Human XFactor at Sea project explored how the human factor contributes to maritime safety


The influence of the human factor upon safety at sea is an extremely complex and multidimensional construct. Despite all the technological development and safety systems available, human factors remain the main cause of maritime accident events. The Human XFactor at Sea project explored maritime operations to gain new knowledge and understanding of the significance of the human factor in maritime safety. As a result, numerous areas requiring further research were identified to enable fostering safety.

The human element has constantly been identified as the major contributing factor to accidents and incidents within the maritime domain. According to the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) Annual Overview of Marine Casualties and Incidents (2019), human factor was cited to be the cause in over 65% of accident events. A lot has already been done but the maritime domain is a complex sociotechnical system. It may become even more complex when digitalisation and automation become more prevalent. Technological innovations have been taken as technologies that can improve human performance and reduce risks and incidents. However, increasing technology may create even a more complex operating environment, where new risks and challenges may emerge. Each year, incidents have been investigated, accident reports studied, new research taken place, and new recommendations and improvements made but the share stays on a high level. Could it be that the problem lies somewhere else where we are not looking into? One needs to understand why safety fails despite all the actions taken place.

The Human XFactor project took to investigate the issue further to identify the problem spaces. The project consortium, for instance, produced a comprehensive State of Play report on the maritime domain. It provides perspectives elicited from different actors in the maritime domain, such as mariners, practitioners, and other stakeholders. The analyses made showed the multiplicity of actors and stakeholders in the domain, their relationships and interactions, and the current and expected changes and challenges. This led to identification of a number of salient research topics that need addressing now or in the near future to tackle the risks concerning the impact of the human factor in maritime safety.

In this project, the focus was very much on finding gaps and challenges. Nonetheless, one should remember that the human element also brings a significant positive benefit and contribution to safe operation and production in the maritime domain.

About the Human XFactor at Sea project

The Human XFactor at Sea was a one-year seed money project co-financed by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme. Its aim was to explore the ways the human factor contributes to maritime safety. The Centre for Maritime Studies coordinated the project, other partners represented the Lund University, Tallinn University of Technology, and Chalmers University of Technology.

More information

Kirsi Laitio  kirsi.laitio(@)

Sari Nyroos  sari.nyroos(@)

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Created 29.11.2021 | Updated 02.02.2022