Many troubles in the work environment have been solved over the years or have at least become better, but we have lots of work left to do and some of the issues in shipping have unfortunately worsened. One of these came about with cutbacks on crews and increased working hours, namely tiredness or fatigue. It is a major worry on today’s ships, which have minimal crews for reasons of economics and competition, and occurs among almost all flag states and all nationalities of seafarers. The cause of these work environment problems is only economics and competition. Insufficient rest results in effects that are similar to the consumption of alcohol, which has been confirmed by a number of studies on sleep and fatigue. There are international rules governing rest periods on board, but the level of compliance is dubious. Several pilots have said that when they come on board a ship the seamen go to bed just to get a little rest. Our ITF inspectors (International Transport Workers Federation) also notice these issues during their visits on board, and at a SAN conference some years ago there was a case of double accounting, which indicates more problems than just fatigue. But who should take responsibility for an incident or accident caused by crewmembers’ shortage of sleep? I think it is the shipping company, the charterer, the flag state and the supervisory authority that should bear the real responsibility, but in the end the onus falls on individual seafarers. This is the person who broke the rules and who is the easiest to blame.
Mikael Huss, CEO Sjöbefälsföreningen