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Gaining momentum in DP

Published on 29 July 2019

2019 proved to be an exciting year for DP at IMCA. The level of interest in DP activities seems to be on the increase; we have been invited to participate in more DP related events than in previous years; we have seen an increase in DP reporting and we have launched a new accreditation scheme which has been in development for some time.

We introduced our DP Practitioner Accreditation Scheme in May and saw immediate interest from the DP industry worldwide. Already more than 600 people have downloaded application packs and a significant proportion of the submitted applications have met the high-entry requirements.

The objective of the scheme is to improve the consistency and conduct of DP trials throughout our industry, before looking in depth at it, let us look back to the IMCA Marine Technical Seminar, in Singapore in November 2017 and specifically a session focused on – Accreditation for DP Assurance and Trials Practitioners. It is important to remind readers that  views and ideas of IMCA Member companies, many represented by Nautical Institute members, were gathered and used to develop this scheme.

During this seminar DP professionals were brought together in workshop mode to debate the requirements for creating a leading DP practitioner accreditation process. The three main benefits of the scheme were mapped out:

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Andy Goldsmith
Technical Adviser – Marine
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  1. A method of appointing accredited DP professionals with a recognised level of DP knowledge to vessel owner and client companies
  2. A scheme that would be approved and run by DP vessel operators who are responsible for conducting DP trials and are most affected by inadequate DP trials being carried out
  3. Such a scheme should promote IMCA DP guidance documents and raise the profile of the organisation within the industry

This session included four workshops, which covered:

  • Identifying positives and negatives for the scheme
  • Determining the criteria for entry qualifications and experience
  • Identifying CPD requirements
  • Detailing the examination requirements for accreditation

As you can imagine this workshop generated a lively debate and produced many ideas that were taken forward into the scheme as it was developed.

The Accreditation Scheme

IMCA’s Marine Division Management Committee appointed a workgroup of DP experts from Member companies to develop the scheme – as M3 Marine and IMCA DP Committee member Joey Fisher explained: “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. The root cause of these issues seemed to be a lack of knowledge and experience.”

The vessel operator has overall responsibility to ensure that an effective DP annual trials programme is developed and implemented. It is also the vessel operator’s responsibility to ensure appropriate competence and experience levels of vessel crew, individuals, organisations and third parties involved in developing, conducting and witnessing trials.

IMCA’s DP Practitioner Accreditation Scheme is designed to establish a recognised level of knowledge for DP practitioners responsible for that all-important role of developing, witnessing and reporting DP trials; and also those responsible for the management of the DP assurance processes.

There are two categories of accreditation:

  • A DP Trials and Assurance Practitioner – an individual actively involved in producing, witnessing and assessing the results of DP FMEA proving trails and DP annual trial programmes; and
  • A company DP Authority – the responsible individual managing DP assurance processes for a vessel operator or end charterer

The DP system failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) provide the data for the DP annual trails programme. Therefore, having a robust high quality FMEA permits a higher quality DP annual trails programme. We, and our Members, believe it is vital that DP practitioners attending vessels for trials, and those conducting DP assurance duties in both vessel operators and client offices, are accredited by an internationally recognised scheme such as IMCA’s. This approach ensures that the requirement of the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) White Paper on DP assurance is met; and that DP trials practitioners and office-based personnel maintain and continually develop knowledge and competence. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is built into the scheme via a revalidation requirement.

For the individuals applying there are several benefits of becoming an accredited DP Trials and Assurance Practitioner or Company DP Authority. Successful applicants will then be recognised by the industry for achieving accreditation. All accredited individuals will receive a certificate to recognise their achievement for display purposes. They can then state they are ‘IMCA accredited’ and will receive a dated (anniversary of accreditation date) photo ID card, which can be used to verify both their identity and their accreditation.

DP vessel operators (and their seagoing staff) and their clients will benefit in the knowledge that the person responsible with providing assurance during DP trials, and those managing DP operations in their own organisations, are accredited to a recognised level.

The steps to accreditation?

Leading up to the official launch of the scheme on 1 May, we made it clear that before applying, applicants should satisfy themselves that they met certain requirements. They were advised to check qualifications, certification, experience and knowledge for their chosen category of application to avoid the risk of a failed application and associated costs. Those requirements are clearly set out in the application pack and the suite of supporting documentation, all of which can be found on our website under Certification.

All applications are reviewed by IMCA’s Secretariat. Once all the criteria is successfully met, a computer-based examination can be scheduled. These exams are held around the world in convenient locations: Aberdeen, London, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Trondheim, Houston, New Orleans with locations in France, South Africa and Australia to be finalised..

The examination itself is electronically delivered and consists of eight modules in a multiple-choice format. The modules are Code of Conduct; IMCA guidance documents; DP control systems; DP power systems; Thrusters and thruster control systems; DP documentation; IMCA M 190; and two sets of questions on scenario-based experience depending which category the examinee is seeking to achieve. All questions, in each module are randomised and generated from a large database of questions.

A list of successful applicants, who have become ‘IMCA accredited’ and those with expired accreditation is maintained by IMCA.

Since the scheme was introduced the IMCA document providing Guidance for Developing and Conducting DP Annual Trials Programmes IMCA M 190 has been revised. The revision was overseen by IMCA’s Marine DP Committee with three main objectives:

  1. Ensuring compliance with IMO MSC.1/Circ.1580 Guidelines for vessels and units with dynamic positioning systems
  2. Providing clarity regarding the requirements for incremental testing within an annual DP trials programme
  3. Introducing the IMCA DP Practitioner Accreditation Scheme

IMCA’s DP reporting scheme

It would be highly unusual for me not to make any mention of the important role IMCA’s DP reporting scheme plays in sharing ‘lessons learned’ – think of your own Nautical Institute Mariners Alerting & Reporting Scheme (MARS) and you will find similarities to our aims.

In 2018 147 reports were received – a 50% increase on previous years. We constantly encourage companies to participate in the scheme (established long ago by one of IMCA’s forebears DPVOA, the DP Vessel Owners Association, which merged in 1995 with the Association of Offshore Diving Contractors (AODC) to form IMCA). Participation assists learning from DP station-keeping events with selected reports being reproduced anonymously in the quarterly DP event bulletin. The scheme is not designed to track failure and most reports contain information where the system of redundancy has prevailed. Importantly, participation enables experiences to be shared through updated guidance, quarterly DP station keeping event bulletins, case studies and an annual review of DP station keeping reports.  It is the DP professionals on the vessel that can contribute most to the accurate reporting of DP station keeping events and will benefit most from the lessons learned. I was encouraged to see the IMCA DP event bulletin sitting alongside the NI Navigator publication when I was in Singapore last month to speak at a DP Conference and took time out to visit an industry training centre.