The hidden costs of fatigue

While many operators and skippers do a great job of keeping on top of fatigue, some prefer to turn a blind eye – and for one main reason: Cost.
a small fishing vessel that has grounded on some rocks on a shoreline that the tide has gone out on

The costs of managing fatigue

Making sure everyone gets plenty of breaks, enough sleep, and time off when they need it, can mean fewer trips, less time fishing, or hiring more crew – all of which can come at a cost. And in a fiercely competitive industry, where minimising overheads is critical, extra costs are far from welcome.

But consider the alternative:

The costs of ignoring fatigue

Think about the costs that could pile up as a result of a serious accident – if, for example, a crew member fell asleep at the wheel:

  • the price of repairing or replacing your vessel
  • the income lost during the inevitable downtime
  • the expense of a court case
  • an increase in insurance premiums
  • payments for the crew
  • medical bills.

The list goes on...

Then there are the more valuable costs – the non-financial costs – those that can never be recovered. These are the costs of life-changing injuries and loss of lives.

Is ignoring fatigue worth the risk?

“No one wants to see someone get hurt.” – Stan (skipper)

Why managing fatigue is important for business

Treat someone with care and respect and they'll generally respond in a similar way. It's human nature. So if a crew is well looked after – with sufficient sleep, regular breaks and the freedom to take leave when they need to – chances are they'll be happier and healthier, and they'll want to do a better job. Yes, it costs more to allow for longer breaks, to take on more crew, or to delay sailing when someone's under the weather; but it pays off.

“An occasional day off can be so rewarding to people – mentally, emotionally and physically.”

Poor returns from fishing usually means that not much fish is being caught, but this doesn't necessarily mean that you can scale back on crew and hours worked.

However good returns mean that plenty of fish is being landed and maybe the vessel can afford to employ a watchkeeper/cook for a month or two. This could work well for vessels fishing hoki in Cook Strait and doing drops in Picton. Think about the hazards heading to and from the fishing grounds – mussel farms, salmon farms, rec boaties, Cook Strait ferries!


Fatigue facts

  • The costs of fatigue outweigh the costs of managing it.
  • To add to the financial costs, there are costs that can never be recovered – such as loss of lives.
  • A well looked-after crew is likely to be healthier and happier – and to work harder.