The European Commission has launched a €4m research project to study the effects of fatigue on seafarers.

Fatigue has become a major issue in the shipping industry and is believed to have been a contributory factor in a number of shipping accidents.

The research will take two-and-a-half years to complete and will study the work and rest patterns of deck and engineer officers, concentrating in particular on watch-keeping, which has become an increasing concern and fatigue has been identified as a major safety issue.

Because of the particularly onerous job of seafaring, where crews work and rest in their workplace, there are increasing demands from unions and safety organisations that the problems created by fatigue and long duty shifts must be addressed.

The European Maritime Safety Agency reported that 754 vessels were involved in 670 accidents and 82 seafarers lost their lives last year.

Because of the increasing concerns about safety, ship owners, trade unions, marine insurance companies and safety organisations throughout Europe are joining in the research project.