The construct of fatigue is still very much present in the maritime domain and has been seldom investigated in relation to mental workload. The indices of ocular activity are among the class of measures used for studying operator mental workload, particularly because the recent availability of less intrusive and less expensive eye-tracking systems. The eye tracking technique has been used in a consistent number of studies to investigate the operator functional state in several stress-related work domains. However, the studies carried out in the maritime context are too few compared to the aviation and the automotive contexts. Likely, this is due to the fact that the maritime domain has only recently been adopting technological changes that need the mental workload to be addressed.

Our research focusing the attention on the operator functional state in relation to eye-movements and how ocular data may assess the operator mental workload in the maritime domain, has been carried out in a series of validation studies.

In order to know better the functioning of several systems on the bridge, the Officers approach to the instrumentation, a preliminary observation on board of the Ro-Ro “Splendid” was made adopting the “thinking aloud” method. Goal of this study was also to identify the instrumentation to be monitored in the future research phases.

During the inspection on the Ro-Ro “La Suprema” we sailed along the Genoa-Palermo-Genoa route and monitored the procedures on board during all the phases of navigation. We tested the efficiency of eye-movements as a tool for evaluating mental workload with the eye-tracking glasses monitoring all the operational setting and collecting and analysing the Officers ocular data showing evidence of the eye-movements as an indicator of workload.

In the laboratory experiments, a visuo-motor task with three levels of complexity was carried out in order to investigate the sensitivity of the dispersion of eye fixations to variation in workload, also investigating the relation between subtle motor activity and mental workload using an eye-tracker device with a pressure system.

The laboratory experiment showed additional evidence for the dispersion of eye fixations as an index of mental workload.

The experimentation at the WMU simulator was carried out in order to investigate the sensitivity of an algorithm based on the analysis of the fixations distribution to variations in mental load during different navigation conditions but further studies are required in order to provide additional evidence for the index of ocular fixations dispersion as an indicator of mental load.