PhD Studentship: Influence of stress and fatigue on crew performance training requirements

United Kingdom
Dec 22, 2017
Feb 12, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time
It is often reported that 80% of maritime accidents are due to human error, with a large proportion of these attributed to a failure to follow procedures. The usual response to this is to increase training. A recent research project (MARTHA) which looked into fatigue and sleepiness onboard ships, concluded that although all crew showed increased levels of fatigue by the end of a voyage, certain crew members (particularly 2nd Officers) were more susceptible to tiredness and that fatigue and stress were inter-related. 

The aim of this project will be to measure the levels of fatigue and stress in targeted Deck Officers from modern vessels. This will be carried out using modern fitness trackers which can record activity, heart rate and track sleep in an unobtrusive manner. This will be combined with vessel tracking data from AIS and ship motions data and environmental data from wave buoys. Data fusion techniques will be used to determine periods of acute stress and poor sleep leading to fatigue. This information will be used to develop more realistic training programmes which incorporate appropriate stressors, which could potentially reduce the negative effects of stress/ fatigue as the trainees become habituated to the stressors. The project will also investigate the levels of activity and stress when off watch and when not at sea, in particular the periods before and after a long sea voyage. 

The ideal candidate will have a background in Human Factors Engineering. Depending on the background of the successful PhD student, suitable training will be provided from specialist modules across Engineering and Health Sciences. In particular Ship Design and Economics and Research Methods for Evidence Based Practice. The student will also be given the opportunity to learn about ship operation and crew training from a major shipping company. Training in relevant analysis software will also be provided. 

The recent Global Marine Technology Trends 2030 document highlighted the increasing technology onboard ships and the need for highly skilled crew to operate them. Skilled crew requires good training programmes, which need to reinforce the correct human behaviours in stressful situations, especially as humans have finite resources in terms of memory and attention.

Currently, a career at sea is not viewed in the same aspirational way as say becoming a commercial airline pilot. Yet the physical, mental and emotional requirements are very similar. The need to recruit highly skilled crew for ship operations will require significant development of training that more adequately prepares people for the ships of the future. 

The design of shipboard systems is usually the responsibility of engineers, but the evaluation of these systems needs to be carried out from the human perspective. This needs a multi-disciplinary approach building on the work already carried out between engineering and psychology in the laboratory and incorporating real in-situ measurement based on occupational health practice. This exciting research has the potential to reduce major shipping accidents, saving lives and reducing environmental impact.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Dominic Taunton, Fluid Structure Interactions research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 3706.

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