Engine Control Rooms Human factors - field studies
Rapport, 2009

A research project addressing Human Factors (HF) issues in the Engine Control Room (ECR) has been carried out including on board survey of seven different ship types within the Swedish merchant marine fleet. These ships represent different ages ranging between 30 years to 6 months old. Extensive interviews with engineering crew and detailed observations and measurements of the engine and engine control rooms were included in the study. The project team consisted of SSPA Sweden, Chalmers Shipping and Marine Technology and MSI Design. Five Swedish ship owners; Broströms, Sjöfartsverket Rederi, Stena Line, Transatlantic and Wallenius Marine have participated in the project facilitating studies on vessels representing different shipping conditions.

Below is a short summary of field studies content and conclusions:
- Field measurements of physical work environment factors. The quantities measured are: Lighting,
Noise, Temperature, Humidity, CO2, Dust, Vibration and Electromagnetic fields. Due to caution an
recommendation is to place the control pulpit at a distance to the switch boards to reduce the stay in
the proportionately higher electromagnetic field generated by the boards. It is even better to place the
switch boards outside the ECR, which may also be motivated of other reasons.
- In the field study observations, some different functionalities have been highlighted. These include:
The layout of the ECR, switchboards, accessibility, console design, alarm management, monitoring
outside the ECR, communication, administrative area and briefing/rest area. Some conclusions are:
- Administrative duties have successively increased
- The complexity of the control systems has increased but not the transparency
- The design of ECR does not adequately correspond to the role of the modern day engineers and their
duties. Functions in question are administrative, emergency and not least social ones
- Recognised knowledge about HF design and lay-out is not utilized
- Established guide-lines, rules and regulations are not consequently used
- Technical solutions may be quite acceptable but problems emerge as it becomes an integrated part of
the rest of the technology. An overall comprehensive attitude towards the design of an ECR is
- The change towards more software controlled systems increases vulnerability and operational risks
-  How the tasks in the ECR are performed needs to be taken into consideration
- The different functions and their interaction in the ECR need to be defined
- Future rules and regulations need to take these issues into consideration


Eric Wagner

MSI Design

Monica Lundh

Chalmers, Sjöfart och marin teknik

Peter Grundevik

SSPA Sweden AB





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