Ferry fatigue?

31st January 2004

Ferry fatigue?

Initial Report

I have been working on ferries for a number of years and serve on a two weeks on, two weeks off rotation.  I consider this rotation pattern essential, particularly in winter months, when the weather is frequently bad and the tours particularly tiring.  I have recently discovered that a 2nd Officer has been employed on a six month contract, without leave provision, and is “filling in” on ships as required, but essentially giving continuous service.  He has served on 3 ships to date in a very short period and my concern is that his service time on each of the vessels is insufficient for him to become familiar with them and his continuous service is bound to result in fatigue and perhaps errors, particularly in winter conditions.

Although this report might in some circumstances have been considered an employment terms and conditions issue and therefore outside the scope of the Programme, it involved a genuine safety concern.

CHIRP raised the concern with the operator, who responded promptly and comprehensively.  The operator stated the individual concerned received and will continue to receive the required rest periods.  In addition he had also been given leave.  CHIRP was also assured of the individual’s familiarity with the vessels concerned.

Fatigue, particularly cumulative fatigue, is a major issue across transport modes but is controlled to varying extents in different modes.  A major research programme on fatigue in seafarers is in progress at the Seafarers’ International Research Centre, Cardiff University.  The study is supported by MCA, HSE, maritime trade unions and employers.  Ferry crews are one of the groups being studied.  The results are currently being analysed and may well help identify ways of ensuring that both safety and well-being are not compromised by the patterns of work required at sea.

Levels of manning and fatigue are safety issues and CHIRP welcomes reports on them.

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