Research Priority Areas (RPA)

Taking full cognisance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, IMO’s Strategic Directions and WMU’s strategic plan, a number of research themes have been identified as areas within which the University will seek to achieve and maintain excellence. The Research Priority Areas (RPA) and their key topics for research are described below.


The issues raised in respect of energy management with a view to reducing pollution and generating energy in a sustainable manner requires significant research in understanding current problems, generating innovative approaches to policy making for energy management, the design and operation of vessels with particular reference to the use of renewable sources of energy and to provide valuable insights into how to the maritime industry can contribute substantially and in an accelerated manner to achieving a low carbon and energy efficient global future. This RPA seeks to advance the knowledge in the Maritime Energy Management field by conducting world-class fundamental and applied research in the thematic areas of energy efficiency, regulatory frameworks, renewable energy, social factors related to energy, the economics of energy and energy-related technology/innovation. The thematic areas will be addressed using a ship life-cycle perspective (design, production, operation and recycling) and in consideration of the impacts of shipping on oceans, through ports and to shipyards.

Key topic areas:

  • Maritime energy policy and governance
  • Economics and social dimensions of energy management
  • Energy management over the life-cycle of ships and in maritime onshore facilities (ports, shipyards)
  • Renewable energy including ocean energy applicable to the maritime industry
  • Marine technology and innovation related to energy
  • The circular economy from a waste reduction and renewable energy perspective
  • This research Priority area interrogates developments of technology in ship operations (including the evolution of automation and digitalization), education and training (including e-learning), ship safety, information and communication for ship business (e-documentation) and its effect on the social, legislative and administrative dimensions of shipping. The cross-cutting nature of technology and innovation establishes an almost universal link between this REA and all the other REAs.

    Key topic areas:

  • Technological development including digitalization, artificial intelligence, autonomous shipping, big data and its manifestation and effects in the maritime industry e.g. in autonomous vessels, in sustainable energy generation, in education and training etc.
  • Trend analyses of technology and its impact on the maritime industry and society
  • Predictive modelling of technological developments and their impacts e.g. on labour supply and demand
  • Security infrastructure for technological systems - currently focused on cyber-security
  • Fundamental philosophies relating to the sociological phenomena that drive a “technological society”
  • The research Priority area of maritime economics, business and management, seeks to identify and address knowledge gaps relating to the optimization of shipping, ports and their sustainable management from economic and logistics/supply chain perspectives.

    Key topic areas:

  • Global economic and business environments for shipping and ports
  • Shipping market mechanism
  • Financial maritime risk management strategies
  • Optimal maritime investment strategies
  • Efficient and effective port operations and management
  • Shipping and ports as global logistics and supply chain components
  • Optimal ship routing and freight pricing with real-time AIS data
  • The circular economy from a business perspective
  • The human element is at the core of this research area that seeks to better understand organizational behaviour and promote decent working and living conditions in the maritime industries. Given that corporations play an essential role in maritime social governance, research on organizational behaviour focuses on corporation decision-making processes by examining dynamics of corporate interaction, in particular in global networks and supply-chains, and with humans. The research excellence area also seeks to interrogate issues related to individuals and organizations and their development through education, training and organizational learning. It aims to create a better understanding of the interactions between humans and organizations in order to optimize well-being and overall performance and in particular the role of education (as mediated by such factors as the social norms and the evolution of technology) in this regard. The application of behavioural sciences to maritime industries seeks to shed light on the hidden power and educational structures behind corporations with a view to providing tools for achieving a fair maritime social governance paradigm and sustainable economic growth.

    Such development goals cannot be fully achieved without strengthening the labour and social rights of seafarers and other maritime professionals. The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, represents a huge step forward in the right direction. Nevertheless, the implementation and application of this international legal framework pose significant challenges and raise empirical and analytical questions across the globe. They do not only concern seafarers, but also other workers, in particular as technological advances and new business models expand the economic uses of the seas, and with them the concept of “the maritime professional”. The research approach to such pressing issues is intended to be socio-legal, dealing with issues of diversity in the labour force, in particular gender issues, corporate governance and labour matters, standard implementation and compliance, public and private enforcement of maritime labour law, and policy development.

