Fathom World

Mapping the transformation of shipping and the oceans

Design, Engineering & SafetyFeaturedOperations & Management

Fighting shipboard fatigue with wearables

New studies carried out by British-based Sleep and Fatigue Research (SAFR) has shown that seafarers are at risk from fatigue and being able to operate at optimal performance, writes Samantha.

The maritime industry is a demanding industry both mentally and physically, but in today’s world with extra demands being placed upon crew that fatigue has become a silent risk that can impact on the safety of crew and vessel.

Safr has been conducting studies in to sleep and fatigue using technology to monitor and manage how crew sleep. Safr has been conducting studies across different industries with groups of approximately 200 people using various technologies, including wearables in order to collect the data.

Jason Eden, CEO, Safr explains that: “The studies help us to look at where are the risks and who is getting the less sleep. We collect the data using Fitbit style wearables. We use a biomathematical model, where we take the data from the ‘Fitbit’ and put it in to the model.”

The studies conducted are designed to look at the quality of sleep over a period of time and not just for an over night period, as Eden highlights that: “one night a person may get very little sleep but over the course of a week may get longer sleep periods.” Therefore, balancing out the sleep period. This is then recorded as score.


1 July 2017, two Hong Kong registered vessels, the bulk carrier Huayang Endeavour and the oil tanker Seafrontier, collided in the Dover Strait approximately 5 nautical miles to the west of Sandettie Bank. In its report of the incident, the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Board noted that the master of Seafrontier had been present on the bridge for over 14 hours and was probably suffering from fatigue, which was likely to have had an adverse effect on his decision making.

Safr has conducted two studies in the maritime industry one for a turbine transfer company and the other for a passenger ferry company. What has been made clear from the studies is that: “We found very high levels of fatigue. Marine is the worst case that we have seen for fatigue”, Eden says.

It was found that most seafarers were only obtaining in the region of four hours sleep because of factors such as shift patterns, long shifts or early starts. Some were found to achieve less than four in some cases.

Eden notes that the average person needs between 6.5-8 hours sleep per night, where some may function on less. Over a prolonged period it would be likely to see performance levels drop off quicker than a person that has had a longer period of sleep.

The studies were carried out as live tests, with crew being given wearables and app to download that would collect the data. Eden notes that by giving the crew wearables it allowed them to monitor their own sleep period and help them to take control of it.

With the studies and the wearables Eden believes that this will also assist companies to give more tactical support and be able to adjust how they operate with this information. “Using biomathematical models the company can then see the impact that the certain shift/rotas are having and what effect it is having on crew”, he says.

From the studies and research undertaken Eden say that: “What we would like to see is the acknowledgement of this risk. To look at how the industry works and how much of a risk fatigue could be for companies and their operations.”

The solution brings together technologies that are utilised by people every day such as wearables and by the biomathematical models. In the future Eden opines that: “biomathematics models could be mandated in a few years’ time, which we have seen similar things happening in other industries such as aviation. The models could be used with scheduling software to see what the lived experience is.”

There is still more to do from the studies themselves. Safr has said that it will be looking in to benchmarking and will conduct larger studies for this. The initial feedback from the industry has been positive notes Safr. “We’ve spoken to a few P&I clubs and they are interested in what we have been doing and what it can achieve”, Eden adds.

About Author