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The Problems with DP 1

Many support vessels currently entering service are provided with some form of DP facility. Some are DP II with the complete duplicated console on the bridge and officers trained in its operation. These vessels usually have some other intended function in addition to the servicing of platforms and semi-submersibles, whether it be the provision of ROV services or the installation of deep water mooring systems. Other have DP1 which is a system with one reference system one computer and one set of cables between the bridge and the bits that go round and flap from side to side.

At least one major operator has a standard procedure that no vessel with DP 1 systems are to be operated at their Installations, either owned or chartered, and is procedure is leaking into other people's Operations Manuals. 

If one asks anyone propounding this philosophy why the limitation, they usually answer that none of the deck officers will have been trained in the use of the system. They might even then follow with a grouse about the reluctance of shipo-wners to train their staff in its use, but that they understand because if they did then the said staff would disappear to other more sophisticated vessels.

When a friend asked me if I knew any reasonably priced naval architects who could assess whether a particular vessel, if fitted with a stern thruster, could be upgraded to DP I realised what the anti-DP 1 brigade actually needed and what the problem is.

There was no need for the vessel to be assessed by a naval architect. All the owners had to do was to take it out in the conditions under which they would require it to remain in position and have the master keep in in that position. If the ship could not maintain station due to lack of bow thrust then adding a stern thruster would be no use. One should bear in mind that a stern thruster is very helpful for DP systems since the balance of rudders and screws is not required. And those who do not understand any of this will just have to take my word for it. 

But what if the master was unable to hold station using the controls, not because of any deficiency in the ship, but because he did not have the skill necessary to carry out the task? In this case some assessment would be required and if it was successful the ship would be able to do what the master had been unable to do, maintain station for a period of time in order that some sort of work could be carried out. If the ship was provided with a joystick, collectively controlling the engines rudders and thrusters then the master, together with the joystick and the DP would be able to maintain station. But the master still might not be able to drive the ship using the individual controls.

The various organisations who ban the use of the simplex DP system suggest that the reason they do not allow its use is because the ship drivers are not trained in the use of the DP systems, and there is generally only one operator. And in a way they are right. If we positioned the ship which we have just been discussing alongside a platform, it is dependent on the DP system, and then the joystick, because the drivers do not know how to control the ship using the thrusters propellers and rudders.  So if for some reason the DP fails - because it is a simplex system -the driver has to resort to the joystick, and the joystick has its own agenda which sometimes causes a collision rather than preventing it. There would be no problem if the driver could operate the ship using the individual controls.

This then is the difficulty. The reason simplex DP systems seem to contribute to collision risk is not because the drivers are not trained in its use. It is because they are not trained in the use of the ordinary controls, or even the joystick!!

This is strange but true. And I honestly think it is time some-one got to grips with the problem rather than reacting in the usual oil industry knee-jerk way, taking action without proper information and causing several other problems by solving the initial difficulty. Those poor guys in the drivers seat on the supply boats need help, and its time some-one gave them some.

Something About ITS

Allan Brunton Reed was good enough to send us the programme for the 2002 tug convention shortly to take place in Spain. The obvious enthusiasm with which the programme has been compiled and the variety of papers are so attractive even as a non tug  person that I can hardly resist the temptation to go. This event goes on year after year in all sorts of wonderful venues round the world and is continuously and enthusiastically supported.

In 1999 Allan turned his skills to assisting the Institute of Petroleum with the organising of a two day conference about supply vessels. It seemed to be well attended and present were all sorts of very important people from the offshore support business, some of whom gave papers. And we all looked forward to a second conference in 2001. This did not happen, possibly due to lack of support.

The difficultly might be that despite the enthusiasm of the people involved directly with the ships, some input or enthusiasm would also be required from the clients, but only a few of them still actually employ mariners. Mostly they rely on contractors to do the marine job and hire whatever is cheapest to do the supply, anchor-handling or what-ever.

There is an expectation that the ships will be able to do what-ever is asked of them, and if one makes that assumption then it is unnecessary to know any more, so it would be a waste of time attending a conference.

Or would it!

Stirling Clyde Rebadged

The other day we saw the Stirling Clyde up in the corner of the dock in Aberdeen with scaffolding up the side of the funnel, and later spied it on its way out to some location in the North Sea. The Stirling badge had been removed and it had been replaced by the Harrisons (Clyde) Ltd badge, which is an H with what look like red electric eels snaking through it vertically.

It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that this vessel, and its sister ship the Stirling Forth have remained in the ownership of Harrisons (Clyde) Ltd rather than being part of the purchase of Stirling by Seacor. Will they be managed by the Stirling (Seacor) Aberdeen office, or is there potential for the re-emergence of another British ship-owner to rival Nomis!!


New Arrivals

Aberdeen continues to see new ships arriving as the orders from a couple of years ago reach fruition, and it is remarkable that the ranks of ships on the spot have not noticeably increased. The MT6000s Skandi Foula and Skandi Rona arrived for Shell and immediately started work, replacing the venerable Stirling Aquarius. However the Aquarius was immediately re-hired for a large sum. The UT755 Malaviya 16 joined the fleet, managed by Gulf on behalf of the Great Eastern Shipping Company, and the Normand Ivan came and went. 

Also, almost un-noticed BUE brought two Sentinel class standby boats into service, the BUE Stronsay and the BUE Orkney. So the Jigsaw project has not completely suppressed the entrepreneurial instincts of the standby vessel operators.


I think we have a few regular readers of this column, and if so they may remember that there were comments on the tendency of oil multi-nationals to shed part of their workforce at regular intervals.

Almost on cue BP announced that it was shedding 500 staff in Aberdeen and on the fixed and floating objects managed from its UK headquarters. Meanwhile Shell purchased Enterprise Oil and no doubt will shortly be downsizing to ensure that economies of scale will make the purchase profitable.

Meanwhile we are hearing the faint voices of a few management gurus, who are suggesting against this trend, that the key to successful business may be to hire and maintain the workforce regardless of the ups and downs of the economies of the countries within which those businesses are situated, and regardless of the price of raw materials,  whether one is purchasing them or supplying them.

This might even be seen as being an example of how we are supposed to look after each other, an approach which is encouraged by all offshore employers in their attempts to get their staff to work more safely. It must be difficult to get people to take responsibility for each other's lives, when there is no sign that their employers are doing so. But perhaps there's "looking after people" and then there's "looking after people."      



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