International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 1
Number 3
September 2007
Effects of Fatigue on Navigation Officers and
SWOT Analyze for Reducing Fatigue Related
Human Errors on Board
O. Arslan & I.D. Er
Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey
ABSTRACT: Maritime industry is still a human-centered industry in spite of latest technologies which has
developed for reducing marine accidents. Human based errors cause marine accidents more than equipment
based problems. These accidents cause catastrophic consequences about human life and marine environment.
Fatigue of navigation officers plays effective role on these human-based errors and marine accidents. Fatigue
can be defined as temporary loss of strength and energy resulting from hard physical or mental work. There
are several factors that effect navigation officer’s fatigue. Fatigue is associated with poor quality sleep,
negative environmental factors, high job demands and high stress. In this study, relationship between fatigue
of navigation officers and marine accidents examined; Factors which are affecting fatigue of navigation
officers determined with SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis method. SWOT
analysis is an established method for assisting the formulation of strategy. With this analysis, efforts were
made to explore the ways and means of converting the possible threats into opportunities and changing the
weaknesses into strengths. Consequently strategic action plans were developed for minimizing fatigue related
human errors on-board.
Human based errors are causing marine accidents
more than equipment based problems. Human error
had started to be recognized as the major cause of
maritime incidents such as collisions, groundings
and spills. According to the many of research studies
and analysis it has also been recognized that almost
70 to 80% of maritime incidents are caused by
human errors (Shea&Grady, 1998). Violation of
rules, mistakes, slips and lapses are causing
accidents. The categories of human errors can be
summarized in Figure 1. Fatigue can be defined as
temporary loss of strength and energy resulting from
hard physical or mental work. There are several
factors that effect navigation officer’s fatigue.
Fatigue is associated with poor quality sleep,
negative environmental factors, high job demands
and high stress Fatigue is playing important role on
especially these slips and lapses.
SWOT analysis method is used in this study to
analyze factors which is affecting fatigue level of
navigation officers in order to make strategy
formulation for reducing human errors and reducing
maritime causalities respectively. SWOT is an
acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats. Every program including operational
process, management plan and development
characteristics have its strengths and weaknesses,
opportunities and threats. Considering these
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
(SWOT), several strategies derived for converting
the threats into opportunities, and off-setting the
weaknesses against the strengths. This SWOT
is intended to maximize both strengths and
opportunities, minimize the external threats, and
transforms the identified weaknesses into strengths
and to take advantage of opportunities along with
minimizing both internal weaknesses and external
threats (Saaty, 1987).
The present investigation is attempted to examine
the strengths and weaknesses affecting fatigue level
of navigation officers, as well as the opportunities
and threats in the external working environment for
ships and her officers who are in charge of
navigation are taken into account. The intention of
this study is to develop strategy action plans for
shipping companies and seafarers through SWOT
analysis with a view to make safer navigational
In maritime domain human error is classified in
major three categories. The first category is
operational based human errors, the second category
is the management based human errors and the third
category is the combination of the first and second
category that might cause a considerable accident or
disaster by triggering error chains (Arslan&Er 2006).
In this respect the terminology of incident might be
described as a triggering event, such as a human
error or a mechanical failure that creates an unsafe
condition that might cause result in an accident.
Human errors are categorized in Figure 1. Violation
of rules, mistakes, slips and lapses are causing
accidents. Low employee satisfaction and fatigue of
seafarers play effective role on slips and lapses
(Er&Celik, 2005).
Human Factor is the body of scientific knowledge
about people and how they interact with their
environment, especially when working. A simple
way to view human factors is to consider three main
aspects: the person, the job (task, environment and
equipment), and the organization and management
and how they interact among them. The following
definitions are utilized for the clear understanding of
expectation survey methodology:
Human Factors Engineering: The comprehensive
integration of human characteristics into the
definition, design development, and evaluation of
a system to optimize Human Machine
performance under specified conditions.
