Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fatigue-induced grounding

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued the report of its investigation of the grounding of a general cargo ship near Larne, Northern Ireland on 29 June 2008. Report No. 7/2009 (2/19/09). The primary cause of the grounding was that the officer of the watch fell asleep and there was no one else on the bridge and no operating alarm system. The MAIB focused on the lack of robust international standards promulgated by IMO. It urged the UK Government to press for development of such international standards and to unilaterally enforce all existing requirements regarding fatigue and posting of dedicated lookouts. There seem to be many players in the fatigue problem: individual mariner, master, ship manager/operator, owner, charterer, class society, insurer, port state, flag state, IMO, and ILO. Your comments are solicited regarding which of these can effectively address the problem and how.


  1. Fatique is the direct result of lax enforcement of existing regulations such as STCW and OPA 90, as well as loop-holes in vessel manning scales, such as the loop holes which allow tug boats that push oil barges to be manned as tug boats. These are tankers in the oil trade, but they are manned as tugs.
    Manning scales and enforcement of work hour rules falls squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. Coast Guard. Our current corporate culture has not shown particular diligence in looking out for anything except the next quarters bottom line. Regulators, you need to do your job. You could start with a few shots across the bow to give unscrupulous operators a chance to comply. Or you could continue with the blinders on until the next disaster jolts you into action.

  2. As a mariner who has worked both offshore and shoreside, this issue is usually more related to commercial pressure on the part of the owner/ship managers to keep the vessels moving with reduced manning levels, despite the obvious violations of work/rest rules. In some cases, it is clearly impossible for ship's officers to comply with work/rest rules in normal operating conditions, let alone when outside factors negatively impact the operations of the vessels. I would like to know why Port State & Flag State Authorities and Class Societies don't look more closely at this issue and force management to actively support compliance with the regulations instead of passively ignoring violations.

  3. The Antari report is only the tip of the iceberg. A close analysis of the hours and tempo of this vessel will show that it takes an almost superhuman effort to keep up that ship's tempo with a crew of seven. Most of all, there is no way that the crew can honestly perform all the paperwork that is required for the operation of today's commercial vessels. That means that the crew will resort to any and all work arounds to provide an appearance of proper paper. The prefilling out of the watch standing forms is only one symptom. Guess how the ORB, ballast log and garbage logs are filled out?

  4. Anonymous hit upon a pet peeve of mine. 46 CFR 15.705 permits two, 12-hour watches at sea for masters and mates on board towing vessels (including ATB's/ITB's) engaged on voyages of less than 600 NM. Why is 600 NM important? It is not like the master or mate of towing vessels are off duty as soon as they get to their destination.

    The two-watch system is ripe for owner abuse and fatigue induced accidents. Changing the regulation is not even on the USCG's radar. Even if it was, they have not done a good job of identifying instances where fatigue was a contributing factor in casualties. Therefore no factual base case can be made to change the existing system.

    Though the short term benefits of a two-watch system are obvious to owners, ultimately I believe it hurts the industry more because it results in lower employee retention rates and more accidents for which owners are liable for. Any thoughts...

  5. Excellent report though I do not fully agree with the premise that look-outs are responsible for warning the bridge team that they are sailing in shallow waters or for keeping them awake. But as a collision avoidance resource they are indispensable and frequently under utlitized during coastal voyages.