Proceedings of the

The 33rd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2023)
3 – 8 September 2023, Southampton, UK

Cognitive Workload when Novices and Experts Supervise Autonomous Ships – Findings from Empirical Studies

Magnhild Kaarstad1,a, Alf Ove Braseth1,b, Gudbrand Strømmen2,c and Jon Bernhard Høstmark2,d

1Institute for Energy Technology, Norway.

2Kongsberg Group, Kongsberg Maritime, Norway.


In the maritime industry, there is currently a drive towards more environmentally friendly operations and reduced costs while maintaining a high level of safety. It is expected that the next major change in this domain will be autonomous or partly autonomous ships supervised from a land-based operation center. It is therefore a need to develop a safe and efficient operational concept. One research topic is to investigate how operator workload is affected in different situations. In this paper, we explore the following research questions: 1) How is workload experienced when supervising one vs three autonomous ships? 2) How is workload experienced by novices (gamers) and experts (navigators) while supervising autonomous ships? 3) How is workload experienced by experts while supervising three autonomous ships in different interaction design solutions? The questions are explored through empirical studies. Two maritime simulation exercises with novices and experts as participants were conducted. The findings indicate that workload is higher when supervising three ships compared to one ship. The findings also suggest that different display design concepts affect navigators' situation understanding, and that some interaction design solutions are particularly challenging for novices. Findings from the study can be used to further guide interaction design development for supervising autonomous ships, and as a first step to explore competencies needed by future navigators.

Keywords: Autonomous ships, Remote operation center, Workload, Experts vs. Novices, Interaction design layouts, Situation understanding, Empirical study.

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