IMCA’s newly revised and updated guidelines for training dynamic positioning operators reflect the many changes that have taken place in the operating environment in the industry in the last decade
Like some other key documents published by the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), M 117 tends to be better known by its number rather than its name – Guidelines for the Training and Experience of Key DP Personnel. It has become the recognised global industry standard for the training, competence and experience of those serving on board DP vessels. M 117 was first published in January 1996 and in the period 2015/2016 was revised for the second time. IMO circular MSC:738, issued in June 1996, references IMCA M 117, and IMCA has informed IMO of this current revision so that it might also be accepted.
As Richard Benzie, technical director at IMCA explained, the revision, published in September 2016, captures current industry practice and changes to the operating environment since the previous review in 2006. It clearly identifies and clarifies the roles of the key personnel required to safely and efficiently operate a DP vessel, including the introduction of a key DP position in the office. The guidelines stress that responsibility for training is with the vessel owner/operator. It also recognises that there are a number of DP training schemes available and various organisations that offer DPO certification. Previous versions of the guidelines recognised the importance of continuous improvement; this version goes a stage further and provides a complete section on continuous professional development (CPD).
IMCA M 117 Revision 2 considers that there are three departments to contemplate when identifying the key DP personnel required to operate a DP vessel – DP operator personnel, DP technical personnel and DP office-based personnel within the vessel-operating company. For many of the roles on board a DP vessel such as master or chief engineer, the rank of the person fulfilling the role is obvious. However, over the years, there has been ambiguity with regard to the terms used to depict certain crew members’ rank and role on board a DP vessel. The revised guidelines identify the role undertaken on board and then provide specific requirements for the person fulfilling that role. For the first time, M 117 recognises the key role a person or persons in the vessel-operating company can take in providing training and experience in the operation of a DP vessel. Recognising this requirement is considered crucial in confirming the principle that it is the responsibility of the DP vessel owner to develop and implement procedures for the training and development of all key DP personnel.
The guidelines explore several different forms of training for key DP personnel and stress that all training should be given by suitably qualified and experienced personnel. M 117 recognises that not everything can be taught in the classroom or simulator environment. These are essential elements of any training scheme, but the requirement for DP operational experience is recognised within the guidelines. Vessel owners are therefore advised to provide training for their senior DP personnel to enable them to deliver effective training and mentoring. Part of this onboard experience will be participating in DP operational and DP emergency drills, so one of the appendices provides practical guidance and suggestions for conducting DP emergency drills.
A vessel’s safety management system requires all personnel joining any DP vessel to have a structured familiarisation procedure. An example of a DP vessel familiarisation checklist is included as an appendix. Structured training plans should be developed by companies to ensure that all personnel have the best preparation to respond efficiently and effectively to all anticipated normal, potentially abnormal and emergency DP operations. Personnel should ensure they maintain a record of their experience and training gained on DP vessels.
Without regular professional assessment, a DPO (at all levels) does not know if they are performing well, and this therefore becomes a competence sustainment process through which to avoid skills fade (in DP activities to which a DPO is not routinely exposed).
As with all IMCA documents, feedback is encouraged on M 117. Available solely online, the guidelines feature a feedback button to enable comments to be easily submitted.