Seafarer fatigue

For seafarers fatigue is most likely to be caused by overwork, long and irregular hours resulting in lack of sleep. But the situation will be made worse by many other factors often faced by seafarers, for example:

  • Loneliness, lack of communication with home, social interaction etc
  • Isolation
  • Safety issues with the vessel
  • Issues with non-payment of wages
  • Inadequate and/or poor-quality food
  • Risks such as piracy
  • Repatriation delays following completion of contracts

According to national rules, the employer must guarantee that crewmembers stick to maximum working hours or minimum resting time:

  • The maximum working hours must not exceed 14 hours in any 24-hour period and 72 hours in any 7-day period
  • The minimum resting time cannot be less than 10 hours in any 24-hour period and 77 hours in any 7-day period
  • You can divide the hours of rest into a maximum of two parts. If you split the rest, one of the two rest periods must last at least 6 hours and the interval between consecutive rest periods cannot exceed 14 hours.

How can seafarers cope with fatigue?

The symptoms of fatigue can endanger yourself, your colleagues, your ship and the marine environment. The danger signs include:

  • Inability to stay awake
  • Clumsiness
  • Headaches and giddiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Moodiness and needless worrying
  • Poor judgement of distance, speed, time and risk
  • Slow responses
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you become aware of these signs, you should take the following steps:

  • Use your maximum allowance of sleep, rest and leisure time
  • Inform your supervisor if you think fatigue may be impairing your performance
  • Where possible, rotate your tasks to mix heavy and lighter duties
  • Exercise daily
  • Eat as healthily as possible, limit smoking, caffeine and alcohol consumption

Seafarers' Health


Seafarers' Health Research and current practices