Report urges regulators to update fatigue rules

Innovation consultancy Thetius has released the findings of a study which indicate that the maritime industry has fallen behind other safety-critical industries when it comes to fatigue management, putting lives at risk.

The Report, entitled “Fatigue Risk Management – Applying a data-driven approach to fatigue in the maritime industry” was written in partnership with Safetytech Accelerator, a not-for-profit health and safety organisation established by Lloyd’s Register and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

The report explores the viability of developing a goal-based approach to fatigue management. Currently, such an approach is frequently limited by the rules governing working and rest hours of vessel crews.

Fatigue science has advanced a great deal in recent decades. Much has been discovered recently about the impacts of cumulative fatigue, not just on day-to-day decision-making but also on long-term health. However, very little of that science has been applied effectively in the maritime industry.

The report concludes that fatigue has been an ongoing and significant problem across the maritime sector. As crew numbers get smaller and ports become more automated, it is likely this problem will only increase unless a new approach to the issue is implemented by the industry.

The authors note that a risk-based approach to fatigue management has been shown to improve safety and productivity in industries such as aviation, road transport and rail.

The report adds that a raft of new low-cost technologies, such as wearables and computer vision systems, are widely available to accurately monitor fatigue. But the best way for operators to reduce fatigue-related safety issues is by improved educational programmes and the development of an appropriate reporting culture.

Nick Chubb, managing director of Thetius, said: “Our industry has been grappling with fatigue for many decades and the pandemic has only compounded the problem. Our aim is that this report will help industry operators to understand some of the simple steps they can take to improve fatigue management today, and put pressure on the IMO and other regulators to examine how new approaches to the issue could work in practice tomorrow.”

Andrew Cox

During the 1990s, Dr Andrew Cox was the editor of UK Coal Review and was a regular writer and commentator on the international coal trade and related infrastructure developments. Post-2000, he has been a freelance writer, CPD trainer and project consultant. He focuses on developments in the energy, chemicals, shipping and port sectors.
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