About Mehrangiz’s research
The continual progression of Industry 4.0 adoption across industries has impacted many facets of maritime transport and logistics. Indeed, digitalisation transformation has accelerated the progress of intelligent transport system (ITS) through disruptive changes to ship design, operations, and manning to enhance safety, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. The digitalisation in the maritime industry contributed to ITS by introduction of maritime intelligent transport system (MITS) through autonomous and smart shipping.
This digital transformation in the industry directly impacts the workforce especially the operators. This in turn requires the human in the loop to possess new qualifications and capabilities to be able to operate and manage the new intelligent and digitalised workplace. Therefore, a new set of training criteria is needed that fits the new job definitions to assist human operators in their transition from traditional to autonomous shipping.
Thus, this qualitative project aims to explore the multi-dimensional impact of autonomous transportation technology resulting from the application of Industry 4.0 technologies on seafarers as a critical driver of ITS.
The digitalisation and fusion of Industry 4.0 technologies in the shipping transportation is affecting the human roles and responsibilities of seafarers, and the future seafaring skills and competencies in an unprecedented way. Despite the enormous research, innovation, and implementation of the technology there is major gap in research toward its effect on the human and the workforce.
The changes initiated by the application of Industry 4.0 in the shipping industry and autonomous shipping introduction will require a future workforce with novel capabilities to manage complexity within a more sophisticated autonomous platform.
Reflections on her PhD
The most important lesson Mehrangiz has learnt to date is that the PhD journey is quite different to her previous studies. And that it has required an increase in her time management skills, the quality of her writing, and her people skills, as she finds herself more and more having to work with a wider circle of people.
“And motivation. I find that the need to motivate myself, and my ability to do so, has taken a leap forward. And as with many things in life, loving what I do certainly helps my abilities and the work I produce.”
Her PhD subject requires her to know about many different topics, and it is a significant challenge to keep herself on top of what’s happening in this fast-growing area of new technology. And in taking in all of that information from the many, many sources, being careful about some development that look trendy and shiny, but may lead to lack of focus on the main areas of the subject.
“This is a concern in which good time management helps enormously, filtering the information and research directions that are the most salient, and then breaking big information into smaller subjects to me stem the information flood.”
Post PhD she plans to work either in academia, or in the industry as a researcher and consultant. Either way her goal is that her work helps the industry. At the same time, she will always look for opportunities to expand her knowledge.
A poster for Mehrangiz’s PhD project, made for display at the 2022 ITS Australia awards.
A word from PhD supervisor, Dr G. Reza Emad
Why is this PhD important to investigate?
As an island nation, Australia is heavily reliant on maritime transportation as about 90% of our trade is carried by ships. Recent implementation of Industry 4.0 in the transportation sector, through introduction of digitalisation and automation, is disrupting the workplaces and profoundly changing the role of human in this domain.
Currently, there are many research and innovation in the design and implementation of the technologies and automation in marine transportation however, the is no significant study investigating the effect of the digitalisation on the job description and the role of people in the future marine ITS.
This PhD study is part of a larger research exploring the role of human in the future maritime transport and how the industry can assure the readiness of its workforce for that future.
What are the major challenges to overcome in the field?
Although we have a general idea about the future technology which will be employed in the transport domain but there is not clear indication of when and how these changes will affect the industry, let alone the workforce. Predicting the future which involve multifaceted factors and different stakeholders is a major challenge that this study is facing.
Where might this work lead in the (near and far) future?
The outcome of this research will provide a guideline for the transport industry regarding the training and upskilling their future maritime workforce. A future study will be needed to look into the implementation of the findings of the current research through innovative training methods and advanced educational technologies.
If you’d like to ask Mehrangiz about her work, please get in touch via her LinkedIn page.
- Shahbakhsh, M., Emad, G R., & Cahoon, S. (2021). The Transitional Role of Seafarers to Autonomous Shipping: A Research Agenda. Paper presented at the 14th International Conference of Asian Shipping and Logistics (ICASL 2021) Seoul, Korea.
- Shahbakhsh, M., Emad, G. R., & Cahoon, S. (2021). Industrial revolutions and transition of the maritime industry: The case of Seafarer’s role in autonomous shipping. The Asian Journal of Shipping and Logistics. Doi: 10.1016/j.ajsl.2021.11.004
- Shahbakhsh, M., Emad, G. R., & Cahoon, S. (2021). Future of Shipping Industry in the Age of Automation: The Case of Seafarer Training Challenges. Extend abstract presented at The Australian Maritime Logistics Research Network (AMLRN) 2021 Symposium, Australia.
- Emad, G. R., Horn, R., Shahbakhsh, M., (2021). Training and Educational Requirement for Operation of Future Australian Autonomous Shipping. Extend abstract presented at The Defence Human Sciences Symposium 2021, Australia.
- Shahbakhsh, M., Emad, G. R., & Cahoon, S. (2021). Received commended Paper Award for The Transitional Role of Seafarers to Autonomous Shipping: A Research Agenda paper from The Asian Journal of Shipping and Logistics- ICASL2021.
- Shahbakhsh, M., Emad, G. R., & Cahoon, S. (2022). Seafarer Training for Autonomous Shipping: Needs & challenges, Digital poster session at the ITS 2022 Awards ceremony.
- Received invitation as a guest speaker in the Australia’s Maritime Future Conference 2022, Port Kembla, Australia
- Shahbakhsh, M., Emad, G. R., & Cahoon, S. (2022). Australia’s Future of Maritime 4.0: The case of human element challenges and training needs. Extend abstract presented at The Australia’s Maritime Future Conference 2022, Port Kembla, Australia.
- Shahbakhsh, M. (2022). Seafarer Training for Autonomous Shipping: Needs & challenges. Summary of PhD project presented at The Moving Ideas to Help People seminar series, iMOVE, (DITRDC),
- Emad, G. R., & Shahbakhsh, M. (July 2022). Digitalization Transformation and its Challenges in Shipping Operation: The case of seafarer’s cognitive human factor. Paper will be presented at the 13th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2022) and the Affiliated Conferences, Sheraton New York Times Square, USA. Under Review