There is no question in my mind that many mariners are between the rock and a hard place when it comes to workload and crewing levels.
Three maritime officers unions issued a statement (at gcaptain here)
Cuts in manning levels and burgeoning paperwork loads are increasing the risk of maritime accidents worldwide, says a group of U.S. maritime unions.and
Maritime officers are calling on Congress to direct the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct an assessment of fatigue and crewing levels based on the recommendations of independent professionals experienced in workplace fatigue.I don't agree that manning levels are necessarily too low.The problem is not lack of man-hours but a lack of expertise.
What needs to happen is ships need more officers and fewer unlicensed. Many American ships now carry six ABs and three watchstanding officers. Three of the ABs need to upgrade to officer level.
In the wheelhouse at sea the watch can be stood a single crew but usually there are two crew members, an officer who acts as mate on watch and the AB acting as helmsman / lookout.
On a modern ship however a helmsman is rarely needed, sophisticated auto-pilots can be programed to turn the ship as required. Instead of an watchstanding officer and an AB the bridge team could consist of two officers, a senior officer of the watch and a junior.
During times when the workload on the bridge is low, one mate could navigate and watch forward while the other mate could perform clerical work. When the work load increases both mates could cooperate using the principles of Bridge Resource Management (BRM) saving having to call the master when assistance is required.
Work loads aboard ship are high and increasing, however rather then adding crew a better response is adding to the crew's capabilities.