Critical situations in Dynamic Positioning. How to be prepared?


by Alex Dembytsky | 04-Feb-2018
Critical situations in Dynamic Positioning. How to be prepared?

Every mariner at some point in their career has heard a story about a captain or mate prevented a critical situation from becoming worse. Perfectly solved this critical situation becomes a hearsay via “marine radio”.

What about you or all of us?
Are we ready for the emergency or critical event which is out of standard routine duties at sea?

At the end of the day, we are all humans who are not free of emotions. If we are not ready for an unexpected situation if something goes outside of the loop, emotions and fatigue are ready to take over the common sense in the decision-making process, ignoring even key safety aspects.


I met many qualified deck officers in different ranks for the last 7 years giving the simulator-based training for mariners. And a major part of them was perfect on routine but failed to complete the task or exercise with the minimum negative result if there was an unexpected deviation from the normal operational process.


I would like to stress on the need of practical training for the bridge team on emergency scenarios, which may happen on board, especially on offshore vessels.


What for? You might ask me. Because many captains and deck officers never ever dealt with real emergencies on board. But life does not give the opportunity to play many times with the same crisis in safe conditions, not like maritime simulators.


It could be nice to let every deck officer experience the expected emergency according to company’s specific activities and procedures.

Procedures provide a lot of text about safety at work, and mariners are usually familiar with company regulations, but the main problem is how the crew will implement these procedures if something goes wrong.

In January 2017 The Nautical Institute introduced new accreditation standard for DP training scheme. It is stated there that each Simulator course (DP Advanced) exercise should have at least one preplanned failure where students should solve the situation. NI even proposed the list of “must have” failures to be taken into account when preparing the exercise.


I think it was logical and brilliant idea from NI side.


My every student knows procedures connected with DP and specific offshore operations but when the emergency happens either not everyone is ready to implement their knowledge or actions do not always lead to the safe result. For example, when Helicopter about to land or stays in the DP stationed vessel proximity everyone knows that the wind sensor shall be disabled. Does everyone do? Not always, mostly, only after instructor hint.


Everyone in Oil&Gas heard about H2S hazard and everyone knows that when H2S alarm sounds near the Oil Installation, all operations shall be canceled immediately and leave the location in the vessel shall leave the location performing the shortest and the safest possible turn to bring the bow against the wind.


Sounds quite simple, but when you add tiredness, commercial pressure and daily routine it becomes obvious that not everyone will manage the situation for the first time.


We have well-prepared people who come for training but even they make critical mistakes that have to be pointed out in after-exercise briefings.


However, going through the same course you cannot play the same trick twice with the same student. If trainees ones have been involved in a critical situation on the simulator, with the same situation in the real life they will most probably be able to act right.

That is why when the real emergency happens, it processed by the brain differently. Because you experienced it before, you already know what to do, you built up reflexes for activities to perform….

I had one remarkable student, for whom I simulated H2S gas release emergency when the vessel was station keeping on DP near the rig. Results impressed me. We saved the video of this training and would like to share it as an example of actions in a critical situation.


I do think that tailor-made courses based on company activities, which cover non-standard critical situations can considerably increase the total operational safety. Being well trained and prepared for a crisis is the only thing we as mariners can do to keep risk to a minimum as well as preventing critical situations from escalating.


Watch our “movie on the go”, without prepared or customized scenario:


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