"Every time we see an accident investigation it's very rarely a technical failure. What we do see is human error," Lloyd's Register chief executive Richard Sadler told the Intertanko conference in Tokyo.
"We should look at the real causes of the accidents. Instead of spending all our money and time on research and development, let's spend it on the human factor," Mr Sadler said.
In terms of the human factor, industry officials said that there needed to be a greater focus on the design of equipment seafarers use.
"We need to design the equipment, and the working practices that surround them, with the human interface in mind," Mr Sadler said.
In particular, a parallel was drawn with the commercial aviation industry where equipment designs are standardised across different aircraft types.
"Now is the time we have to focus on putting money into research programmes around the human factor, meaning that we design equipment like they have on airplanes," Intertanko chairman Nicholas Fistes told Lloyd's List.
"Bridge equipment should be standardised so each officer that goes onboard a ship should not have to go through a special programme to be familiar with it," he said.
"A tanker that carries crude oil should have the sort of standard equipment onboard no matter its size or design."
Mr Sadler said the airline industry's regulatory regime was more geared to the human factor than shipping. This included the sharing of information on incidents.
"They take much more notice in the civil aviation regulations of design principles and they do share operational expertise across all companies and all the design types," Mr Sadler said.
Lloyd's Register classes over 8,400 vessels in the world fleet and is looking for ways it can share its expertise across the industry. But the mechanisms to facilitate this did not exist, Mr Sadler said.
"At the moment there is a lot of information that is kept confidential between the owners of the assets and the classification society," he added.
But he does not think a new body is needed to facilitate the sharing of information in the industry. Instead, existing structures have to work together better than they do at present.
"We have all the component parts we just need all the bodies to work together better," he said.