Human Factors Challenges in Unmanned Ship Operations: Insights from Other Domains

Mikael Wahlström, Jaakko Hakulinen, Hannu Karvonen, Iiro Lindborg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    75 Citations (Scopus)


    This study presents an overview to human factors challenges that potentially concern future shore control centers for unmanned ships. Although commercial unmanned shipping does not yet exist, it is worth to consider this emerging technology domain. Without the bridge and the systems supporting the crew, the ships could be lighter and carry more cargo – this would increase revenues and fuel efficiency. Literature review of autonomous and remote operation on various fields, these being aviation, forestry, cars, subway systems, space operations, military, and cranes, and making contrast to the nautical context were applied as a method for identifying potential challenges. The most prominent issues to be considered include information overload, boredom, mishaps during changeovers and handoffs, lack of feel of the vessel, constant reorientation to new tasks, delays in control and monitoring, and the need for human understanding in local knowledge and object differentiation (e.g., in differentiating between help-seekers and pirates). Positive aspects, in turn, include lack of seasickness and physical damage to the crew in harsh weather conditions, and the possibility to functional specialization. Potential interaction and representation techniques were considered as well. Overall, our study provides insight for shore control center design. We suggest that the control centers should reflect agile command and control. This implies that the unmanned ships should be attached to global support networks and be able to reproduce information for them; video and sensor data could be transmitted directly. The shore control centers should be capable and willing to proactively communicate with the manned vessels and the authorities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1038-1045
    JournalProcedia Manufacturing
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • human factors
    • unmanned ships
    • remote operation
    • monitoring


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