Fatigue at sea

Each month at Safety at Sea magazine we have a crew survey and this month’s is on fatigue at sea.

We want to know how many crew are negatively impacted by fatigue and whether their companies are doing anything about it. You can take it by following this link (it only takes a few minutes): https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/T6QTF2P

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P&I Club GUARD is weighing in on the debate about fatigue at sea:

What is this fatigue you speak of?

Try doing 28 days on constantly keeping 6 on 6 off watch with frequent watch on stop on watches to berth and unberth in rough sea conditions with the bow thruster running and you might experience it.
Things that help alleviate sleep deprivation and fatigue are:
4 on 8 off.
Complete blackout of cabin with decent window/ port hole dead lights.


Read the article I linked to!!

Amen to that brother. 6/6 worst watch known to man.


What is it about tugs that they need a watch system detrimental to performance and morale?


Google biphasic sleep. For people accustomed to it likely there will be a higher level of alertness with shorter watches.

It doesn’t answer the question. You can also get used to 4 hour on and 8 hours off but it’s not necessarily ideal. I’ve sailed with every conceivable watch schedule and I find it nearly impossible to sleep for more than 6 hours. By mid evening I’m dragging unless I take a power nap after lunch.
I’m not a tug guy but based on comments from 6/6 victims, I suspect that tug schedules have less to do with providing crews with biphasic sleep and a higher level of alertess but more to do with increasing shareholder profits by not having to pay for more than two officers.

Miserable people who try to keep conditions so miserable that no normal person would want to take the job. It has to do with hazing & job security for anti-socials is what I figured. I once had a QHSE lady who came on a tug that I worked & gave a long spill about fatigue & a study performed by the USCG about dogging the watch being the best schedule for a 2 man rotation. It consisted of two people working 8 on, 4 off, then 8 off then 4 on. We only had a 2 person E/R & my assistant & I wanted to give it a try. The anti social, wacko captain that we worked with went into a screaming frenzy at the idea of his crew working anything other than 6 & 6. It would have only been me & one other guy willingly trying it out but the plan was dead on arrival from the disgruntle skipper. Too many tug people hate everything but what most hate more than anything else is change.

That being said, I didn’t mind the 6 & 6, 12 & 12, days only, nights only or the 4 & 8. What I probably dislike the most of all is the 8 & 16. I couldn’t imagine working any of those schedules for 20 years straight & enjoy the idea that I can change it up every few years if I want to take on a new adventure somewhere. If a person doesn’t want to work 6 & 6 then don’t.

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How long a watchstander can be effective is an important factor in some cases.

A watch that requires sitting in the mess on call and making hourly rounds in the engine room with an occasional visit to the wheel house is going to be far less strenuous than a wheelhouse watch in poor visibility and heavy traffic.

If memory serves me right the Exxon Valdez had their problem around 1900 hours.
I,ve been 4 to 8 A.B. on many ships. If it,s a wide open overtime ship you,re up at 0330 and get back to the rack at 2000. ( 6 hours o.t. daily) . By 1900 the man on the wheel is wore out and is strictly eye balling the compass if on hand steering. A more alert A.B. would be better able to alert the mate if something pops up on the horizon.
On inland tows the poor hands are working 6 and 6 , and being called left and right to handle lines when transiting locks.= torture.

Never understood 6 and 6 for tug engineers, but have only worked OSV and deep sea where it’s been all either 12/12, 4/8, or days plus UMS

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Back in the day when I was Mate and then Master of an AHTS doing 6 on 6 off there was no provision for making a cup of coffee on the bridge and without DP you were sitting on the sticks for the whole 6 hours pumping cement, fuel or water and deck cargo. You also needed a cast iron bladder.
The worst was being the sole AHTS with a rig and a standby converted fishing boat and base 1 1/2 hours away. No body planned anything on the rig.
The best 1 1/2 days steaming from the base and two boats. It forced people to plan and we got time alongside.
We used to get an extra mate for anchor handling and rig moves but it meant that three people got little sleep rather than just two.

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I have the Been, There Done That t-shirt and it’s a miserable experience. 6x6 is miserable even when not stopping frequently. And then there’s the issue of late watch relief. Plus I had a roommate. Never again

I was so fatigued after a few weeks of this nonsense that I was turning the wrong valves. Could have been worse but I did manage to put a little sewage in the wrong spot. I was a zombie. 6x6 should be outlawed.

They know a lot more about sleep now and being sleep deprived is like being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is a factor in damn near every seagoing mishap.


I’ve done 2/4 on shorthanded deliveries but only for a few days.
Even on a good day you can’t expect to get more than 85% of off watch time getting restful sleep.
6/6 for 28 days on a working vessel does sound like it should be outlawed.

I’ve stood 6x6 watches sailing coast-wise a few years. I didn’t think they were that bad. Problem is having to work off watch.

I was more tired deep-sea working the mid-watch on a 4 on 8 off rotation with working OT and constant clock changes.

My sleep habits have always been sleeping two times a day, Even now as a dayworker I start at 0630 or 0700 and knock-off about 2000, but I take a break from 1200-1500 more or less. If I’m not tired I take a 10 or 20 minute nap and then read or just dink around. If I have to work at night and get less sleep I still get up early but sleep more in the afternoon.

I have worked 12 x 12, 6 x 6 and 4 x 8, all on the same ATB as CE. There isn’t any doubt in my mind as to which is better, especially on an ATB, where I would spend some time, every day, doing something up on the barge. That was killer with just two of us. . . but I was a very young man and just soldiered on. . . .

Good luck getting 6/6 to change.

Straight 12s all the way.

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Are you saying this is true for everyone in every situation or it’s your personal preference? Do you think people who prefer shorter watch rotations are lying or delusional?