In the engine room and engine control room, far less research has been done than on the bridge (Andersson and Lutzhoft, 2007). However, new technology tends to be introduced on board at a rapid pace in the engine control room as well. This implies new demands on the knowledge and skills of the engineers, and thus creates a need for improvement of the crews’ qualifications. In July 2005, due to an engine failure, one of the then largest container vessels, the Savannah Express, made heavy contact with a link span at Southampton Docks. One of the main reasons for the accident was that the ship’s engineers did not have sufficient knowledge of the main engine control
system or specific system engineering training to successfully diagnose faults. The subsequent report stated under the heading ‘Training—General Conditions’ that:
Modern vessels increasingly rely on complex, integrated control and operating systems. Often these systems cannot be separated to enable operation of the equipment in a ‘limp home’ mode. The rapid introduction of such technology has placed ever – increasing demands on the shipboard engineers, who have often not had the requisite training with which to equip them to safely operate, maintain and fault find on this complex equipment.*
This statement gives clear evidence of how important the design of integrated alarm, monitoring, and control system is. Any interface with illogical, ambiguous, or cluttered design constitutes an increased risk and may promote errors.
On the positive side, in 2006, Liberia submitted a paper to the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), ‘MSC 82/15/4 Role of the Human Element’, which proposes a review of specific IMO instruments from an ergonomic perspective inter alia the guidelines for engine room layout, design, and arrangements described in ‘MSC/Circ.834 Role of the Human Element’ from 1998. The Maritime Safety Committee stated in ‘MSC-MEPC.7/Circ.3 Framework for Consideration of Ergonomics and Work Environment’ (2006) that a significant reduction of accidents to seafarers and human error can be obtained through the consideration of ergonomics and the working environment onboard ship. The framework considers five key areas on board ship:
• Manual valve operation, access, location, and orientation.
• Stairs, vertical ladders, ramps, walkways, and work platforms.
• Inspection and maintenance considerations.
• Working environment.
• The application of ergonomics to design.
The first three points are mostly relevant to the occupational risks to the engine room crew in modern ships. The fourth area (working environment) is universally relevant, since it encompasses also the psychological working environment and hence the general ability of the crew to work as a team. The last item, ergonomics is obviously, of particular interest in the current context. In essence, some promising initiatives have been taken in the area but much remains to be done. Later sections in this chapter strive to elaborate on the possibilities in that direction.