Situation awareness of marine control room operators

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Interest in situation awareness (SA) originated in the 1980s primarily in aviation psychology and has since expanded to other areas where people interact with and control dynamic environments from nuclear power stations to driving cars. SA is important for those in control of dynamic systems, particularly those rich in information and is a precursor to decision making. SA is a psychological construct that is not directly observable, with no agreement regarding an operational definition. This research extends the field of interest to that of ships’ officers who act as cargo control room operators and are responsible for the loading and discharging of bulk flammable, noxious and polluting liquids such as oil, chemicals and liquefied gases on tankers. It investigates the relationship between operators’ SA and their task focus and operators’ SA and their experience.
The SAGAT methodology was adapted and a detailed task analysis resulted in a battery of probe questions which were administered in a high fidelity liquid cargo simulator to determine operator SA.
It was hypothesised that SA for tasks which are the main focus of attention would be greatest and that operators with greater experience would achieve greater SA than those with less. Unexpectedly the results suggest that operators achieved tasks with limited SA. No relationship was established between SA and experience which may impact on methods of risk assessment used within the tanker chartering industry.
Original contributions from the research outcomes show that marine control room operators experiencing high cognitive workloads achieved task goals while attending to a small number of key parameters. There was a divergence between the SA achieved by operators and the ideal SA defined by subject matter experts. Subjects did prepare themselves to answer probe questions in a simulated environment contrary to claims from other researchers.
Date of AwardJun 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Nottingham Trent University

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