Code of practice on failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA)


Version history

May 2024, Rev. 3 – Reviewed and upgraded to Code of Practice as part of IMCA Governance strategy; content updated to reflect current industry thinking, plus addition of Appendix 4 – FMEA Checklist, and class approval for Section 2.8

October 2019, Rev. 2 – General update and to review that the guidance meets current industry practice following the recent publication of IMO MSC.1/Circ.1580

April 2016, Rev. 1 – Full rewrite

October 2019, Rev. 2 – General update and to review that the guidance meets current industry practice following the recent publication of IMO MSC.1/Circ.1580



The purpose of this document is to highlight industry good practice in the use of failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) techniques when applied to the technical systems associated with offshore vessels, in particular dynamic positioning (DP) systems.

Standards, guidelines and rules are referenced throughout this document. These may be updated/ changed at regular intervals. It is incumbent on all persons specifying, carrying out FMEAs or carrying out FMEA reviews to ensure that the standards, guidelines and rules they are using are current and are applicable for their specific project.

An FMEA is an easy to use yet powerful proactive engineering quality tool that assists in the identification and removal of weak points in the early design phase of products and processes. It is a technical document and a statement of fact and not opinion.

This guidance document emphasizes that the FMEA process alone is not enough for a thorough analysis. It acts as a tool and, like any tool, requires skilled users for effective results. A successful FMEA demands a team skilled in FMEA techniques and knowledgeable about the systems or processes being analysed. This document guides through the FMEA process but does not teach the analytical skills needed for DP system components. It assumes that the FMEA team members already possess deep expertise in their respective fields and the ability to analyse the relevant system.

Whilst the emphasis of this document is on DP systems, FMEA techniques can be applied to any system, whether applied to land, sea or air-based equipment or systems, which require that ‘no single failure should cause a total failure of the system or process’.

The document explains the history and development of FMEA and the role of FMEA in classification. Specifying an FMEA (see Appendix 1), the depth of FMEA reporting, the procedures used and the format of the final FMEA report are discussed. The additions to the FMEA process which can complement the analysis and the benefits of subjecting non-redundant systems to FMEA are briefly explored.

Annex 4 Provides a checklist to allow for a cross check of an FMEA with M166 (this document) and M247 to ensure that the FMEA analysis has followed the spirit of this document.

It is anticipated that these guidelines should assist in producing more consistent and thorough FMEAs.


  • Introduction to FMEA
  • DP FMEA Methodology
  • DP FMEA Proving Trials
  • References
  • Appendix 1 – Specifying an FMEA
  • Appendix 2 – The Requirements for Compliance with IMO DP Class
  • Appendix 3 – Comparison of Guidance – IMO MSC/Circ. 645 and IMO MSC.1/Circ, 1580
  • Appendix 4 – FMEA Checklist


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