PhD Candidate in Formal Safety Assessment of Autonomous Ships

Trondheim, Norway
10 May 2023
End of advertisement period
30 Jun 2023
Contract Type
Full Time

About the job

For a position as a PhD Candidate, the goal is a completed doctoral education up to an obtained doctoral degree.

The position is funded through the Horizon Europe research project “SEAMLESS: Safe, Efficient and Autonomous – Multimodal Library of European Shortsea and inland Solution”. This project is led by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and is a cooperation between several European research institutions and companies, such as SINTEF Ocean, Delft University of Technology and Kongsberg Maritime. The main goal of the project is to develop and adapt missing building blocks for enabling fully automated, economically viable, cost-effective, and resilient waterborne freight feeder services for short sea shipping and inland waterways transport.
One important bottleneck that should be addressed is related to the approval of autonomous ships. The current class rules for approval of ships are not adapted for autonomous sailing. As an alternative, it has been proposed to use a risk-based approach where the vendors are responsible for ensuring and demonstrating that the system is safe through risk assessment and other activities. If the risk assessment demonstrates an acceptable risk level and is found sufficiently rigid, the ship can be approved. The candidate will focus on developing a structured framework for risk-based approval of autonomous ships that can be started early in the design phase based on a CONOPS (i.e., a description of the ship´s operation). 

The candidate will work on a modular and systematic framework for risk-based approval and safety assessment of autonomous ships, using tools and techniques, such as formal modelling of the system and its CONOPS, structured methods for hazard analysis and techniques for building and documenting assurance cases. Results will be applied to the SEAMLESS project´s case studies and should identify main challenges and sources of uncertainty that need to be addressed to realize large scale autonomous shipping and automated waterborne freight feeder services. 

The PhD candidate will work within an interesting research project, benefiting from cooperation with highly engaged and diverse industrial and academic partners from Norway and across Europe. The supervision team has background within safety assurance, marine and maritime autonomous systems, risk assessment, risk modelling, and modelling and simulation of dynamical systems. 
Your immediate leader is Associate Professor Børge Rokseth as the main scientific supervisor of the research. 

Duties of the position

  • Formal specification of CONOPS
  • Method where modern techniques for hazard analysis is applied to the formal CONOPS specification.
  • The development of an iterative process, where the formal CONOPS and hazard analysis can be used to build an assurance case for approval.
  • Demonstrate the developed methods and tools on the use cases SEAMLESS project.  
  • Publish in scientific journals and conferences and disseminate research to research partners in the SEAMLESS consortium. 

Required selection criteria

  • Your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree program, where 120 credits are obtained at master's level.
  • You must have a strong background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master's degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU's grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic basis. If you have a weaker grade background, you may be assessed if you can document that you are particularly suitable for a PhD education.
  • Master's students can apply, but the master's degree must be obtained and documented You must meet the requirements for admission to the the PhD programme in Engineering Cybernetics
  • You must have documented knowledge through courses, projects, or former professional experience in two or more of the listed subjects: control engineering, formal verification, systems theory, systems engineering, marine technology, system modelling and simulation or safety science.
  • You have experience in scientific computing within development environments such as Matlab and/or Python
  • Very good written and oral English skills. 

The appointment is to be made in accordance with Regulations on terms of employment for positions such as postdoctoral fellow, Phd candidate, research assistant and specialist candidate and Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant 

Preferred selection criteria

  • Good collaborative skills as the candidate will work closely with other people in the SEAMLESS-consortium.
  • Very good skills in formal reasoning are preferred.
  • A sound academic or industrial background

Personal characteristics

  • Motivation and a desire to make an impact on the development and application of autonomous systems. 
  • Adaptive and oriented towards finding solutions.
  • Good at communication.

Emphasis will be placed on personal and interpersonal qualities.

We offer

Salary and conditions

As a PhD candidate (code 1017) you are normally paid from gross NOK 532 200 per annum, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 years.

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to PhD programme in Engineering Cybernetics within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period. 

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU.

After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that your application will be considered based solely on information submitted by the application deadline. You must therefore ensure that your application clearly demonstrates how your skills and experience fulfil the criteria specified above.

The application must include: 

  • CV and certificates 
  • Transcripts and diplomas for bachelor's and master's degrees. If you have not completed the master's degree, you must submit a confirmation that the master's thesis has been submitted.
  • A copy of the master's thesis. If you recently have submitted your master's thesis, you can attach a draft of the thesis. Documentation of a completed master's degree must be presented before taking up the position.
  • Name and contact information of three referees, or reference letters. 
  • If you have publications or other relevant research work

If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor's and master's education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here. If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

We will take joint work into account. If it is difficult to identify your efforts in the joint work, you must enclose a short description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

NTNU believes that inclusion and diversity is our strength. We want to recruit people with different competencies, educational backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives to contribute to solving our social responsibilities within education and research. We will facilitate for our employees’ needs.

NTNU is working actively to increase the number of women employed in scientific positions and has a number of resources to promote equality. 

The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

A public list of applicants with name, age, job title and municipality of residence is prepared after the application deadline. If you want to reserve yourself from entry on the public applicant list, this must be justified. Assessment will be made in accordance with current legislation. You will be notified if the reservation is not accepted.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Associate Professor Børge Rokseth, email If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact HR consultant Berit Dahl, e-mail:

If you think this looks interesting and in line with your qualifications, please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates attached. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Upon request, you must be able to obtain certified copies of your documentation.  

Application deadline: 30.06.2023.


NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of Engineering Cybernetics (ITK)

Engineering cybernetics is the study of automatic control and monitoring of dynamic systems. We develop the technologies of tomorrow through close cooperation with industry and academia, both in Norway and internationally. The Department contributes to the digitalization, automation and robotization of society. The Department of Engineering Cybernetics is one of seven departments in the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.

Deadline 30th June 2023
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Temporary
Place of service NTNU Campus Trondheim

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