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Safe manning levels need to increase by 30% for safety

Additional seafarer shortages caused by the war in Ukraine are exacerbating what was already a challenging situation according to Charles Watkins, Founder and CEO of Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS).

“Seafarers that MHSS speaks to are reporting very high levels of fatigue,” he said. “The shortage of crew means that they are taking on an ever-increasing workload which involves longer hours and less time off. The result is that many more are suffering from the impact on their mental health that comes with unrelenting fatigue.”

Some of the signs of fatigue include feeling overwhelmed, which itself leads to mistakes being made. Other symptoms such as being more emotional than would usually be the case lead to feelings of depression or anxiety and an increase in anger. Forgetfulness can also be indicative of fatigue.

Prompted by the results of a report, (“A culture of Adjustment”, produced by a team led by Prof Raphael which found ‘imbalance between workload and the number of personnel available to complete the diversity of onboard tasks. The analysis made indicates that insufficient safe manning levels are the root cause of violations and recording malpractices.’) researchers at the World Maritime University are currently investigating manning levels on ships and whether they meet current work demands.

Charles Watkins, CEO and Clinical Psychologist
Mental Health Support Solutions

Adriana Quesada, herself a deck officer studying for a PhD, said: “Previous research demonstrates the growth of seafarers’ fatigue due to increased workload onboard the ships. One of the reasons for this is reduced crews and imbalance in manning. We are objectively assessing data from ships. Further, we are engaging with industry stakeholders to gather insight into the situations and their reasoning.”

Also working on the PhD project is Capt Bikram Bhatia, “ILO/IMO work/rest regulations serve as the only indicator of seafarers’ fatigue. As evident through research over the decades, seafarers’ fatigue has been a lingering issue that raises serious questions about how these regulations are implemented and enforced. We are working on these aspects, examining factors including manning levels through engagement with relevant stakeholders.”

Charles Watkins added, “Seafarer fatigue is a subject we all need to take seriously. The consequences of fatigue on mental health are wide ranging and can have a severe impact on onboard safety. I do understand that recruitment is challenging at the moment but I would like to see all shipmanagers and crewing agencies looking to not only retain manning levels but to increase them by up to 30% to safeguard the wellbeing of seafarers and their vessels.”
Source: Mental Health Support Solutions

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