Maritime safety leadership and simulator-based training
Ship officers hold a central role in maintaining safe and efficient operations at sea. The purpose of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of maritime safety leadership and explore how bridge simulators can be used to train experienced deck officers. This is investigated through a qualitative study answering four research questions:
? How is safety leadership understood in a maritime context?
? What leadership skills do maritime officers need, and how can these be trained?
? What is the significance of social factors in the simulator-based training of professional deck officers?
? How is the simulator-based training of deck officers used to manage performance variability and safety at sea?
The dissertation contains four different but interlinked scientific works addressing each specific research question in addition to contributing to an overall understanding of the social processes involved in maritime safety leadership and the training of deck officers. The empirical material is collected in two main bulks. The leadership context is investigated by spending 33 days at three oil tankers and by interviewing 50 crew members at these ships. Maritime training practices are investigated by observing 13 simulator-based courses for deck officers and by interviewing 12 instructors and 29 course participants.
The work uncovers that safety leadership in a maritime context can be described as a balancing act and demonstrates how maritime officers must adjust their leadership to both informal factors and formal requirements to run the ship in an efficient and safe manner. Six safety leadership skills are proposed ? situation awareness, decision making, communication, team coordination, assertiveness, and adaptability. The last skill category relates to resilience skills and the ability to manage performance variability. The thesis coins the terms social fidelity to bridge the gap between computer technology and collaborative learning activities pointing to the importance of social processes in simulator-based training. The study demonstrates that realistic training should not only focus on adverse events and emergency handling but must also include mundane tasks and minor deviations so that operators can learn to catch and contain errors before they evolve into uncontrollable situations.
The overarching theme of this PhD project is maritime leadership at the operational level and its importance for maintaining safety. This kind of leadership is different from what you will find at institutional or administrative level in an organization. These are team leaders who supervise daily work and are responsible for the core activities of the shipping company, always keeping risk at an absolute minimum during critical operations. What kind of knowledge is required to be a successful leader at this level?
Safety statistics show that weak, inadequate or unprofessional leadership is to blame in many accidents. In order to improve safety new international legislations require that all officers are given leadership training. Is this change in requirements sufficient to create lasting change of leadership practice in the industry? What kind of training must be given?
There are usually several persons onboard a ship holding an officer rank and a leader role, depending on the size of the vessel and kind of operations. This project will focus on the top 3 officers on board; the master, the chief mate and the chief engineer.
The thesis will look into what competence is needed to perform this kind of leadership. Using a sociological perspective it will try to answer what training is needed to improve leadership competence. How can shipping companies best support necessary education and enable safety leadership onboard their vessels? What kind of considerations must be given to organizational culture, fleet size, geographically location and type of operation?
Methodological choice will follow both qualitative and quantitative traditions used in social sciences. Data sources will include document studies, observations, interviews and the use of questionnaire. The collection of data will be done in close cooperation with SMSC and Teekay.