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SUMMARY A field study of work and sleep patterns among commercial merchant marine personnel is reported. Data collected over a 10-30-d period from 141 subjects aboard eight ships included information concerning work-rest schedules, sleep timing, alertness on the job and critical fatigue. The data indicate that watchstanders on the 4-on, 8-off schedule show considerable disruption in their sleep. The average sleep duration for all mariners is 6.6 h; watchstanders obtain their sleep in fragmented periods that are frequently less than 5 h in duration. Analysis of critical fatigue shows an incidence of 1-24% across personnel and measures. Of particular concern are the watchstanders on the 04.00-08.00 schedule, who sleep less than 4 h per 24-h period 22% of the time. Potential countermeasures, including changes in scheduling and staffing are proposed.