Postgraduate research opportunities Development of a framework for maritime human risk-informed design


Key facts

  • Opens: Tuesday 25 May 2021
  • Deadline: Wednesday 1 September 2021
  • Number of places: 1
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Funding: Home fee, Stipend


An opportunity to join Maritime Human Factors Centre at the University of Strathclyde as a fully funded PhD student. The scholarship covers UK ‘home’ student fees and stipend.
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The successful candidate will be based at the Maritime Human Factors Centre at the University of Strathclyde. The project will commence as soon as a successful candidate is identified ideally before 1 October 2021. The successful candidate will receive a fully-funded scholarship for three years, which covers all university tuition fees and an annual stipend.

The successful candidate will work in the very popular topic of “maritime human factors”. The topic become very important as the maritime systems and ships became more complex as a result human limitations and abilities became important to ensure operational safety and efficiency. As new/novel technologies are being implemented on contemporary ships with a very rapid rate (such as autonomous ships) it was never more important to assess the impact of these changes on human element and make human-risk-informed decisions at design stage. 

Therefore, to investigate this topical issue, the ideal candidate should have a strong interest in maritime safety and risk, able to review and understand maritime operations which includes decomposing accidental events. The candidate is expected to be good at human risk and reliability modelling. Familiarity and experience with human reliability assessment methods is ideal but not essential.

The candidate is expected to have the following qualifications:

  • strong background or interest in maritime safety and risk
  • strong background or interest in human factors
  • strong background or interest in safety culture
  • strong motivation to publish academic papers
  • applicants should have familiarity with maritime to understand how operations are conducted
  • applicants should have innovative thinking to be able to propose novel technology-based solutions to improve operational performance and safety
  • applicants should hold (or expect to get) a minimum of a first-class honours degree or an MSc with distinction in engineering, or a related field
  • a self-motivated individual who will take ownership of their research project
  • a proactive approach, with initiative and ability to work independently
  • ability to synthesise, summarise and draw conclusions
  • strength to cope with schedules and deadlines
  • excellent organisational and communication skills
  • excellent written and spoken English
  • an ability to work well in a team

Based on the strengths and background of the selected candidate the scope of the PhD study will be further detailed and amended if necessary.

The studentship is due to commence 1 October 2021 but will remain open until filled.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

Human operators play a crucial role in terms of achieving safe and efficient marine operations. Because of significant human involvement in maritime operations, it is not surprising to observe that when a maritime accident happens it is often attributed to some sort of human error. As a result, a lot of researchers were interested in the role of the human factor in shipping accidents, for example, Rothblum (2000) indicates that “about 75–96% of marine casualties are caused, at least in part, by some form of human error”. Graziano et al. (2016) explain that “human factors were involved in 80% of marine casualties” and Turan et al. (2016) identify that “more than 80% of shipping accidents are attributed to Human/organisational Error”. As it can be seen, there is a lot of interest in quantifying the number of times human error caused accidents but these research efforts do not translate into new design solutions, hence they do not go beyond blaming the human operator. Therefore, the majority of human-factor-related solutions discussed and proposed in the maritime sector are "training" focussed which aims to correct the failing component, i.e. the human operator. This is a clear indication that there is a lack of understanding of human centred design in the maritime domain. Therefore, data and available techniques are rarely applied at the design and safety assessment stages, when they can be most effective.

On the other hand, risk-based design approaches exist in the maritime sector. For example, ‘formal safety assessment’(FSA) and risk-based design approaches are generally used to compare proposed engineering changes to ship design and assess the feasibility implementing this new engineering improvement. However, a specific problem exists when trying to adapt Human factor-related improvements into FSA as there is lack of sufficient relevant data on human factors and lack of human risk models. Therefore, if human informed risk, can be incorporated within risk-based design and operation, then maritime human factors should be systematically studied and necessary information should be created.

Therefore, this PhD study will focus on developing a maritime human risk-informed design framework for ship systems/procedures.

As part of this research work, assessment methods for human reliability and human factor tools and methods for design will be reviewed and harmonised. A high-level approach/framework for maritime will be established. Then, informed by the review work and guided by the supervisor key maritime operations will be selected to be modelled. The necessary data will also be collected/generated. This will require investigation of past accidents and decomposition of factors that lead into these accidental events. It is expected that human-in-the-loop simulations can be conducted to prototype new systems, validate developed models as well as to generate missing data. This will require designing experimental investigations and establishing KPIs and developing a performance measurement approach. These simulations can be conducted in NAOME’s Virtual Reality Lab or in Full Mission Bridge Simulator. With the successful completion of this project quantitative risk models will be ready to be used to calculate the impact of design alternatives on system risk. The framework with its tools will demonstrate that, safety contribution of a human factor related design improvement can be calculated and assessed in advance and ship design can be improved at the stage when it is most effective to make amendments.

The studentship is due to commence 1 October 2021 but will remain open until filled. The studentship is open to all applicants. While international and EU students are welcome to apply, candidates should be informed that, the scholarship covers UK ‘home’ student tuition fees therefore the difference between home and international feels should be covered by the student.

Because of the Brexit transition period, EU students can still be classified as a home student given that they start before 31 July.

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Funding Details

The scholarship covers UK ‘home’ student tuition fees, but international and EU students are also welcome to apply. Because of the Brexit transition period, EU students can still be classified as a home student given that they start before 31 July.

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Dr Rafet Emek Kurt

Additional supervisors: Prof Osman Turan, Dr Sefer Anil Gunbeyaz

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Contact us

For any queries, please contact Dr Rafet Emek Kurt