Feb 282016

Bad design costs lives and ships and sealing wax, as many accident events show (See below). What is often lacking is design fo people to use, human-centred design, That applies as much to electronics equipment as it does to anything else aboard ship so an initiative by the Nautical Institute and marine electronics manufacturer organisation Comité International Radio-Maritime, CIRM, is to be welcomed.

The initiative aims to improve the usability of navigation and communication technology on board ships by getting mariners’ input, which brings together willing seafarers and interested manufacturers to ensure that designs are validated using human-centred design principles.

Speaking at the recent International e-Navigation Underway Conference, David Patraiko, Director of Projects for The Nautical Institute, and Richard Doherty, Chief Technical Officer for CIRM, announced the development of the CIRM User Feedback Forum.

“As a design concept goes, this all makes perfect sense,” says Patraiko. “Many mariners are keen to offer feedback into the design process but struggle to identify how to.” Doherty says that CIRM members are willing to listen and of course will need to demonstrate this as outlined in the IMO e-Navigation guidelines. These issues were also confirmed during a recent EU funded Human Factors project CyClaDes.

The Nautical Institute will encourage mariners from around the world to register as potential ‘beta testers’ for CIRM members’ research and development projects. The process is free for seafarers and confidential for the manufacturers. Training centres are also invited to become involved and to form relationships with manufacturers that may be interested in running trials.

Mariners often challenge why, or even how, certain design features have been developed. The Forum provides an opportunity for them to get involved with the design before it ends up on their ships.

Cost considerations often make it hard for training centres to expose students and instructors to the latest technology. Now maritime colleges will not only be able to see the latest designs, but will also be able to use their training experience to assist in the development of new equipment and systems.

Doherty describes this as a practical approach and a win-win solution, bringing manufacturers and users together.

“This is a golden opportunity for all mariners and trainers to improve the design of systems they may have to use in the future, while enjoying the process of working with the design teams,” said Patraiko. The Nautical Institute also plans to publish case studies from these trials.

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