Sep 072010

imageWhatever amazing innovations ship designers might come up with, in the end it is seafarers who will have to take those ships to sea and make the designs work. So among all the complex and often contradictory criteria which are in the forefront of designers’ minds as they plan the dimensions, draught, capacity and speed of a ship, there should be an over-riding requirement for the design to be ‘human centred’.

Issue 24 of the International Maritime Human Element Bulletin Alert! points out that both naval architects and system designers need to keep in touch with those who work and live aboard ships. In this way they can properly determine whether what they produce is indeed usable by those who will have to use it. The human being needs to be properly integrated in the design process, which will require designers to consult with seafarers, obtain adequate feedback to learn lessons from previous designs and to use this information constructively to produce better ships and equipment.

Alert! points out that it is not only the designers have responsibilities in this area; owners and operators whose specifications will be crucial also need to establish an efficient means of consulting with their crews and then transmitting these views to the designers of new ships, or those being updated. Simple logic suggests that a ship designed with the needs of the crew taken into account will be more efficient, probably safer and certainly more acceptable than one where the needs of the crew have been neglected.

Alert! Issue 24 is the latest in a current series of bulletins which defines the responsibilities of a particular stakeholder group in respect of the human element. Other articles focus on shipyard HE responsibilities, specific initiatives to design in habitability factors and for ease of operation, the elements of Human Systems Integration, the value of shared knowledge and how people fit into e-navigation.

The importance of designing systems which are both easy to operate and to maintain is emphasised, while the importance of designers understanding each particular function aboard ship – cargo handling, navigation, maintenance and engineering requirements is also underlined. A useful centrefold chart sets out the specific human element responsibilities in the design process of naval architects and designers, project managers, shipowners and operators. The links between those who design and those who will operate, cannot, it is suggested, be too close.

electronic copies of Alert! can be found at

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