Special workshops led by IMCA technical advisers and committee members will focus on the latest IMCA initiatives and DP assurance programmes designed to increase safety and prevent incidents
The International Marine Contractors’ DP station-keeping reporting scheme was revamped by the newly formed IMCA Marine DP Committee in January 2015 to emphasise industry feedback. Additionally, a systematic review of the organisation’s technical library was introduced, ensuring IMCA guidance documents remain current and fit for purpose. The voluntary sharing of information by OSV owners on past dynamic positioning (DP) station-keeping events has proved to be an invaluable tool for increasing safety and preventing incidents.
“It is a confidential, voluntary reporting scheme designed to gather information for the purposes of learning from others”, says IMCA technical adviser - marine, Capt Andy Goldsmith. IMCA uses an electronic interactive form to record three categories of DP station-keeping events:
Selected events are reproduced as learning events and published in a quarterly DP event bulletin. Additionally, a summary of each event is reproduced in spreadsheet format at the end of the year.
“The intent of the guidance is to provide a piece of the jigsaw in the pursuit of safer and more reliable DP operations”
Capt Goldsmith was instrumental in forming the IMCA Marine DP Committee when he joined the association after logging 29 years at sea, serving in deepsea operations and as captain of DP diving support and offshore construction vessels. He also spent six years in the operations department of Smit International.
“Since 2016 the IMCA DP Committee has been the custodian of the scheme”, says Capt Goldsmith. “However, it was introduced to the industry in the early days of DP operations in the North Sea. The first recorded annual review of DP incidents was published by the DP Vessel Owners Association (DPVOA) for the years 1989/1990. The DPVOA and Association of Offshore Diving Contractors AODC merged in 1995 to form IMCA. Since that time DP-experienced personnel in the IMCA Secretariat have administered the scheme and produced an annual review reporting DP incidents”, he says.
Capt Goldsmith emphasised that the scheme is about learning, not about blame. “It is important to understand that the scheme is designed to assist learning from DP station-keeping events”, he says. “It is not designed to track failure and most reports contain information where the system of redundancy has prevailed”.
Over the years, OSV owners, DP systems manufacturers and DP technical consultants have realised the value of the DP station-keeping reporting scheme. “Participation has increased in recent years, which is an encouraging statistic showing that industry is prepared to share knowledge to improve safe and efficient DP operations”, says Capt Goldsmith.
“The need to implement a standard approach was identified after a series of incomplete and inadequate DP trials resulted in errors and difficult conversations between DP vessel operators, clients and DP consultants”
Last year, 147 reports were received, an increase of 50% over the previous year. There were 24 DP incidents, 82 undesired events and 41 observations. Electrical and human factors continue to be the top two causal factors for these events:
External factors also feature highly, primarily due to reference system signal jamming being experienced in the Middle East, resulting in numerous DP station-keeping events being reported.
Developing recognised standard
IMCA began working on its DP Practitioner Accreditation Scheme early in 2018 in response to an industry drive to improve consistency and conduct DP trials and at the same time set a recognised standard of knowledge for DP practitioners.
These practitioners are responsible for developing, witnessing and reporting of DP trials, and for the management of the DP assurance processes.
“The need to implement a standard approach and improve consistency was identified after a series of incomplete and inadequate DP trials resulted in errors and difficult conversations between DP vessel operators, clients and DP consultants”, says M3 Marine and IMCA Marine DP Committee member Joey Fisher. “The root cause of these issues seemed to be a lack of knowledge and experience.”
Joey Fisher (IMCA): “DP vessel operators and clients will benefit from the knowledge that the person charged with providing assurance during DP trials is accredited to a recognised level”
IMCA’s Marine Division Management Committee appointed a workgroup of DP experts from member companies to begin developing such a scheme. This workgroup pooled experience and worked together to create a scheme focusing on best practice. The scheme meets the requirements set by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum’s (OCIMF) recently published Dynamic Positioning Assurance Framework. It also sets revalidation requirements ensuring that DP trials practitioners and office-based personnel benefit by maintaining and increasing their knowledge base, effectively creating a scheme which supports all parties.
“Both DP vessel operators and their clients will now benefit in the knowledge that the person charged with providing assurance during DP trials and those managing DP operations in their own organisations are accredited to a recognised level”, says Mr Fisher. “Independent practitioners also benefit as they can achieve accredited status and become internationally recognised through the scheme.”