Health hazards: The identification, assessment
and the removal or reduction of short or long-
term hazards to health occurring as a result of
normal operation of a system.
Routine Violations
Exceptional Violations
Unintended Action
Intended action
Fig. 1. Classification of human errors
System Safety: The human contribution to risk
when the system is functioning in a normal or
abnormal manner.
Human resources management: HRM defines the
most important resource of organizations, the
human, for accomplishing their service and
production tasks.
The methodology that is used to enable the SWOT
analysis for reducing fatigue related human errors on
board includes the identification of relevant factors
in terms of SWOT groups (namely strengths group,
weaknesses group, opportunities group and threat
group). These are fixed with pair-wise comparisons
in order to increase the rapidly of decision making
process in multi-variable parameters that have
transient characteristics in shipboard operations
(Saaty, 1987; Kangas, 1994). Firstly the activity
worksheet is utilized for reducing fatigue related
human errors on board to sort the activities in terms
of SWOT groups. The activity worksheet mainly
concentrates the purpose of SWOT with its four
quadrants of the coordinate according to their
categories as shown in Figure 2. While utilizing
activity work-sheet approach strategic action plans
are developed for reducing fatigue related human
errors and safer shipboard operations.
4.1 The probable strengths for reducing fatique
related human errors could be the following:
Equipping of ships with new technologies:
New innovations or technologies such as ECDIS
and AIS reduce navigation officer’s workload
and they have been developed to lighten
considerably the navigation workload with
enforcing reduced human errors. Automated
control of loading/discharging systems especially
on tankers and machinery area reduce officer’s
and other rating’s workloads and they have
been developed to lighten considerably the port
operation workload with enforcing reduced
human errors. Increasing team awareness and
contribution: Increasing team awareness reduces
both phsylogocical and physical fatigue on board.
Application of ISM system and increasing safety
culture on board: Safety on board has become a
critical issue in the last decades. Application of
ISM system regularly reduced workloads of
seafarers and increased safety culture on board
(Er, 2000).
Increasing communication facilities: Being
far away from family is the most common
problem for seafarers on board (Arslan 2006).
This reality increases seafarer’s phschological
fatigue level on board. Increasing communication
facilities on board reduces physchological fatigue
on board.
Increasing nutrition possibilities on board:
Reqular and sufficient nutrition reduces fatigue
level. Nutrition possibilities and quality of
nutrition increased on ships when compared with
4.2 The probable weaknesses that increasing
fatigue-related human errors could be
the following:
Commercial pressures of ship management
companies: There have been commercial pressures
on seafarers such as arriving next port faster,
making unnecessary maintenance during voyage,
preparing cargo area in bad weather conditions
and etc.
New technology needs new skills and educations:
Every new technology which thought to increase
navigational safety has brought new skills and
new compulsory training such as ARPA Radar
and ECDIS training.
New procedures bring more paper work on
board: New procedures which though to increase
ship safety and such as ISM and ISPS procedures,
they naturally have brings extra workload for
navigation officers.
Poor quality sleep, long working hours,
insufficient rest between work periods, excessive
workloads, noise and vibration, working at
nights: These factors are directly related with the
nature of job (Cardiff University).
Sleeping duration and low quality of sleep: Less
than seven hours of a day is associated with
poorer health and fatigue level.
Low satisfaction of seafarers about their
occupation and on board comfort: Seafarers
who act and display care and loyalty are less
to produce claims. Ship owners and operators
can achieve a high level
of crew continuity and
competence by providing seafarers with secure
employment and taking human factors into
account including recruitment, health, training
and general awareness of shipboard best practice
and by monitoring satisfaction in terms of
monitoring expectation of seafarers.
Fig. 2. Activity Worksheet for SWOT Analysis
4.3 The probable opportunities for reducing fatigue
related human errors on board
High maneuvering capability of new building
ships and new maneouvring equipments: Word
merchant fleet is renewing and new-built ships
have high maneuvering capabilities when
compared with the last decade built ships. This
reality reduces maneouvering times of ships.
