DP Watchkeeping and The Role of Charterer’s Representative

CHIRP received a report requesting clarification on two aspects of offshore vessel operations (a) the roles and responsibilities of officers when working on ships in dynamic positioning or more commonly known as in DP mode and (b) the authority of an appointed charterers representative.

CHIRP has consulted oil industry organisa tions when composing this reply, which includes background infor – mation for the benefit of those readers not conversant with offshore dynamic positioning (DP) operations.

  • There are frequent occasions in the offshore industry when the Ship owner/operator’s regular officers, whilst qualified as DP Operators, may not have sufficient time to qualify for a full DP Certificate. If the project requires such certification in order to meet either internal and/or external (industry) standards, a Senior Dynamic Positioning Operator (S.D.P.O.) will be appointed. This position should be defined in the charter party and the person is then employed by the vessel’s operator to supplement the existing crew.

During DP operations there are normally two watch keepers on the bridge at any one time; the shifts are normally 12 hours on and 12 hours off. During the watch, the rotation at the DP desk is an hour about, one hour on the desk the other hour doing a safe navigational watch. In most situations the ‘off desk’ DPO maintains the lookout and ‘traditional’ watch – keeping role whilst the ‘on desk’ DPO focuses on the DP operation.

CHIRP Comment

Full certificates are required on DP Class 2 & 3 ships and a limited certificate can only be used on DP Class 1 ships. Clarity over the respective roles of the DPO on the desk and OOW is a bridge resource management (BRM) issue and should be set out clearly in the Safety Management System (SMS). Under The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certi – fica tion and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), SOLAS et al, there is a requirement to maintain a safe navigational watch; by default it is the master/OOW that must retain full responsibility for the actions taken. An OOW should not feel his/her responsibility on the bridge is compromised as the result of the S.D.P.O.’s actions whilst in DP mode.

  • Offshore industry vessels often have a charterer’s representative placed on board to oversee the client’s needs and ensure these are carried out in the terms of the charter party. Note also that these representa – tives may not necessarily be from a marine background or discipline.

Oil companies rely on charterer’s (client) representatives primarily as their eyes and ears onboard a vessel and they are expected to advise and monitor operations to ensure that they are followed in accordance with com – pany expectations. Any representative should be there to advise and not to directly instruct how an operation is carried out (as this should remain within the respective contractor’s safety management system and the project procedures). The master can expect a bridging document to be in place for all significant projects and term period charters, this document is primarily designed to bridge the respective management systems and ensure that there is clear allocation of responsibilities between stakeholders.

However CHIRP has been advised there are an increas – ing number of instances where the presence of such persons on the bridge has become intimidating and overpowering to the point at which the bridge operations can become potentially hazardous. This has led to reports of danger ous occurrences, including:

  • Charterer’s representative without the knowledge and agreement of the O.O.W., transmitting a radio mes – sage to another vessel on a private U.H.F. radio channel, instructing the vessel to come alongside and transfer materials This was without the permission or knowledge of the O.O.W.
  • (Charterer’s representative instructing the DP operator to speed up the operations and
  • Insisting the bridge house lights are switched on whilst vessel is under way, despite the OOW express – ing concern over the potential navigational risk.


CHIRP Comment

The master always retains overall responsibility for the vessel and for the safety of persons on board. The charterer’s representative does not normally sign on the vessel articles but every OOW should have high expectations of the charterer’s personnel placed on board. The operations for a project, on a day-today and watch basis, should be agreed beforehand. Any unsanctioned vessel/cargo operations are considered to be a reportable hazardous occurrence. The combined goal is always to achieve the mission safely and in accordance with procedures. The only time the client representatives are advised to directly intervene is when they witness an unsafe operation or act.

Some vessels will have an Offshore Construction Manager or a Diving Supervisor who can also be employed by the Operator. Again those roles play no part in the vessel technical operation/navigation but do have responsibilities for the completion of the vessel’s industrial mission and these should be clearly stated in the bridging document.

A charterer’s representative should not be asking anything that is not part of the standard operating procedures for the vessel; this in turn should be supported by a risk assessment for the work to be undertaken. If a charterer’s representative asks for work outside the parameters of the risk assessment, the controls in place should prevent the work until the ship manager has reviewed the proposals.

Much depends on a personal rapport established between the master and the charterer’s representative from the outset. The charterer’s representative needs to keep the master continuously well informed of intent so the master may fully appraise the situation and plan accordingly. The charterer’s representative needs the master to feel comfortable so that at any time he feels the intent, situation and plan are compromising the safety of the vessel he can veto such action and stop the operation without question. Such a veto needs to be immediately supported by the charterer’s representative without appearing critical. Such a relationship based on com – munication, preparedness and ultimate veto authority being encouraged will lead to a good working relationship between the two parties.

If the O.O.W. is concerned over hazardous incidents, these should be reported and the master should be empowered to ensure the bridging document is complied with.

If it is not possible to achieve such action through the company SMS, truly confidential reporting to capture the learning from incidents is available through CHIRP.

Industry documents to refer to for guidance can be found in the IMCA Information Note TCPC 12/04 Competence of Client Representatives. Also roles are summarised in the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers: OGP431 Diving Worksite representative roles, responsibilities & training.