Workstation for Communication

This is the workstation for operation and control of equipment for distress and safety communications (GMDSS) and general communications (IMO, 2000).

These functions are intended as high-level descriptions and their specific place­ment (suggested in Figure 9.4) can be discussed. It is also an open question whether separating functions in this way gives good usability with regard to the entire system. However, the figure should be seen as a guide to what work is to be performed on the bridge. It is not a design guide and does not imply that these functions must be separated from each other. It is also conceivable that all functions should be placed together, gathered near the operator. This will depend on several issues that should be discussed by the shipping industry. For instance: Are all these functions really the responsibility of the watch-keeper? Should they all be performed on the bridge? Who will be working on the bridge, and what competence is needed in the future?

For smaller ships, a different layout may be relevant. It could, for example, be due to cost or space limitations. Figure 9.5 is a suggestion prepared by IACS (2007) for ships smaller than 3000 gross tonnes.* The layout is traditional with consoles across the breadth of the bridge.

When using this layout, careful thought must be put into placement of aids and instruments, and adopting a functional view of the work stations. Otherwise an oper­ator may have difficulty performing tasks while on watch. Figure 9.6 and Figure 9.7 show photographs of such a bridge on a large ship. Many instruments and aids are too far from each other, and the long console does not afford good teamwork. One example of this is the inability to reach the VHF radio handset while looking at the radar. The same is true for reaching engine controls when working at the radar. On board ship, each of these situations is quite conceivable and commonplace. The operator may want to talk to another ship or shore station to confirm the position of something or someone visible on the radar screen. The second situation may also






Monitoring, conning, chart

* ECDIS of flat panel type may be included in center console on a narrow bridge

Workstation for Communication
FIGURE 9.5 Bridge layout for ships of less than 3000 gross tonnes. (Adapted from IACS, 2007. With permission.)

occur, when avoiding close-quarter situations with other ships or manoeuvring in restricted waters.

More specific examples of interaction problems and design flaws that could lead to risks can be found in the smallest things. Post-Its, notes, and instruction often give clues. In Figure 9.8 we see a striking example. To fully understand the impli­cations, we must understand the context. In this specific example one can easily imagine the consequences of not performing this action (start pump), firstly leading to a mechanical failure (due to overheating), costly in itself, and secondly in the worst-case scenario leading to a grounding or collision after the bow thruster fails (Lutzhoft et al., 2007).

One function that is missing from the IMO list but that is performed to an increas­ing degree on the bridge is administrative and office duties. It is not safety critical but could conceivably be included in the planning and documentation function. The

Workstation for Communication

FIGURE 9.7 Traditional long console bridge, view from the port to starboard side. (Per­sonal photograph of M. Lundh.)

Workstation for Communication

FIGURE 9.8 Examples of instructions that indicate interaction problems. (Photograph from MTO-Sea Project. With permisssion.)

inclusion of such a function should, however, be considered very carefully, since it could add disturbance to the bridge operation and reduce vigilance. Hence it would be in contradiction to the sixth aim of SOLAS V/15. It is an issue to discuss: who performs it and where it is to be done.

Other distractions that from time to time are found on bridges should be dis­cussed critically and, if found inappropriate, removed. The prime example is mobile phones. Private phones are questionable in themselves, but also ship phones need to be considered. If not removed, a policy should be discussed for calling in to (and out from) the ship, and who answers at what times. It is not uncommon for the phone to ring at times when the bridge operators need to focus on their primary tasks. Further distractions may be private MP3 players or similar devices, and also radios, TVs, and even sofas where often meetings are held by those not on watch.

Figure 9.9 shows a good and well-thought-through bridge solution. In this instance, an in-house ergonomist was engaged in the design process together with the manufacturer, and prospective users were involved throughout, taking into account lessons learned from other ships, adapting the ships to their particular trade and the functions to be performed. Special features to note are the consoles where keyboards are placed. A problem has always been to design a workplace that functions well for work both standing up and sitting down. Here, this is solved by installing tables that can be raised and lowered, like the ones now available for offices. We may note

Workstation for Communication

FIGURE 9.9 A modern bridge with fixtures and fittings that can be adapted to different needs. (Design by Wallenius Marine AB/Furuno Finland. Photograph used with permission.)

also that there is available space on the left side of the console where new equipment can be installed, if necessary. As mentioned, the evolution of the bridge and new technological aids is an ongoing process, which can lead to difficulties if the bridge becomes ‘full’, and new aids may get suboptimal placement. However, this does not mean that leaving a space affords optimum placement for future equipment but only that the designers at least took the issue into account.

Another issue on these ships, and many others, has been that when berthing, the captain wishes to see the side of the ship and the berth. At the same time he needs to control the ship’s movements. Earlier the captain would have to stand with his back to the controls to see the side of the ship and the berth. Now, the console is tilted upwards, good ergonomics is incorporated, and the work has been made easier (see Figure 9.10 and Figure 9.11).

Even with a good process for including human factors into the design, some unexpected changes may well have to be made after the fact. One example is a ship designed much like the above. They were trading on East Asian ports, and it became obvious that the local pilots wished to stand close to the windows. Although the bridge and consoles were designed to allow this, from this position they could not reach the VHF radio handset. As the VHF is much used in piloting waters, an additional VHF radio handset had to be installed next to the window, in front of the main console.

Updated: October 7, 2015 — 3:12 am