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somn4Fatigue is not just a problem among nautical officers. Long hours and sleep deprivation also occur in other departments. Mårten Ohlsén, nautical engineer, describes how he used to work for days in a row with very little rest. According to researchers, the galley may also be a problem area.
Fatigue among officers on the bridge has been in focus for many years. Vessels with only two nautical officers are over-represented in accident statistics and several studies show that six-six watches provide too little sleep. Fatigue in other departments has started to gain attention, too.
”We think it may be present in all categories, not least among service personnel,” says researcher Monica Lundh at the Department of Shipping and Marine Technology at Chalmers. ”Cooks on freighter ships often work completely alone, seven days a week with early mornings and late evenings. But their fatigue is not noticed in the same way as when an officer on the bridge falls asle¬ep and the ship runs aground. ”
Somn3One person who has experienced fatigue problems at work is Mårten Ohlsén, nautical engineer. He is currently technical manager on a foreign-managed ship that searches for oil around the world. With a good-sized crew and well-planned machine rooms, sleep deprivation is rarely a problem. Shortage of sleep was a matter of concern on several of the ships he worked on previously, though. As chief engineer officer, in addition to the normal work of managing all arrivals and departures during all hours of the day, he was also responsible for work previously carried out by electricians, repairmen and cooling engineers.
”Reduced competence among the crew has meant that some critical work, such as overhauling separators, fuel valves and fuel pumps, has been given to chief engineers in many cases. This creates irritation, which also steals a lot of energy,” says Mårten.
On many ships the chief engineers are also on call every other day. In overall terms, all the tasks reduce the opportunity for resting properly.
Impossible equation
”Take a crossing from a Baltic port to Hamburg, for example. First you worked throughout the day, between eight and five. Then at seven in the evening by the pilot, sitting in the engine room all night through the Kiel Canal. The next morning we were in the Elbe, and on arrival in Hamburg at lunchtime there was usually an inspection, bunkering or something similar which had to be supervised. Then departure in the evening with the same procedure in the other direction.”
”From the perspective of the work environment, it was not good at all. You start to break down. Trying to get to bed earlier to follow the rest rules is not generally possible. The problem is that you can’t go into ”red”, either in the maintenance system or the resting hours programme, which is not an easy equation to solve. In addition the system is very vulnerable, especially when staff turnover starts to increase – which usually goes hand in hand with more stress. It’s a vicious circle which is very easy to lose control over,” says Mårten.
Headaches and poor appetite
On Mårten’s previous ship, the engine-crew consisted of the chief, the first ship’s engineer and the motorman. The size of the crew was adapted to managing a completely automated engine room, which should virtually run itself. The problem was that it didn’t.
”In practice, there are many so-called fully automated systems which are in fact fully manual and require an enormous amount of operational work.”
Monica MartenFor his part, the work situation had a series of consequences, both in terms of health and performance, says Mårten.
”I had headaches, sleeping problems and a poor appetite, which all meant that I was easily irritated. The fatigue also made me less efficient and not always thorough. I simply didn’t have the energy for it. It didn’t feel right, so I looked for a shipping company with better conditions for doing a good job and, at the same time, better health prospects.”
Research shows that fatigue also increases reaction times and makes it more difficult to make good decisions.
”Being tired is like being slightly drunk,” says Monica Lundh. ”There is a lot of very heavy lifting work in the engine room and sleep deprivation increases the risk of accidents. It is a similar situation in the galley, where people are working with kitchen machines, sharp knives, fryers and large pans with boiling water. ”
Linda Sundgren
 

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