Introducing vessel train operations in the existing waterborne transport system could improve working conditions for people working in the transport chain and on board the vessel train. Therefore, the need for well-designed automation and human machine interfaces in combination with newly defined skills could be expected. NOVIMAR researched these aspects.
Opportunities erasing from vessel train operations
Vessel train operations offered opportunities for increasing the sailing time of ships as control of follower vessels was handed over to the leader vessel. It then depended on whether the follower vessel was manned or unmanned. If they remained manned during the transit, crews on the follower vessels could spend their time to take some rest or to perform other tasks such as maintenance, whilst the leader vessel navigated the vessel train to its destination.
It had been expected that technology would create a further move towards fully integrated shipborne navigation and platform systems connected to shore support systems. Remote monitoring of critical shipborne systems like propulsion provide opportunities to reduce crew sizes to an acceptable minimum and on the other hand created new jobs to operate these shore support systems.
Handing over the control of a follower vessel created a shift of responsibilities and workload to the crew of the leader vessel. Compared to the situation when a ship was towed by a tug boat this was not a new mechanism, however the vessel train was operated by remote control operations. This required much attention of the leader vessels crew as each follower ship must be told “what to do”. In order to limit their workload, support from well-designed automation and human machine interfaces must be made available.
Further this type of supervision differed from normal practise, in which only one vessel is driven, and “directly”, i.e. with a classical steering system and wheel.
Vessel train crews could be confronted with stress due to the larger consequences in case of something going wrong: the supervising crew would be responsible for all the followers. In such situations compared to the normal situation with only one ship, the consequences would be multiplied by the number of ships. Hence, ways to reduce this stress needed to be investigated.
Based on the outcome of the most promising water transport system, required skills were identified.