A Life on the Ocean Wave - Exploring the interaction between the crew and their adaption to the development of the work situation on board Swedish merchant ships
Working on board merchant ships implies being a part of an isolated context in a multi-cultural arena and spending a lot of time away from family and friends. The shipping industry has during the latest decades undergone major changes due to technical development, automation and increased requirements for profitability and competitiveness. The consequences of these changes have been reduced manning on board, changes in task performance and new tasks to perform. The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate the interplay between the ship, the technological system on board and the human system in order to understand how the developments in the shipping industry during the latest decades has affected the working conditions and well being of the sea farers and in particular the engine officers.
The results given in this thesis indicate that the engine crew has to adapt to the suboptimal prerequisites given by the technical and hull system in order to be able to perform their tasks as the prevailing knowledge in ergonomics is not being fully utilized in the design of the engine department. The consequences are less favourable behaviours which enhance the risk of injuries and enforce less effective accomplishment of the tasks. The engine officers also report an elevated level of stress and role conflict but no elevated levels of mental ill-health. However, it does not seem as the job content or qualification levels are the main source of work stress. Rather, as indicated by the highly elevated role conflict, the often contradicting requirements raised on the shipping operation seem to often create conflicts for the engine officers. They are supposed live up to their professional standards on shipping and at the same operate the ship with the reduced crew numbers at high speed to satisfy the requirements for profitability.