One example of work undertaken to address the issue of bridge ergonomics is the integrated bridge. The brief history of the integrated bridge system or integrated navigation system contains a few rather clear influences. A group of captains and pilots from Swedish and Finnish shipping companies saw the need for bridge technology
that would help them navigate increasingly larger and faster vessels safely in the Swedish-Finnish archipelago. Since the 1960s, this community of practitioners and shipping companies have been cooperating with manufacturers. Their collaboration is partly driven by recognition of the complexity of the waters in which the ships sail, and because everyone recognised the value that new technology can have for sailing safely in difficult environments. Another influence towards the integrated bridge came from shipyards requiring manufacturers to deliver assembled solutions. The reasons were partly economical (cost savings on cabling) and partly for reasons of data and information integrity (systems needed to be interconnected). This does not mean that an assembled solution necessarily constitutes an integrated bridge, since the level of integration—from physical proximity of equipment to full-scale data – level integration—is mostly dependent on the purchaser’s requirements. Finally, administrations from several countries were considering solo watch-keepers. This too demanded innovations on the bridge.
In subsequent decades the emphasis has been on designing an integrated navigation system. By applying the concept of integration work to what humans do, we see that humans should be considered a part of these integration processes. Integration in this sense is about coordination, cooperation, and compromise. When humans and technology have to work together, the human (mostly) has to coordinate resources, cooperate with devices, and compromise between means and ends. What seafarers have to do to get their work done includes integration of representations of data and information and integration of human and machine work (Lutzhoft, 2004). This is also made clear by Hederstrom and Gylden (1992):
When selecting the equipment, it must be borne in mind that it should be compatible with the other instruments to form an efficient work system as a whole. This is essential not only in the case of totally integrated systems, but also if the integration is to be performed manually by the navigator. (Hederstrom and Gylden, 1992, 2; emphasis added)
The issue is also discussed by Courteney (1996) who vividly describes how the captain of a ship is torn between stakeholders and has to provide coherence and balance to the situation.
Several anecdotes from the maritime domain describe how the placement of a piece of equipment is decided not by standards, rules, or human-factor guidelines but by the length of electric cable available to the installer when needed. One ship, built as a container ship in the 1960s, rebuilt as a cruise liner in 1990, and visited by the first author in 2001, had fifteen different manufacturers’ names on the navigation, control, and communication equipment. This in itself leads to many inconsistencies for the seafarers to overcome. Furthermore, it is common that when new equipment is installed, in many cases the older equipment is left where it is. Apart from creating a cluttered and perhaps nonoptimal layout, this also entails extra work, such as finding, choosing, and evaluating which equipment to use. A related issue is the use of individual audible alarms in most equipment—the beeps emitted by the various instruments sound very similar, and finding the source of the alarm is often complicated. Resolving these technical issues does not resolve matters completely. Adding to the complexity of operations are issues such as new legislation and crew turnover. Seafarers have to perform integration work, since technological resources are never constant.
Current incident reports still show too many collisions and groundings. The problems at ‘the sharp end’ can be very basic, for example, when a single watch – keeper falls asleep. Furthermore, the reality of current bridges is that many basic aspects of control room ergonomics are not addressed, as for example found in the MTO-sea project (ongoing 2007). As an illustration, basic console design is an area for which there is ample guidance but which is not always used. An example is current consoles that are not always designed so that the operator can stand and operate the console or sit and look out of the window. Proper sit-stand designs have been in the standards for a long time but are not understood or widely implemented. An exception is shown later in this chapter.
Colloquially, the engine room is often described as the heart of the ship whereas the bridge is seen as the brain. However, neither one can perform anything worthwhile without the other. It cannot be emphasised enough that the engine control room and the bridge (and many more workplaces on board a ship) should not be optimised separately. By this we mean that the common goals of both should be considered, not that they both should be designed in the same way. Planning, organisation, and design must be performed throughout with common goals in mind: to ensure communication and a common awareness of what is happening, and ultimately to move cargo or passengers from one point to another, while considering the safety of crew, passengers, and cargo, as well as of the ship and the environment. Today, maritime security is an added concern. In addition, shipping is, of course, a business that should be successful from a financial viewpoint. To perform this task, the ship must be viewed as a system where all parts contribute to the fulfilment of the task.