Manila amendments , effective from 2012, impose new training and certification requirements
S4S: Could you provide some background information about seafarer’s fatigue at sea.
MR : Many studies have been conducted over the last 15 years showing that human error is one of the main causes of accidents. The same studies result that fatigue and stress has contributed to unsafe behavior on board. Behaviors contributing to an unsafe working environment on board include the inability of the seafarer to concentrate on the task on hand. We have diminished decision making ability, slow response, loss of body control, mood and attitude change among others. Despite these findings, I have yet to meet a seafarer who will admit to me that he is suffering from fatigue because of his work on the ship. That inability to acquire data that will tend to prove clearly that fatigue among seafarers exists does not mean that their work performance is not affected by fatigue.
S4S: Are there any known indicators of fatigue?
MR : There are indicators of fatigue or at least the inadequacy of rest while working on board. We must explain that seafarers continue to work after their normal working hours or even on their off day because it is better than doing nothing on their room. Another indicator is that seafarers are not seeking higher position. They say that this decision is affected by the workload expected from the management level officers. Then, many seafarers express the desire of retiring or leaving ship board between the ages of 40 to 50. Halfhearted training even for cadet officers by shipboard officers and the use of fewer crew for more works are some of the difficulties as well.
S4S: Considering ship automation, what ‘s your opinion? Isn’t it a relief for seafarers?
MR: What it is true is that ships have become automated and the need to reach the level of competency required by automation and monitoring needed for equipment could add stress to the seafarer who must constantly familiarize himself with the changing technology. Also, few crew members can be translated to more working on ships. It could also lead to monotony and boredom to the seafarer who is used to physical work on board, which keeps him awake and alert. Then there is the piracy threat. Seafarers must also know how to carry risk assessments, understand threats and prepare the vessel for the attacks. Additional men on board would help ease the work of the seafarers. We have added pressure and workload to the seafarer on board and more training on shore. Finally, seafarers are seen as the most convenient target by government authorities whose coastlines, waters, fisheries and tourist amenities have been polluted. Criminalization of seafarers adds to the work fatigue.
S4S: What do you think about STCW and other regulations? Do they protect the seafarer?
MR : The requirements of STCW also translate to more work for the crew during vacation time or to less rest and work training. A better work life balance must be struck so that the seafarer will not feel that he has been cheated out of his vacation time. In the MLC 2006 the hours of rest of seafarers have increased. The Manila amendments which will be effective from 2012 impose new training and certification requirements. While crew assessment could translate to more work for senior officers, more competent crew could translate to less work in the long run. My view is to look more closely at our most important resource, our seafarers.
Marlon Rono isPresident of Magsaysay Maritime Corporation
The above interview is adapted from Marlon’s presentation at 2nd Safety4Sea Forum
You can view Marlon’s presentation video during 2nd Safety4Sea Forum