Study Finds No Causal Link Between Crew Size And Maritime Safety

A two-year study of the effect of crew sizes on maritime safety, recently completed by the Marine Board of the National Research Council, was unable to identify a causal link between manning levels and safety. The study was commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in light of the worldwide trend toward reduced crews and concerns about the impact on vessel and personnel safety.

Compared to a level of about 45 seafarers 30 years ago, the crew of a typical, newly built U.S.-flag vessel today averages 20 to 24. Some highly automated foreign ships operate with as few an eight to 12 crew members on board.

A "measurable and substantial reduction in vessel casualties and personnel injuries" have been witnessed over the past 20 years while crew size was declining.

The following recommendations were offered at the conclusion of the study by the Marine Board: Congress should modernize manning laws to allow innovation without degrading safety; The U.S. maritime industry, with the aid of the Department of Transportation, should implement a program to demonstrate the conditions under which reduced crew size can be considered safe; The industry, with the aid of DOT, should undertake a research program to determine how human factors such as fatigue and stress affect maritime safety; DOT should gather, standardize, evaluate and disseminate maritime safety data; and The Coast Guard should use formal analytical methods to make manning decisions. The goal should be to develop an internationally accepted method for establishing minimum safe manning levels.

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 37,  Feb 1991

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First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.