Since the launch of the scheme, IMCA has received a significant number of applications which are currently being processed and exam dates and locations have been set for the rest of 2019.
Safer and more reliable operations
A 25-year veteran of the marine and oil and gas industries, Graeme Reid joined IMCA as technical adviser – marine, in May 2018 to focus on the development of the DP Accreditation scheme, updating many of the key DP guidance documents, supporting IMCA’s technical seminar programme and implementing IMCA’s quality management system, which gained ISO accreditation in late 2018.
“The scheme is designed to assist learning from DP station-keeping events; it is not designed to track failure”
The guidance document, IMCA M190, is titled, “Guidance for Developing and Conducting DP Annual Trials Programmes”.
“It describes the development, conduct and management of DP Annual Trials programmes for all types of DP vessels equipped with DP systems meeting the requirements of IMO equipment classes 1, 2 and 3”, says Mr Reid. “These guidelines allow for testing to be undertaken at an annual DP trial, on an incremental basis over a defined period, or a combination of both. The intent of the guidance is to provide a piece of the jigsaw in the pursuit of safer and more reliable DP operations.”
IMCA is currently revising M190 for several reasons, says Mr Reid. “The first and foremost reason being the introduction of IMO MSC.1 Circular 1580, Guidelines for vessels and units with dynamic positioning systems,” he points out. “The IMO document was published in 2017 and replaced IMO MSC Circular 645 with a similar title. The revision brought in a number of new criteria that needed to be reflected in IMCA M190.”
The second reason, says Mr Reid, was as a result of a dedicated workshop at IMCA’s Annual Seminar in The Hague in late 2018, focusing on incremental trials. “The output of the workshop, coupled with the new IMO guidance, formed the basis for the revision” he says.
There are several steps an operator must take to develop a suitable DP annual trials programme.
“The vessel operator has the overall responsibility to ensure that an effective DP annual trials programme is developed and implemented”, says Mr Reid. “The vessel operator also has the responsibility to ensure the competence and experience of vessel crew, individuals, organisations and third parties developing, conducting and witnessing trials. The DP system failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) provide the data for a number of different DP documents, including the DP annual trials programme. Therefore, having a robust, high quality FMEA permits a higher quality DP annual trials programme.”
Just as important, emphasises Mr Reid, is the competence of individuals producing the trial programme. “For this reason, IMCA recommends that those individuals involved in the production of such programmes be accredited according to the IMCA DP practitioner accreditation scheme.”
Graeme Reid (IMCA): “The vessel operator has the overall responsibility to ensure that an effective DP annual trials programme is developed and implemented”
The primary benefits of an DP annual trials programme are to improve the safety and reliability of DP operations by encouraging vessel operators to carry out detailed, auditable tests on an annual basis. These tests need to verify that the DP system is fully functional, ensuring that the DP system is well maintained and verifying the level of critical redundancy established by the DP FMEA, while ensuring the effectiveness of essential protective functions and alarms.
Mr Reid cites a number of secondary benefits: “The most important of these being that DP annual trials programmes allow vessel crews to witness DP system responses to failure situations in a controlled environment. This may be the only time DP operators see system failure responses, other than during a real DP station-keeping event.”
Capt Goldsmith, Mr Reid and Mr Fisher will all be presenting and hosting a workshop during a session on “IMCA – Dealing with DP assurance issues” at the Asian Offshore Support Journal Conference, 17-18 September in Singapore.
DP vessels are the perfect platform for autonomous technology
OSV owners have been bullish on implementing new smart technologies to cut fuel consumption, reduce maintenance, increase uptime and improve efficiency. But what about the use of artificial intelligence and autonomous technology in DP vessels?
“DP is a tool used by the mariner to hold the vessel in one location for extended periods”, says IMCA technical adviser - marine, Capt Andy Goldsmith. “We should not forget this; those in charge of DP operations should have the skills and knowledge required to maintain the vessel on station for shorter periods of time. Providing there is a requirement for work to be conducted on the seabed and vessels to work close to structures at sea there will be a need for DP.”
With that in mind, Capt Goldsmith says: “A DP vessel is the ideal platform for introducing the concept of autonomous vessels. Press a button, take all the personnel off and the vessel will stay in position until the fuel runs out.
“It’s a simplistic view but industry is working to incorporate systems so that the stationary DP vessel can be programmed to move and make its own decisions regarding maintenance, navigation and collision avoidance. Is it worth all the effort? Only time will tell.”