In particular, planning duty schedules based on fatigue science and operational requirements allows for predictive identification of fatigue hazards. In turn, this assists in allocating adequate rest periods that provide sufficient opportunity for sleep. It is important to calculate, on average, whether a given duty schedule enables adequate sleep opportunity.

Ensuring seafarers have adequate opportunities to sleep is of outmost importance, however, it cannot be assumed that simply allocating a rest period from duty will provide an adequate level of sleep and recovery, AMSA mentions.

7 key considerations on duty scheduling

  1. Work hours: Administrative work, shipboard drills, training, vessel loading & unloading tasks may affect seafarers’ sleep.
  2. Rest hours: The interval between two successive work periods should allow sufficient time to obtain adequate sleep.
  3. Night watches: Seafarers working during the night can experience severe performance degradation.
  4. Short rest breaks within work: Task rotations and substitutions can reduce the ‘time-on-task’ effect
  5. Naps:  Improve performance and alertness and outweigh the potential risks associated with sleep inertia
  6. Recovery sleep: Seafarers can work safely across a given duty, and return to the next work period sufficiently recovered
  7. Reset breaks: Long periods of rest or extended leave is a factor to consider when determining crew rotation

9 tips for effective work schedule design

#1 Plan duty schedules based on the actual hours worked

#2 Develop a work week that does not exceed 70 hours

#3 Minimise occasions in which seafarers work <12 hours in a duty period per 24 hours

#4 Avoid working arrangements that provide incentives to work excessive hours

#5 Account for ‘covering’ contingencies caused by sea sickness or illnesses

#6 Use forward rotation such as day-afternoon-night shift changes

#7 Use fatigue assessment tools and/or fatigue prediction software

#8 Eliminate the use of night time work for non-essential tasks or activities (i.e. between 0000–0600)

#9 Schedule complex tasks for daytime (i.e. not between 0200–0600)