What happened?

Incident no. 1:

A small fishing vessel sailed along the shore in search of mackerel. The vessel took a turn into a bay and ran aground. It stranded about one minute after the turn. The skipper believes that the stranding occurred because he fell asleep.

The vessel suffered damages below the waterline and started to take on water. Bilge pumps managed to keep the water out to a certain extent. However, several pumps had to be used in order to keep the vessel floating on its way to the yard for repair.

Incident no. 2:

A small fishing vessel went to sea at 5.30 a.m. At noon, all the nets were drawn. The skipper reported a scheduled arrival time at the fish reception facilities at 2 p.m. The skipper fell asleep just before arrival, and the vessel hit rocks.

The vessel suffered damages to the bow of the hull, and the skipper was bruised and needed medical attention.

In both the reported incidents, the skipper was alone on board.


Causes and measures

Occasionally, accidents caused by «falling asleep on duty» are reported to the Norwegian Maritime Authority. There can be various underlying causes of falling asleep on duty, such as long shifts, too little rest during off-duty periods, poor indoor air quality on the bridge, monotonous or demanding work tasks, etc.

Larger vessels are required to comply with the Regulations on watchkeeping on passenger ships and cargo ships and have a bridge navigation watch alarm system (BNWAS) installed. Legislation that stipulates the number of individuals on bridge watch and which technical solutions must be in place, is meant to form a barrier in order to avoid accidents where one of the causes may be falling asleep on duty.

On board smaller vessels that do not have any bridge watch resources, are not able to distribute watches and do not have a BNWAS, other measures are required. In cases where such legislation is not present, it would be wise to see if other solutions may be applied to ensure the safety of people, environment and property. Each individual must always make sure to get enough rest and to be fit for duty on board.

Risk assessment in compliance with the Regulations on the working environment, health and safety of workers on board ship should also be carried out. Simple initiatives such as airing out the room, keeping a comfortable temperature at the bridge, avoiding dehydration, eating regularly, taking small breaks and making sure that there are enough variations during the day can in many cases be sufficient.



On vessels with only one crew member, it is up to this individual to make sure to get enough rest and to be fit for duty. Even though exemptions have been made, it is still possible to use the regulatory requirements as a basis of recommendation for measures to be taken on board to prevent accidents from happening.