Heat and Fatigue


A report covering many issues, but primarily the story boils down to uncaring ship managers.

What the Reporter told us:

The report was initially received by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) who, with the consent of the caller, put him in contact with CHIRP. It involves several aspects including both seafarer welfare and safety / environmental issues.

Firstly, there were alleged MARPOL breaches with both oil and garbage being disposed of in a MARPOL Special Area, namely the Persian Gulf. CHIRP was asked for advice regarding this, (by the reporter through ISWAN). We responded with a breakdown of the regulations, direct to the reporter, whilst requesting more details of the location and nature of the garbage and oil that was discharged.

In the meantime, ISWAN were addressing other problems. The seafarer also mentioned that the vessel was in the Persian Gulf during August and for some time the generator had not worked and there was no air conditioning leading to a lack of sleep and fatigue. The seafarer requested that Flag State and the ITF be made aware – which ISWAN did. The vessel’s Flag State investigated with the company who “seemed to be responding”.

CHIRP understands from the ISWAN / reporter dialogue that the crew were all signed off at the next port and although the reporter promised follow-up on the MARPOL issues raised above, this did not materialise. Discussions with ISWAN reveal that this is not uncommon – once a problem is partially resolved there is often no further follow up.!


CHIRP Comment:

CHIRP is grateful to the Flag State in question for their intervention without which the seafarers’ suffering on the vessel would almost certainly not have been attended to. It is important to note that intervention of the Flag State should not have been necessary – any decent company would have addressed the issues well beforehand. This report goes to the heart of what bad operators get up to – quite simply, there is a complete lack of management responsibility and safety culture from top to bottom. But it also shows how several stakeholders can work together in this type of scenario. Further reports on these issues are welcomed by both ISWAN and CHIRP – If you do not report, then we cannot assist. ISWAN and CHIRP have a close working relationship and with the consent of the caller we may exchange reports of particular relevance. It is emphasised that both organisations treat reports in the strictest of confidence.

CHIRP notes that the fatigue and lack of sleep in this report was purely heat related. Prolonged exposure can lead to heat exhaustion. A crew that cannot sleep cannot operate, and any fatigue is more likely to lead to a loss of concentration and potentially an accident. A vessel without air conditioning demonstrates many human element issues – latent failures come down to lack of spares, possible financial constraints, and an insufficient management commitment.

The International Maritime Organization has recently updated a Maritime Safety Committee Circular relating to Guidelines on Fatigue. MSC.1/Circ.1598 supersedes the previous Circular MSC.1/Circ.1014.

The new guidelines include;

  • Introduction
  • Module 1: Fatigue
  • Module 2: Fatigue and the company
  • Module 3: Fatigue and the seafarer
  • Module 4: Fatigue awareness and training
  • Module 5: Fatigue and ship design
  • Module 6: Fatigue, the Administration and Port State authorities

Administrations, seafarers, companies, naval architects/ship designers and training providers are encouraged to take these guidelines into consideration when designing or modifying ships, when determining minimum safe manning and when developing pamphlets, video training modules, seminars and workshops, etc. on fatigue. Companies are strongly urged to take the issue of fatigue into account when developing, implementing and improving safety management systems under the ISM Code.

It is worth noting that the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 as amended does have a complaints procedure. Although intended to be used on board, the procedure does allow for escalation to the company, which must respond within a designated time frame. Marine Shipping Notice 1849 gives further details for UK vessels, and other Flag States have issued similar guidance.

The environmental issues need to be highlighted – any company (or indeed on-board management) that deliberately violates MARPOL as alleged in this report, deserves to receive the full consequences for their actions. The company in question may consider themselves extremely fortunate that in this case the reporter declined to follow up, so CHIRP was unable to take the matter further.

 Finally CHIRP and ISWAN both urge seafarers to fully follow up upon their reports since it is only when we get the full story that we are properly able to assist.



Report Ends…………………