Non‑technical communication factors at the Vessel Traffic Services
Journal article, 2018
This study done at the Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) explored how the VTS operators (VTSOs) communicated with ships and other actors in the maritime sociotechnical system and how decisions were made with regard to assisting traffic in maintaining safe passage in port areas, where most vessel movements are seen and accidents occur. The fieldwork was done during four independent visits to a VTS centre under the Swedish Maritime Authority, with a total sample of six VTSOs and one VTS instructor. The qualitative data were sorted and coded using a grounded theory approach. The data pointed at non-technical information processing and communication factors that play a role in decision-making and ultimately in safety. During protocol operations at the VTS, these factors influenced how VTSOs judged the skills of the vessels’ bridge teams, and how they approached them. This is a time where much effort is being put into upgrading technological systems, and these will have the power to change the ways in which the maritime network obtains and processes information, as well as how they can communicate with each other. The further development of technological systems, work protocols and training programmes can benefit from taking the soft aspects of communication and the needs of the operators and their tasks into account for the enhancement of safety.