Alert! 24 - The ultimate aim...


In an age of swift invention it is frequently believed That the pressure of a button is as good as work achieved; But the optimist inventor should remember, if he can, Though the instrument be perfect, there are limits to the man

(Ronald A Hopwood, 1913 from the poem Our Fathers)

Fundamental to the safe and efficient operation of any ship or its systems, and to the health safety and wellbeing of the crew, is good design - always keeping the human element in mind.

Naval architects and system designers need to keep in touch with those who work and live aboard ships; they need to have an appreciation of ‘the ways of the sea’ and of ‘the ways of the seafarer’.

They need to understand that today’s ships operate with crews, both male and female, of different nationalities and cultures and of different shapes and sizes, such that what may be a good design for one group may not necessarily be so good for another.

They need to be able to identify and describe the physical and social context in which their system, product, service or facility is going to be used, taking full account of the nature of the work being done, the implications of their design for the users and how this context will evolve during the life of the ship.

They need to understand the principles of human-centred design (HCD) - see Alert! Issue No 7 - and Human Systems Integration (HSI) to ensure the full integration of the human with other elements into every system. 

But, the shipowner/operator also has a role to play here, not just in setting out the context of use, but also in providing a robust specification of requirements, having already consulted with the crews through an established and open feedback process, to determine the lessons learned from previous designs and current operations, including crew working and living conditions.

When considering the design, or updating of ships and their systems, it is important that all stakeholders keep in mind the key human factors considerations of: habitability, maintainability, workability, controllability, manoeuvrability, survivability, usability, reliability and supportability and acceptability.

The ultimate aim is to make ships, systems and equipment more effective, efficient, safe and acceptable in use, in other words usable by, seafarers.


Staff Author