Shortly after Britain’s Maritime Investigation Branch raged against the narcoleptic response by the International Maritime Organisation and the European Union to the issue of fatigue the US National Transportation Safety Board took the opportunity of Sleep Awareness Week, MAC is awaiting Awareness Awareness Week, to reiterate its commitment to ridding the transport industry of the curse of fatigue. Perhaps a bit of BO will help, Bridge Odour.
First, let’s take a look at fatigue. It’s part of the territory. Unrealistic minimum manning standards, especially in coastal waters where regulations ofen require lower manning levels than on deep sea routes, are partly to blame: The more likely you are to hit a rock the fewer warm bodies you need on the bridge. Working hours, especially 6/6 schedules, contribute to fatigue particularly when only two officers handle watches. One man watching keeping contributes to fatigue.
If your are alone on watch during a 6/6 schedule at night you are at risk.
Most people need around eight hours sleep, even after 11 million years of evolution and thousands of years of artifical lighting. Lack of sleep builds up into a sleep debt that must, eventually be paid and your body will extract that debt from you with the ruthlessness of a Mafia loanshark.
Coffee and various forms of caffeine can help temporarily, but too much coffee can make men overreact and woman underreact, according to US Army research. Some serious students even go as far as to risk being caught buying Modafinil online just to keep awakee during the exams week. A good diet will help, as will eating lightly before going on watch. Taking in some fresh air, too, can help. All these however, merely delay the inevitable lowering of mental and physical alertness and prepardeness.
That said, let’s move on to BO, bridge odour. Unless the OOW is a bit shy of personal hygeniene it’s not something you take much notice of but it can affect your alertness even if you have one of those cardboard pinetrees dangling from the airconditioner.
We are, in fact, quite sensitive to smells even at a subconscious level. Research has shown that the scent of peppermint increases alertness and shortens reaction times in car drivers. Other research suggests that you don’t necessarily need to drink coffee to enhance alertness, the smell of it will do.
Which brings us to an intriguing, environmentally friendly gadget, the RITI computer printer, which actually operates by hand but that is not what makes it environmentally friendly. What should make it attractive to the bean-counters ashore is that uses coffee or tea dregs as ink. Put some drags into the ink reservoir and waggle it and you print out a page.
The printed output, of course, smells like coffee. So, your printed passage plan is not only cheap and a joy to the accountants, but might keep the OOW awake on watch.
Perhaps we should revisit the prohibition against putting coffee stains on the chart.
On the other hand one can imagine a scenario:
“Where’s the weather fax?”
“Second officer drank it, sir.”