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News Article 25/10/2006

Making Marine Software Easy to Use Don't Go Superficial (An abstract from Digital Ship Hong Kong ,Digital ship, October 2006, p.16)

Farzin Karma, managing director Asia Pacific Ulysses Systems, gave a presentation examining how we can make software more user friendly for today's seafarers.
"The chief engineer and the master have dozens of tasks to do", he said. "And the per capita demand for information management is exponentially increasing".
"It's not just enough to put manuals on board. All of the fragmented information available needs to be easy to find by the people who need it. It needs to be linked to a person's particular job and particular role."
"Automated systems and computerized systems can help to relieve some of the seafarers burden," Mr Karma continued. "They need to be easy to use, even in stressful or distracting situations. I never see a situation where a master doesn't get interrupted by onte thing or another."
"If the master is filling a report of a cut on a seafarer''s hand, he shouldn't suffer a brain haemorrhage doing it. Otherwise next time he''ll just say ''put a band aid on it and get him back to work''.
"Risk management is knowledge management. The more you know about a situation, the better you can mitigate the risk."
"A system can tell you how many times an incident occurred in these types of conditions, but it can't tell about how a guy might have problems at home, is upset, and isn't focused," Mr. Karma added. "Human experience is an important factor. You can't map the mind, so don't even try."
With the small number of crew onboard these days, many seafarers also have to be able to perform a number of different tasks aboard the vessel.
"Ships are different from offices, as the users are more so multi-tasking risk managers, the average users have a low exposure to IT, and there's a lack of secretarial or clerical assistance," Mr Karma said. "Maritime also has to deal with data transfer over satellite, which is expensive."
"You need to match your requirements to your real, bottom-line needs. Don't base it on the ''look good to your boss'' needs. It can be expensive too, the implementation cost can actually be 7 to 10 times greater than the purchase price of the system. So make sure you really need it."
Mr Karma was asked a question about what kind of companies had been purchasing systems from his company recently.
"We 've had a blend of ''had software before'' companies, about 30 per cent, with others, to an extent, new to these systems," he explained. "The ones really new to IT I found mostly in Japan, surprisingly."
"TMSA has been a key driver. Also, the awareness that requirements are getting so huge that IT is really needed to keep things under control is growing."