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Tackling the challenge of tiredness at sea

How our research into tiredness has helped create better policies and safer systems for mariners.

Workers on a boat at sea

Because 90% of goods are transported by sea, fatigue influences at the individual and community level, as well as resulting in significant financial penalties for companies when accidents occur.

Our researchers sought to understand fatigue factors such as long working hours, shift patterns and port turnarounds in order to create better policies and safer systems for life at sea.

Improving the safety of seafarers

The team studied the risks and consequences of maritime fatigue using a multi-method approach, studying over 2,000 participants. The research showed seafarers were affected by poor quality sleep, long working hours, high job demands and high stress. Other important factors included numbers of port visits and social isolation.

The research found reporting systems are inadequately designed to record factors relevant to fatigue, and excessive working hours are often hidden by falsified audit.

100 hour working weeks are not unusual

Fatigue was consistently associated with poor quality sleep and long working hours…50% of the seafarers reported working weeks of 85 hours or more.

Awakening change

This research has led to significant changes across industry and government, including improved safety training, new international legislation, and company policy aimed at reducing fatigue and improving health and safety at sea.

Meet our experts

Professor Andrew P Smith

Professor Andrew P Smith

+44(0)29 2087 4757