The contribution of ship bridge design to maritime accidents
Authors: Brit-Eli Danielsen
Abstract: Shipping is an industry where accidents have potential catastrophic effect on humans, the environment or material assets. The design of bridge equipment and the bridge layout has a significant impact on the human-technology interaction on a ship’s bridge, hence design is important for safety of navigation. This paper presents a review of 28 accident investigation reports from the last decade where design of ship bridge equipment or bridge layout has been identified as contributing factors. Six categories of design issues were identified: 1) Bridge layout; 2) Not using available electronic equipment; 3) Unexpected use of electronic equipment; 4) Mode confusion; 5) Lack of information about system status; 6) Trust in electronic equipment. The underlying common theme for all six categories is that those who design, purchase and install ship bridge equipment does not have a sufficient understanding of the navigator’s work tasks and work context, i.e., the end-user needs. The investigation boards’ safety recommendations and the shipowners’ responses mainly concerned revising the safety management system, revising or introducing procedures and checklists, as well as crew training. These responses put the responsibility for an improved human-technology interaction on the human operator. The few recommendations and shipowner actions that concerned improving design of technology were local fixes that may prevent the exact same accident reoccurring, but do not contribute to learning on organizational or system level. For the maritime industry to learn from accidents and improve future bridge design, it is important that design issues are not only identified by the investigators, but they should also be described and investigated in more detail. Applying a systems approach to accident investigations may contribute to investigate beyond the cause ‘human error’ and provide lessons learned that can be fed back in a useful way to the relevant stakeholders, like regulators, designers, purchasers and installers. The study concludes that the increasing instrumentation and digitalization of ship bridges during the last decades has not been accompanied with usability concerns at the same pace and the operational consequences of new ship bridge design are still being shouldered by the navigators.
Keywords: ship bridge design, maritime accidents, human-technology interaction
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