Upcoming dissertation defence: Markus Ahola

MA Markus Ahola will defend his dissertation Tracing Passenger Safety Perception for Cruise Ship Design on Friday 13 January 2017.

  • Where: Sampo Hall, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Hämeentie 135 C Helsinki
  • When: 12:00-14:00
  • Opponent: PhD, professor Margareta Lützhöft, Australian Maritime College
  • Custos: professor Turkka Keinonen, Aalto University Department of Design
  • Facebook event

The discussion will be in English.


This study explores how passengers perceive safety on board a cruise ship during normal operating conditions. The research aims to deepen understanding of how the different environmental characteristics of a cruise ship impact safety perceptions and determine whether it is possible to enhance perceived safety by means of design and how the interaction of different environmental characteristics can be visualized to support the ship design process.

Passengers can only feel comfortable in conditions that they perceive as safe. Safety and comfort constitute key criteria for cruise operators when they order new cruise ships. Comprehension of passengers’ safety perception can guide the design process towards improved safety and a more enjoyable cruise experience. Understanding of passengers’ safety perception provides valuable information for ship societies developing cruise ship comfort classifications.

The study followed the user-centred research approach. User data were collected through 19 situated interviews and 38 days of observation in an authentic cruise ship environment during five cruises. Passenger insights were analysed by visualizing the interconnectivity of the identified human (openness, sounds) and non-human (handrails, uniforms) environmental characteristics. This revealed how individual environmental characteristics are interrelated in terms of passengers’ perceived safety. The findings were verified with a survey, which applied conjoint analysis.

The research highlights the importance of passengers’ perceptions for designing a safe and comfortable ship. It argues that safety perception in a cruise ship environment is responsive to passenger perceptions of certain connected human and non-human environmental characteristics that are typical of this environment. These same environmental characteristics appear in ship safety regulations and in passengers’ perceptions, but their perspectives differ.

Designers are able to influence passenger safety perceptions through the openness and transparency of the space, thereby enhancing visibility and navigation as well as providing egress options. Design can also communicate trust in the ship’s emergency handling capacity through the visibility and appearance of the life-saving appliances, competent crew and well-maintained equipment. Furthermore, situational awareness should be supported through the design of the environmental characteristics, such as sounds, signage and architectural elements.

Mastering positive translations from interconnected human and non-human environmental characteristics to safety perceptions helps to enhance passengers’ comfort and avoid misperceptions that lead to discomfort and even incorrect behaviour in accident situations.