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Onsite – Design driven field studies for safer demanding marine operations

Type of project
Applied research
Maroff programme, The Research Council of Norway, Ulstein International, DNV-GL and Pon Power.
01.08.2015 -> 01.08.2018

This project has been completed

About the project

ONSITE seeks to strengthen the Norwegian maritime industry by developing knowledge that can secure an efficient feedback loop between field studies carried out in maritime operations and design processes onshore.

The human element is the major source of risk to safe operations. Up to 80% of marine and offshore accidents are attributed to human error or some form of human input. The resulting expenses range from the costs of large accidents, downtime, maintenance and legal fees to loss of reputation and various matters relating to personnel. Human errors are generally caused by technologies, environments and organisations that, in some way, are incompatible with optimal human performance. Safer, greener and more efficient marine operations are achieved through design processes that take the entire operation into account, including the human element. To achieve this, the industry needs designers (engineering and other design disciplines) who are trained in acquiring and applying field knowledge, and who have easy access to shared knowledge bases from the field.

Hiring designers with maritime operational experience (e.g. captains, chief engineers) has been an approach implemented to integrate experience-based operational knowledge into design. However, the increasing complexity of demanding operations makes experience competency insufficient as the main source for knowledge-supporting design. Also, the decreasing Norwegian fleet and the consequently smaller number of Norwegian personnel call for alternative approaches to secure operational competence in the design process. An increasing demand for leaner operations, improved safety and adherence to environmental regulations, as well as a greater service orientation, all serve to accentuate the need for a comprehensive understanding of operations in ship design. However, it is a challenge to fully understand demanding operations in order to change it through design, since they are complex intertwining systems of interacting people and technologies.

Field studies play a critical role in acquiring contextual, systems-oriented and human-centred knowledge from demanding marine operations. The industry acknowledges that designers need an on-site comprehension of complex operations and tasks that ranges across systems and varied conditions. Field studies for design differ from traditional ones in human factor or the social sciences  and must take into account the domain knowledge of the design disciplines involved and their particular data needs, as well as facilitate feedback loops from the ongoing design processes. Today, field studies are carried out sporadically, often by external consultants. These consultants are often specialists in their own fields but are not always aware of the detailed knowledge needs of the naval architect (e.g. segment understanding, arrangements), the interaction designer (e.g. readability in different light conditions, interaction, timing and task priorities) or the stability engineer (e.g. crane, tower and handling operations). The result is minimal knowledge building in the companies and insufficient knowledge with which to successfully model and simulate the complete ship performance in operation. This is a problem that may lead to design proposals that do not function well in demanding operations.

Currently there is a need for standardised processes, methods and tools for performing field studies of demanding operations to inform design processes. ONSITE will therefore integrate field studies (carried out by designers trained both in marine design and field study methods) into ship design processes. To do so, we must enable field knowledge to be applied in design processes efficiently as a platform for knowledge building and sharing for marine design. Such process involve the capability to do field studies within short time frames, to effectively organise the data in line with other existing studies, to transfer the knowledge to the design team and to build a culture for long-term knowledge building.

We have identified five major knowledge gaps that the industry and academia need to overcome in order to merge the knowledge captured in demanding operations with design processes onshore: 1. What data are needed in ship design processes? 2. How can field data be effectively captured and annotated for design purposes? 3. How can field data be shared effectively in ship design processes? 4. How can a systemic understanding of operations be captured by efficiently combining the results from multiple field studies? 5. How can software make field studies more effective by facilitating and partly automating data harvest, sharing and retrieval?