Work as done? Understanding the practice of sociotechnical work in the maritime domain
Journal article, 2017

Pilots and Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) operators work to improve the safety of navigation of seagoing vessels. As in many other safety-critical domains, work is increasingly characterised by the integration and dissemination of information between humans and technology, across disciplines and over multiple geographical locations. Empirical studies of navigational assistance were analysed using the Functional Resonance Analysis Method (FRAM) in order to understand what pilots and VTS operators do and how it contributes towards maritime safety. Successful assistance was found to be dependent on: (i) the use of local knowledge, preparation and foresight to integrate information from a wide range of sources, and; (ii) communication and trust between the pilot, VTS operator, and the master and crew of the vessel, to provide timely assistance to vessels. FRAM was found to be a valuable tool for describing sociotechnical work, but was enriched by borrowing from ethnographically-inspired work studies traditions, with their strong grounding in empirical studies and themes of 'making work visible', symmetry between human/non-human, and work as activity. This approach indicates that bringing ideas from different traditions together to understand a real work practice may bring us closer to describing 'work as done', and its contribution

sociotechnical systems


Functional Resonance Analysis Method (FRAM)

Resilience Enginnering

'work as done'

vessel traffic services (VTS)



Linda de Vries

Chalmers, Product and Production Development, Design and Human Factors

Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making

1555-3434 (ISSN)

Vol. 11 3 1-26

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology


Driving Forces

Sustainable development



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