MCA: European Seafarer Fatigue Research Launched

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, in the UK.

The European Commission-funded Project Horizon brings together 11 academic institutions and organizations with a broad range of interests from the shipping industry in a 30-month research programme to examine the way in which fatigue affects the cognitive performance of ships watchkeepers.

The €3.78m 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.

Launched in response to concern over aspects that lead to seafarer fatigue, the project seeks to improve safety at sea by developing a fatigue management toolkit for the industry, as well as recommendations for improving work patterns at sea.

Project Manager, Graham Clarke said “Whilst we now 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, said

Captain David Turner, Human Element Policy Manager at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said, “The MCA is pleased to be part of the consortium for this highly significant project and look forward to working with all of the stakeholders to improve safety and the lives of those at sea.”

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 being 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.

1. The MCA is committed to reducing seafarer fatigue. A three year plan (2008/09 - 2011/12) has been agreed covering the following three main areas:

• Placing greater emphasis on enforcement of existing hours of work regulations;
• Securing recognition internationally of the problem of fatigue at sea and of its link with seafarer manning levels;
• Seeking to achieve a cultural shift over the longer terms such that excessive working hours are no longer acceptable either to employers or to seafarers.

2. The HORIZON project, by increasing our understanding of fatigue, will make an important contribution to the third of these areas.

3. The MCA is a partner in the Sea Vision UK campaign to raise awareness and understanding of the sea and maritime activities. Sea Vision promotes the importance and economic value of the sector and works to highlight the exciting range of activities and career opportunities available to young people within the UK growing maritime sector. www.seavisionuk.org