    Key topic areas:

  • Maritime human resource development through education and training
  • Organizational behaviour for optimizing well-being and overall performance
  • Technology - its place in education and training and its impacts on the human element;
  • Seafarers and other maritime professionals’ rights and welfare;
  • Gender, diversity, and culture in the maritime industry
  • Supply and demand of maritime labour
  • Migration laws and maritime professionals
  • Legislative and administrative frameworks govern the actions and obligations of individuals, organizations, and States. These come not only in the form of limits, restrictions, and standards that enhance safety, security, and environmental protection; these also include promotions and incentives that further the viability of the maritime industry, stimulate the national economy, and ensure the attainment of the UNSDGs. These requirements, standards, and incentives inform policy and are in turn, informed by policy. This RPA focuses on interrogating the maritime legislative and administrative requirements and the policies that are associated with them at the international, regional and national levels. Of particular interest is the inquiry into processes related to the design, formulation, and evaluation of law and policy. This includes examining performance monitoring systems using such tools as benchmarking and auditing. Also of particular importance is the research into implementation mechanisms, e.g., under the legal enforcement regimes prescribed by the IMO, ILO and other UN bodies.

    Key topic areas:

  • Promote the understanding and efficient implementation of maritime legal instruments and attendant administrative mechanisms and related policies
  • Design, formulation, implementation and evaluation of law and policy at international, regional, and national levels
  • Administrative framework for fulfilling national obligations under international treaties
  • Maritime and port security as well as unlawful acts at sea including terrorism, piracy, illegal migration at sea, cyber-security breaches, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
  • Implementation mechanisms e.g. under the legal enforcement regimes prescribed by the IMO, ILO and other UN bodies
  • Unlawful acts in the form of corruption, i.e. facilitation payment, bribery and the promotion of anti-corruption awareness in the industry, together with the industry, NGOs and other UN bodies
  • Application of international law and policy to non-conventional vessels including domestic ferries and fishing vessels
  • The circular economy from a policy and legal perspective
  • The maritime transportation system focuses on five subsystems: (1) the transport means (vessels); (2) routes/ways/paths; (3) operators/crew; (4) management of the above 3 (including Vessel Traffic Systems etc.) and (5) legal and administrative oversight. Each of these contributes to the safety, security and efficiency of maritime traffic flow and to the protection of the marine environment. The current development of the system is characterized by rapid technological development and the implementation of new solutions and innovative operational services which go far beyond the objectives of the e-Navigation concept and, on the one hand allows for enhanced monitoring - even remote controlling of no-crew ships, and on the other hand brings to the fore the urgent need for the development of adequate and appropriate regulatory and ethical frameworks. This all occurs in a context where both the traditional maritime transport system and its rapidly-evolving technological version are inherently high-risk.

    A primary focus of this RPA is the investigation of advanced and complex concepts and models of safety and their influence on operations at sea and ashore. Furthermore, and taking note of the use of simulation to conduct trials of new operational standards and new equipment, and to train seafarers, the REA will focus on the developing subject areas of digitalization, artificial intelligence and machine learning in a simulation context. It will examine trends and explore how safety can be improved, addressing maritime safety and security at the levels of policy, legislation, social dynamics (human factors/ergonomics), accident aetiology and how simulators can be used to further improve the safety paradigm of ship operations and the training of seafarers. The research area also covers the increasing disruption by technology of traditional approaches to maritime operations and the consequences of this on operational safety, human factors and labour supply.

    Key topic areas:

  • Law, policy and governance influencing maritime safety
  • Accident aetiology and safety modelling
  • Technological trends - contributory and disruptive influences on the maritime industry and vice versa
  • Simulation for ship safety
  • This RPA is linked to one of the most important challenges to humankind in the 21st century - the precarious state of the environment in respect of life due to human activities. The need to ensure that all human activities, not least those in the maritime sector, are undertaken with full cognisance of their effects on the natural environment and with the most sustainable practices, is paramount. The REA will seek to explore the effects of maritime activities on the natural environment, ways (at policy and operational levels) of limiting and ideally avoiding such effects, and the development of new and sustainable practices for the maritime industry.

    Key topic areas:

  • Effects of maritime activities on the natural environment
  • Ways (at policy and operational levels) of limiting and avoiding negative effects of maritime activities
  • The development and implementation of international instruments for the protection of the marine environment
  • Development of new and sustainable practices for the maritime industry