Shortening of seafarer’s contract durations:
Contract durations of seafarers’ shortened
especially in world’s leading ship management
companies. This situation reduces chronic fatigue
of seafarers taking into account the fatigue close
of STCW Code (STCW, 1995).
Ergonomic bridge and accommodation design of
new-building ships: Ergonomic issues have
become more popular in ship-building sector.
Ergonomic bridge design arranges safe look out
and reduces workload of masters and navigation
officers. Ergonomic design of accommodation
places also increases seafarers’ satisfaction and
arranges acceptable living conditions (Pomeroy &
Jones, 2002).
Improvements on technologies: New technologies
about navigation or ship construction reduce
navigation officer’s workloads. They are assisting
tools for them to enable efficient maneuvering
and offering more comfortable navigation
4.4 The probable threats that are increasing fatigue
related human errors on board
Intensive ship traffic: There are around 48500
ships in service at sea, and number of ships is
increasing 1% per annum. Increasing the number
of ships and new-built faster ships causes
collision risks. Watch conditions are closely
related with ship traffic. In intensive traffic
condition, an extra watchman should look out in
navigation bridge (Akten, 2004).
Trend of decreasing seafarer number on board:
One another commercial pressure appears as
decreasing number of seafarers to minimum
standards as it is mentioned in the Minimum Safe
Manning Certificate of ship. This reality increases
workload and fatigue of seafarers.
Extra workloads for navigation officers: New
procedures which though increase ship safety,
such as ISM and ISPS procedures and their record
keeping process brings extra workload for
navigation officers.
Port stay days and continual inspections on
restricted port days: Stay in port for ships
decreased due to the developed cargo handling
facilities. Also, port state and flag state
inspections are increased on this restricted port
days. Shortened port days and increased
inspections directly cause seafarers’ fatigue and
Construction of new ports far away from city
centers: New-constructed ports and terminals are
generally constructed far away from city centers.
On restricted port days, seafarers can’t go outside
from ship for relaxation.
Terror threats and ISPS application: Terror
threats for ships and related ISPS application
tasks restrict seafarers’ social life during stay at
Bad weather conditions: Bad weather conditions
such as gales and dense fog situations increase
workload of navigation officers and master. Also,
seasickness is a factor that increases mental and
physical fatigue that directly reduces job
Currents, tides, and darkness: Currents and
darkness are the two dominant factors causing
marine casualties especially in coastal traffic area
and narrow channels (Akten, 2004).
While considering the overall factors of strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats mentioned in
the section 4 of this study, the following strategies
are proposed. Besides the risk assessment of each
process can easily be handled if the threats or
weaknesses are identified properly. It should also be
taken into account that a human factor has a great
significant impact on threats or weaknesses as it is
identified in section 4 of this study.
When the overall contribution of SWOT analysis
is examined the following comments can be
interpreted for reducing fatigue level of seafarers and
fatigue related human errors on board.
Workload management should be applied on
board because of fatigue plays important role on
human errors. Precautions which will increase
seafarer’s satisfactions should be taken by ship
management companies. Loyalty of seafarers should
be provided by ship management companies by
taking several precautions. On board procedures
should be shortened that officers will need less time
for paper works. New training programs about new
technologies should be developed. New rules should
bring into force for reducing fatigue of seafarers. Sea
and sea life must be encouraged. Social facilities
about seafarers at port should be developed.
Navigation bridges and accommodation places
should be designed taking into account ergonomic
aspect. Widespread use and equipping new
technologies such as ECDIS and automated loding-
discharging systems on board should be maintained.
In maritime industry, human errors causing still
accident and incidents in spite of latest navigational
technologies and fatigue is playing important role on
these errors. In this study, it is aimed to identify the
positive and negative factors that affecting the
fatigue level of seafarers by applying SWOT
(Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats.)
analysis. Taking into account above mentioned
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,
several practical solutions are proposed for reducing
fatigue related human errors on shipboard
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