The EfficienSea2 project strives to make way for a more efficient, safe and sustainable traffic at the Baltic Sea with a new e-navigation platform. Our human factors experts have helped optimise the platform by analysing it from the users’ perspective through a usability test.

The Baltic Web platform, developed by the EU-project EfficienSea2, is an independent software tool that supports the navigators’ decision-making process. The aim is to make it easier for navigators in the Baltic Sea to collect and exchange information electronically among ships and between ships and shore.

Examples of elements within the platform are real-time navigational warnings displayed on a digital map and electronic exchange of vessel information to VTS centres when the ship is approaching specific areas.

Analysing the platform from the users’ perspective

To find out how the e-navigation platform and its services work in real life when used by the mariners, human factors experts from FORCE Technology and Chalmers University have conducted a usability and proof of concept test of the e-navigation platform. Here, the software was tested and evaluated by the users while the human factors experts observed the users’ interaction with the platform.

Areas of examination

The Baltic Web platform contains various services. Four key services were included in the usability test:

1. Route optimisation
2. VTS (Vessel Traffic Service)
3. Navigational warnings (i.e. Maritime Safety Information)
4. No-go areas in the Baltic Sea

During the test, the human factors experts observed how mariners used the new e-navigation platform while planning a route, and when the mariners used the service in a simulated navigation scenario. For the experts to determine exactly what the persons were focusing on as well as their physiological responses, the participants’ stress levels where monitored (using a sensory GSR tracker), and their eye-movements were captured via eye-tracking glasses.

More efficient and less time-consuming

When the human factors experts examined the test results together with Chalmers University in Göteborg, Sweden, they detected some interesting findings.
Overall, the users found the e-navigation services useful. Some services such as the navigational warning service were very useful navigation tools for the users – in fact several users asked for the navigational warnings to be included directly in the ECDIS systems as an add-on layer. However, many of the services were useful planning tools and used less for navigation during the actual trip.

Regarding the VTS service, the test results showed that by using the standardised template for VTS reporting, the users saved considerable time because the system automatically exchanged relevant information to the VTS station.

As is the case with all new things, services within the e-navigation platform should be easy to implement in order to convince the marines to use the e-service because changing habits and routines can be a challenge for all humans.

Key learnings

Analysing how the mariners interacted with the e-navigation platform provided valuable input to the software developers. These are key learnings from the usability study:

Learning 1: information that should be compared must be placed close to each other in the same screen view.

Learning 2: set up clear rules for entering information and clear feedback if the information is not entered correctly.

Learning 3: key information should be prominent both in format and placement on the screen.

Applying the recommendations

From the analysis, the human factors experts provided the EfficienSea-project team with concrete recommendations for specific solutions that would improve the usability of the e-navigation services.

The developers use this input to ensure that the e-navigation services are easier for users to understand and apply, and also to increase user-friendliness, productivity and the experienced product quality.

Furthermore, the findings and recommendations from the Human factors study will also be used in the development of future e-navigational solutions.

During the usability test it was observed how the mariners used the new e-navigation platform while planning a route. The participants' eye-movements were captured via eye-tracking glasses.

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