Empowering Crews to Combat Fatigue through CEMS


Published Mar 26, 2016 2:46 AM by Dione Lee

Crew Endurance Management System, most commonly referred to as “CEMS”, is the result of 25 years of research on sleep and has been tested by the U.S. Army and Coast Guard as a proven method for managing the risk factors that contribute to fatigue. The underlying premise is when crew member endurance goes up, so does crew member safety and productivity.

There are four main risk factors identified in CEMS that can affect crew endurance and contribute to fatigue:

1. Environmental (vessel movement, noise, harsh weather conditions)

2. Operational (work schedules, irregular work hours, heavy workloads)

3. Physiological (sleep, proper nutrition, lack of exercise)

4. Psychological (emotional state, stress levels, separation from family and close friends)

To address these risk factors adequately, CEMS empowers crew members through awareness training and education programs that focus on healthier choices. For example, knowing that caffeinated beverages or medications containing caffeine shouldn’t be consumed four hours before bedtime may help crew members make informed decisions, resulting in a more restful sleep. Other healthy tips to improve energy levels may include:

- Avoid heavy meals within four hours of sleep, since heavier meals will keep you awake.

- Drink water on a regular basis to stay adequately hydrated.

- Know and eat the best types of foods for your body and work environment.

- Exercise on a regular basis to increase cognitive thinking, alertness and manage stress.

- Wear appropriate clothing for the working environment to reduce stress on the body.

- Avoid noisy tasks when crew members are trying to sleep.

- Reduce stress by taking advantage of company stress management programs.

- Maintain good communication and rapport with others.

There have been numerous and somewhat conflicting studies conducted on what is the right amount of sleep. It isn’t always within a crew member’s control to get the optimal quantity of sleep, but it is certainly within one’s control to help improve their quality of sleep. If current company policies or procedures are lacking to ensure a restful sleep, then inform shoreside management, so they can assist in determining the best solution to resolve the issue.

CEMS was developed to systematically factor in known risks and determine viable solutions to help combat fatigue while providing flexibility for a company to develop a plan based on their unique operation. To learn more about CEMS and to download helpful tools, visit the U.S. Coast Guard website at http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg5211/cems.asp.

Reference: The Crew Endurance Management System (CEMS) Awareness Workbook

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.