarios, using bridge, engine room and cargo simulators, and to assess impact on decision-making performance.

Some 90 volunteers, all experienced deck and engineering officers, took part in the programme, which was conducted at Chalmers University in Göteberg and Warsash Maritime Academy in Southampton.

The participants worked on simulators for between 64 and 90 hours, spread over seven days.

All four groups of watchkeepers tested showed incidents of seafarers falling asleep, mainly during night and early morning watches.

On some teams, as many as 45% of subjects recorded at least one incident of microsleep, defined as falling asleep for up to 30 seconds.

In terms of sleeping patterns, overall duration was relatively normal for those on the four on, eight off watchkeeping pattern. Subjects working six on, six off got markedly less sleep, divided over two periods.

Seafarer fatigue has been shown to be a casual factor in numerous casualties, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 and grounding of bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 on the Great Barrier Reef in April 2010.

This article is copyright Informa and is reproduced with permission. Reproduction, retrieval, copying or transmission of this article is not permitted without the publisher's prior consent. Informa does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this article nor does it accept responsibility for errors or omissions or their consequences.

This article appeared in Lloyd's List on the 1st of February 2012. For more information visit

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