A Matter of Best Practice and Common Sense: Maritime Safety from a Crew Perspective
Conference poster, 2010
The concept of maritime safety is widely used in regulations, recommendations and guidelines, e.g. SOLAS (IMO, 1974), in the shipping domain. Various regulators (e.g. IMO, national maritime administrations) define this concept as the overall goal which is to be achieved by measures such as Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS), Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), and fairway design etc. Common is also the introduction of new technology, e.g. decision support systems, with the aim to improve this specific type of safety.
To the best of my knowledge, most of the research in the shipping domain connected to safety issues has up to now focused on technology development or on quantitative measures of performance in simulated environments (e.g. Sablowski, 1989; Perdok & Wewerinke, 1995; Hockey et al., 2003; Stitt, 2003; Koester & Sørensen 2004; Hetherington et al., 2006). It has also been a common approach to study maritime safety by assessing the safety culture on board (Ek, Olsson, & Akselsson, 2000) as well as to identify the human element or human error as the root of accidents in this domain (e.g. Schager, 2008; Zachau, 2008). Although there is a large body of quantitative research, the results of these studies fail to explain maritime safety as a concept from a crew perspective. Therefore this qualitative study has been conducted to derive insights in how crew members on board of merchant vessels define, promote and act in relation to the concept maritime safety.
The preliminary results of this study indicate that maritime safety from the crew perspective is more than what is stated in legal national and international guidelines, rules and regulations. The work the individual crew member conducts in relation to safety consists of actions taken based on knowledge and experience. The resources and precondition for the work on board are highly dependent on the investments a company is willing to make to promote safety.
Further, instead of identifying the human as the failing part in the system, it should be considered that the crew members actively shape and promote maritime safety by the work that they are conducting within the boundaries set by external parties. Finally, rather than introducing more technology, there should be considerations on what type of systems and services are needed to conduct the safety-related activities carried out daily by the crew members to maintain a constant level of safety.