Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
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42 Proceedings Summer 2015 www.uscg.mil/proceedings While navigation systems on modern ship bridges feature a multitude of modes, in many cases, human-centered design (HCD) can be lacking; and, in extreme cases, poor design may actually induce errors. For example, in January 2013, a passenger vessel travelling at 12 knots struck a pier in Manhattan, New York, injuring 79 passengers and one crew member. Investigators identifed poor propulsion system control design as a contributory factor. 1 A few months later in a separate but related incident, a chemical tanker ran aground in the U.K.'s Dover Strait. The investigation report blames the tanker's crew for incorrectly operating the electronic chart display and information system, but it also states "… the features of this particular ECDIS on board the vessel were diffcult and appeared to not comply with international standards." 2 "Accidents, like a fraying rope, are always a series of missed opportunities, but the blame typically falls on the final strand in a rope that breaks — often it is the human being." — Ms. Deborah Hersman National Transportation Safety Board chair Is it Just About User Interface? Human beings construct mental models of the systems they interact with. In the case of a modern ship's bridge, the crew's mental model depends on the user interface design, as it is only through the user interface that a user can know what the system is doing and what its status is. However, user interfaces are typically quite limited in the amount of information they can portray, and auto- mation often results in hiding the way a system works behind an array of user interface complexities. In the days of sailing ships, the helmsman moved a ship's wheel or tiller to manoeuvre the vessel, and could feel and see what the ship was doing as a result. Automation has, in many cases, resulted in less user feedback — a loss of the form and function relationship that exists in mechanical devices. Poorly designed automated systems can lead to situa- tions where users can fnd themselves devoting more attention to managing the interface rather than man- aging their tasks. Additionally, system interfaces that Human-Centered Design for Navigation Systems Reducing costs, increasing operations effciency, and delivering signifcant safety improvements. by Mr. niCK leMon Manager, Nautical and Regulation Navigation Safety and International Division Australian Maritime Safety Authority MiChelle ritA GreCh, ph.d. Head of Section, Human Factors Ship Safety Division Australian Maritime Safety Authority Technology ECDIS check-route page on a chemical tanker. Crown copyright, 2014. Reprinted with permission.