Ship sense – what is it and how does one get it?
Ship handling is the common denominator of all master mariners' duties. Based on ship handling abilities the officer’s expertness is measured – it is the universal figure of merit. The concept of Ship sense is about what lies behind this ship handling ability. As such, ship sense is central to the professional role of being a master mariner.
When talking to seafarers almost everyone has heard about "getting a feeling for your ship" (referring to behaviour concerning the manoeuvring part of navigation). This tacit knowledge is often referred to as “gut feeling”, and accordingly it is difficult to rationalize. At a first glance it appears like it’s something one has - or doesn't, making it difficult to delimit how is it can be obtained, learned, or transferred.
This ship handling gut feeling for the manoeuvring of ships is what Johannes has coined ship sense. In this area of research Johannes tries to clarify what ship sense really is by identifying underlying parameters and how it is obtained. Is proper training sufficient or has heredity and environment anything to do with it?
The lack of ship sense is most salient when it comes to difficult manoeuvring situations, and the lack of ship sense is alleged to be one of the prevailing causes for incidents. Although the incident might not result in any personal injury, it still might be very costly for both the shipping company (through lost time at sea when forced to make repairs) as well as for the insurance companies.
Until today, the main focus of perception research has been on the traditional five senses where vision seems to be the dominating one. Some work on multimodal concepts has been carried out, but mainly concerning the traditional senses as, for example, the tactile sense in combination with vision.
Johannes Prison currently holds a position as doctoral candidate in the Maritime Human Factors research group at Chalmers. His doctoral research includes reviews of the literature bringing together available knowledge in the area, interviews with navigational officers and simulator studies. Johannes’ findings will allow a better understanding of what "ship sense" is all about. He further hopes that his results will generate knowledge on how to support officers on the bridge, and how this can contribute to increase the safety in shipping.