Bridge the gap between operations & engineering
Bridge the gap between operations & engineering

Maritime Human Factors / Ergonomics

‘Maritime Human Factors’ simply refers to the field of application: ships, offshore assets and similar work environments concerning sea, lakes, rivers, canals and harbours.

Human Factors and Ergonomics are synonyms, aiming to optimize the fit between the human operator and the work environment, to achieve efficient and safe operation in a healthy and comfortable way.
Most Human Factors studies focus on human performance ‘at work’. However, in a maritime context, the work environment is often a living environment as well. On most seagoing vessels people work, sleep, eat and recreate, usually for a considerable period of time. Each of these functions results in specific requirements for the vessels design. This can be challenging, since most functions are carried out at the same time, often 24/7 and in a shared space.

Most ship design specialists have a technical background and perspective. Therefore the position of the human operators and passengers is not always handled with the attention and expertise it deserves.
So how can Human Factors be effectively incorporated in the design process ?

  • Basic Human Factors standard
    A basic level of Human Factors attention is enforced by flagstate regulations, often referring to SOLAS and IMO standards. Sometimes the fleet owner improves this level by adding additional Human Factors standards and guidelines to the building specification.
    Further attention for Human Factors may be provided by having a captain or a crew member delegation participating in the project team. Although they bring in much useful practical experiences, they often lack specific expertise on the subject.
  • State-of-the-art Human Factors standard
    For the best results it is recommended to add a Maritime Human Factors Specialist to the project team or use the services of a dedicated consultancy company. A HF specialist is useful in all project phases, but most cost effective in the Basic Design phase, when important decisions on accommodation arrangement and bridge design are made.


Using the state-of-the-art Human Factors standard has several interesting benefits:

  • Optimized handling and control
  • Optimized field-of-vision
  • Smallest possible crew size as a result of job integration. This also results in smaller support crew and smaller accommodation facilities
  • Attractive and ergonomically well-designed ships are a joy to work on: this is important to acquire crew members and keep them motivated and happy.


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