Seafarers’ fatigue: new research by Cardiff University

The Seafarers International Research Institute (SIRC) in Cardiff have concluded a large-scale study of fatigue among seafarers and have produced a 30-minute movie which summarises their questions and findings.  

The SIRC team studied merchant mariners and fishermen.  As Andy Smith (Director of the Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology) and Tony Lane (former SIRC director) mention, not much has previously been known about this incredibly important aspect of seafaring labour: studies of fatigue among seafarers exist, but they are mostly based on anecdotal evidence.  The SIRC study’s contribution is in examining a broad range of evidence and focusses on the combined effects of various factors that cause and increase fatigue (including, among others, ship design, port-turnaround times, the nature of work on ships which demands that one can’t relax until the work is done, decreased levels of ship manning, shift patterns, the pervasive ‘culture’ of maritime work, seafarers’ and officers fear to lose their jobs if they speak out, shipowners’ drive to cut costs due to the fierce and sparcely regulated global competition in the sector, etc.).  

This makes SIRC’s study of fatigue at work among merchant mariners and fishermen the first rigorous study of the issue of fatigue at sea which affects not only workers’ psychological well-being, but also the smooth and efficient operation of cargo transport, and which is also one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) for accidents at sea.  It is also an attempt to break the culture in which, as maritime journalist and former editor of Lloyds List and Fairplay publications Michael Grey says, “ship comes first” (04:24).

For more details on the research and contact details for the team, please visit: .

The movie, funded by an ESRC knowledge exchange grant, is also an excellent way of presenting the results of a large study in a concise format. Well done SIRC.

Categories: The Idle Ethnographer, Visual Sociology

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