The crucial influence of the human element on safety, security and environmental protection has been recognised by the IMO, including in its ‘vision, principles and goals’ for the human element, as set out in IMO Resolution A.947 (23). This acknowledges ‘the need for increased focus on human-related activities in the safe operation of ships, and the need to achieve and maintain high standards of safety, security and environmental protection for the purpose of significantly reducing maritime casualties.’ [1]

This person-centred approach provides the tools and the means to address the human element and mitigate human-system issues. However, there is an increasing tendency in the maritime industry, and in national legislation, to see the human element as only a matter of competence and leadership. This represents the least effective treatment of hazards. Designing out and protecting against are the preferred hazard treatments and more information on this is available in Ch E2.2. These require consideration of the human component of maritime systems when designing ships and ship systems for resilient performance.

Human-systems issues continually change as technology and operational practices change. Reactive regulations and rules that mitigate particular failures associated with reported incidents will not prevent the next incident. Human hazard identification and near-miss analysis are crucial to effective management of the human contribution to incidents. At present neither of these is routine in the maritime industry.


  1. IMO 2003, Resolution A.947(23) Human Element Vision, Principles and Goals for the Organisation, 2003. International Maritime Organisation,