The Human Element: A Guide to Human Behaviour in the Shipping Industry - SKULD Edition

Published Date

May 2012

The Human Element: A Guide to Human Behaviour in the Shipping Industry - SKULD Edition

(Excludes any applicable taxes)

This Guide explains fundamental aspects of human behaviour, which together constitute what the commercial maritime sector calls ‘the human element’. It makes clear that the human element is neither peripheral nor optional in the pursuit of a profitable and safe shipping industry. On the contrary, the capabilities and vulnerabilities of human beings are – and always will be – at the centre of the enterprise.



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The Guide is aimed at masters and crews, owners and managers, designers and buyers and regulators and investigators.

The Guide clearly shows that managing the human element must take place simultaneously at all levels of the industry – from within the engine rooms and decks of the smallest cargo ships to the conventions of the regulation makers and the boardrooms of the business strategists. It is the policies and strategies that shape and constrain the space in which ships and their crews operate.

The Guide offers insight, explanation and advice to help manage the human element more effectively.

Analysis of shipping disasters in recent years has produced an increasing awareness of the central importance of the human element. The loss of life, the impact on company profits and credibility, and the vast environmental damage that can result from the loss of a vessel remain clear and present dangers.

Several recent initiatives have documented aspects of the human element, most notably ALERT!, a series of publications by Lloyds Register and the Nautical Institute. These are excellent resources that have been very successful in raising awareness about the importance of the human element. Because of these materials it is now widely understood that human issues are involved in almost all marine incidents. At the same time, the frequency of marine incidents continues unabated. It is not enough, it seems, to simply know that human issues are important.

It is now vital to make a clear connection between these human issues and the business success of those who make their living from the shipping industry – whether on ship or ashore. Specifically, everyone involved needs to understand that they, themselves, are the human element. Their continued business success depends on how far they are able to manage their own behaviour along with the behaviour of those around them.

This Guide was developed to help them do just that.

About this Guide

1. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Sophie’s Choice
Putting it all Above Board
Knowing which Way the Wind Blows
Sophie’s World

2. Getting Under Way
What is the Human Element?
Charting the Course
1 People Actively Make Sense of Things
2 People Take Risks
3 People Make Decisions
4 People Make Mistakes
5 People Get Tired and Stressed
6 People Learn and Develop
7 People Work with Each Other
8 People Communicate with Each Other
Battening Down
Getting Started

3 . Making Sense of Things
What’s the Situation?
How do we Make Sense of Things?
Our Personal Needs
Our Self-Concept
Our Past Experience
Our Shared Goals
Our Need to be Practical
How Much of a Problem is Sense-Making?
When does Sense-Making Become a Problem?
Reference for this Section

4. Taking Risks
What is Risk?
What Affects our Assessment of Risk?
Perceived Control
Perceived Value
Perceived Familiarity
How can People Become Better Attuned to Risk?
Reference for this Section

5. Making Decisions
How do People Make Decisions?
Available Time
Available Information
Efficiency Versus Thoroughness
What Draws us Towards Efficient Decisions?
How does Culture Influence Decision Making?
Does all this Help Explain Why we Break Rules?
What’s Different About Expert Decision Making?
Situational Awareness
Situational Familiarity
Reference for this Section

6. Making Mistakes
What’s the Problem?
What Kinds of Mistakes do we Make?
What Factors Make Mistakes More Likely?
Individual Influences on Mistake-Making
Organisational Influences on Mistake Making
How can we Stop Mistakes from Becoming Disasters?
Things Happen Due to Cause and Effect…Don’t They?
Things Happen Due to Complex System Behaviour
Protecting Organisations from Things That Happen
So Who is Accountable – and What can be Done?
How should Accountability be Assessed?
Honest Mistake – or Negligence?
Legal Accountability: Fairy Tales with Unhappy Endings
Organic Accountability: ‘Just’ Desserts
What are the Aims and Benefits of a ‘Just Culture’?
What are the Problems in Developing a ‘Just Culture’?
Reference for this Section

7. Getting Tired and Stressed
How Much of a Problem is Fatigue?
What Causes Fatigue?
What is ‘Sleep Debt’ and What Causes it?
What are the Effects of Fatigue?
How do You Stop Fatigue Becoming a Safety Issue?
Design Considerations
Operational Considerations
What’s the Connection Between Fatigue & Stress?
What are the Causes of Stress?
How can Stress be Reduced?
By Designing it Out
By Talking About it
Reference for this Section
Online Resources (in Mar ’10)

8. Learning and Developing
Learning is Normal …
… So, What is Learning?
Basic Principles
Formal vs. Informal Learning
What are the Benefits of Investment in Training?
What’s Involved in Training Investment?
Training Needs Analysis
Training Design and Delivery
Training Evaluation
Reference for this Section


9. Working with Others
In What Ways do we Work With Others?
How can Individuals get the Best Out of Each Other?
Getting the Most Out of Assessing Others
Coping with Difficult Conversations
A Better Way to Negotiate
How can Team Members Work Effectively?
What is a Team?
What are Team Skills?
Reference for this Section

10. Communicating with Others
What is Communication?
What does Communication Require?
Different Perspectives
Common Dialogue
How Much of a Problem is Communication Failure?
Why does Human Communication Fail?
How can Communication Failures be Prevented?
Reference for this Section

11. Taking the Con
Working with Human Behaviour
So, How do You do it?
Making the DOs Happen
Stopping the DON’Ts from Happening
The View from the Wheelhouse
Reference for this Section

Case Study


The global shipping industry is a dangerous place. Every day, it loses two ships, pays out US$4 million in claims and radically changes the lives of hundreds of people for ever. Human behaviour is the source of virtually all such loss. It is also the reason why the loss is not greater. This book is dedicated to the professionalism of seafarers everywhere, and to the growing number of seafaring organisations who wants to know how to guide human behaviour in a safer and more profitable direction.

Skuld offers Protection and Indemnity (P&I) for shipowners, liability covers for charterers, defence insurance as well as offshore cover. Additional marine and energy covers are provided through Skuld 1897, a Syndicate at Lloyd’s.

Title: The Human Element: A Guide to Human Behaviour in the Shipping Industry - SKULD Edition
Number of Pages: 162
Product Code: SK1003K
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-1-85609-538-9 (9781856095389), ISBN 10: 1-85609-538-X (185609538X)
Published Date: May 2012
Binding Format: Paperback
Book Height: 235 mm
Book Width: 157 mm
Book Spine: 10 mm
Weight: 0.50 kg
Author: SKULD Assuranceforening

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