At two stages of the ‘voyage’, the participants wore 10 electrodes that measured their brain activity, over two watch periods and two sleep periods. Data obtained enabled the research teams to analyse whether crew fell asleep during their watchkeeping work and were unable perform any key tasks.
Human science is a rarity in the merchant marine domain, there is nothing equivalent to the US Navy’s excellent TADMUS programme, so the release of preliminary findings of Project Horizon are welcome. Undoubtedly its release will be met with “we knew that already” but its real value is putting number to what was already known, or suspected, and giving less wriggle room on the issue of safe manning – a markedly different issue from minimum manning – at the expense of seafarers being imprisoned for falling asleep on a poorly manned bridge.
The results of program, which involved 90 volunteers of a mix of nationalities and gender reflecting current ship manpower, under realistic living and work conditions, in a variety of simulators at Warsash and Chalmers, are chilling by not unexpected.
Says the prelimary report: “In all four of the watchkeeping sub-groups (4/8 and 6/6 at Chalmers and 6/6 deck and engineers at Warsash) there was evidence of full-blown sleep. Incidents of sleep on watch mainly occurred during night and early morning watches. At least one incident of microsleep was detected among 40% of team 1, 4/8, at Chalmers (the 0000-0400 watch), around 45% of team 1, 6/6, at Chalmers (0000-0600 watch) and around 40% for team 2, 6/6, at Chalmers (0600-1200 watch). At Warsash the rates varied from more than 20% of the 1800-0000 watch to 0% of the 0600-12000 watch. Falling asleep on the bridge is a main indicator of the effect of the watch on dangerous states of the crew”.
Key findings include:
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