Ergonomics: An uncharted route to improved overall systems performance in shipping

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: Continuously, improved design of hull, propulsion and cargo handling systems has increased speed, capacity and reliability of sea transports. Simultaneously, efforts have been made to perfect crew size and composition in order to optimize operations costs. Mechanization, automation and communications technology has made many manual tasks redundant,enabling ship operations with a minimum of manpower. However, there is an area of potential yet uncharted: occupational ergonomics and the interface between human and technology. As technological systems increase in complexity, the gap between the operator and the system tend to increase as well, causing inefficient operations, as well as maritime and occupational accidents. The purpose of the present thesis was to present how increased knowledge of ergonomics can contribute to improved overall systems performance and employee well?being in the shipping industry. Using a qualitative, exploratory research approach, three studies have been performed. The studies addressed the key issues of maritime economics, the strategic constituents of maritime economics and how a shipping company’s overall systems performance can be operationalized and linked to ergonomic principles. It was found that there is a lack of knowledge within the Swedish shipping industry on the economic effects of ergonomics, indicating a need for suitable methods in this respect. Further, it was concluded that overall systems performance in terms of productive time, operational efficiency, quality and employee well?being in shipping would benefit from a ship design that allows not only for operability, but also takes into account the ship’s maintainability, working conditions, habitability and survivability for a safe and efficient ship operation over time. Suggestions for further work include a quantitative study, investigating the availability of data as well as empirically validate the proposed theoretical links between ergonomics knowledge and systems performance.

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