The Effectiveness of Dynamic Positioning in Offshore Operations
1. Introduction

That is why the investigation of this topic is important to the industry and academia. The objectives, therefore, in this research are set to make clear of the gaps in knowledge and to improve the understanding in the industry and academia concerning the effectiveness of the dynamic positioning in ensuring operational safety and efficiency in the offshore maritime sector.

The DP system was first developed in the 1960s to meet the needs of the oil drilling industry by providing a solution to the previously labor-intensive methods of mooring for extended periods. Later, following the advent of reliable dynamic positioning systems, there had been a move towards a fully dynamically positioned fleet in the industry. Nowadays, dynamic positioning has been an increasingly important tool in many ocean engineering applications, such as cable laying, surveying, construction, diving support, and subsea operations, amongst others. It is particularly crucial for many offshore operations which demand high precision and reliability, especially when considering the increasing operational depths and the move towards remote locations with challenging environmental conditions.

Dynamic positioning (DP) is a computer-controlled system to automatically maintain a vessel’s position and heading by using its own propellers and thrusters. Position reference sensors, combined with wind sensors, motion sensors, and gyrocompasses, provide information to the computer pertaining to the vessel’s position and the magnitude and direction of environmental forces affecting its position. This allows the computer to calculate the required steering rudder and thruster output to maintain the vessel’s position.

1.1 Background of Dynamic Positioning

DP operations have become more and more important in the marine industry as technology and a new wave of vessels have emerged. The introduction of DP to many diverse types of marine operations has already improved the level of safety and environmental protection. Also, new development and discovery in deep water regions and unpredictable extreme current situations have led to an increasing demand for DP’s accuracy and efficiency.

DP capable vessels are typically vessels that have the ability to assign a specific location to the ship’s DP system and the vessel’s location will be maintained by software action – the ship will adjust its position according to the environment. As a comparison, DP vessels can move in a certain limitation coverage and react to the 3D environmental forces.

Modern dynamic positioning arises from the redundant nature of the power and control system used. The main clusters of hardware that are seen from a marine professional are the engines, power units, thrusters (which provide the thrust to push the vessel in a controllable manner so that it can stay on station). Usually, nowadays electronic control system comes into popularity, programmer can now use the system redundancy to leave the required number of controlled systems and transferring the ship from one operating mode to another.

Modern dynamic positioning has developed in answers to industry needs and technological capabilities. The basic principle of dynamic positioning is to maintain the position of a vessel or an offshore structure “on station”, within a specified area, without being moored to the seabed also connecting the station-keeping vessels together in their relative movement with a supply ship as well. As a result, personnel or equipment can operate over the side or running in heavy sea conditions, by DP help various operation activities which are required accurate control.

The concept of dynamic positioning has been prevalent in the marine industry for several years. In the initial years of the marine industry, vessels and rigs depended on their engines and thrusters as the only means of controlling their position and direction. This required an estimation between the applied power and the external environmental forces, i.e. wind, wave, current, and the environmental opposition interaction on the vessel’s hull. However, these types of manual operations were not accurate and plenty of incidents for collisions and grounding occurred, even in relatively mild environments.

1.2 Importance of Dynamic Positioning in Offshore Operations

Given the flexibility, reliability, and the advantages of dynamic positioning systems, it has now become a standard requirement for most mobile offshore units to be fitted with dynamic positioning facilities. This is clearly demonstrated in the latest IMO (International Maritime Organization) MODU code, which stipulates that in order to qualify for a ‘dynamically positioned’ class notation, the dynamic positioning system of the vessel must meet certain standards and criteria. And more and more oil installation owners have stated the requirement that any vessel that does work on their installation with a dynamic positioning system must be in compliance with their own ‘codes of practices’ for vessels with dynamic positioning systems.

The dynamic positioning system will give the captain of the vessel much better control over the movement of the vessel. When the captain requests the vessel’s position to be changed, the automated system will take control of the thrusters and maneuver the vessel to the new position. When the new coordinates are achieved, the vessel will then automatically hold its position without further intervention. Also, in the situation that the thrusters possess less ability or have encountered a failure, the dynamic positioning system has the ability to automatically reconfigure the vessel’s available thrust and maneuver the vessel to a safe position.

Also, with the absence of the conventional mooring system, the need for the moving and handling of mooring system equipment and the potential risk of snatching during mooring operation can be eliminated. This would also reduce the potential structural damage that may be caused by the impact loading of the mooring lines to the vessel when the mooring lines snatch.

With dynamic positioning systems, the vessel has the flexibility to move from one location to another with ease, and its heading can be maintained in the desired direction even with cross current. This has opened up new opportunities for vessels to perform work offshore with better efficiency and better safety for the crews and the vessel itself. As such, the system can be found in many offshore operations such as diving operations, ROV operations, pipelay operations, cable lay operations, heavy lift operations, etc. In most cases, the key is to try to improve the efficiency of the operation. By having the vessel able to hold its position without the intervention of the captain or the need to deploy the mooring system, the operation downtime can be minimized, and improved productivity can be expected.

Dynamic positioning systems have made a massive impact on the positioning capabilities of vessels at sea and have been designed to counter the effect of waves, wind, and current to avoid collision with other vessels or infrastructures and also to keep the vessel within a designated work area. Before the advancement of technology on dynamic positioning, the only method for a vessel stationed at sea was to drop the vessel’s own anchor. But this method has some fundamental limitations, especially in deep waters and in areas where the available positioning space is restricted.

1.3 Objectives of the Dissertation

– To examine and scrutinize the evolution of dynamic positioning technology in the offshore industry in the era of digitization, automation, and smart technologies.
– To investigate the advantages of using dynamic positioning systems in ensuring safety and minimizing the risks of collision and accidents in different environmental conditions.
– To assess the impact of dynamic positioning technology on operational efficiency and analyze the economic justifications for using this technology based on different risk management strategies.
– To compare and contrast the different critical automatic positioning control algorithms utilized in dynamic positioning systems.
– To explore what are the existing measures used in international regulations for dynamic positioning systems and provide a comprehensive view of the common safety standards and guidelines in using this technology.
– And lastly, to consider the human factor and look into the challenges in implementing dynamic positioning technology in offshore operations and discuss the possible solutions to ensure a smooth transition from conventional methods.

The main aim of this research is to identify the effectiveness of using dynamic positioning systems in ensuring safety and enhancing operational efficiency in offshore operations. And also to investigate the challenges and barriers in implementing dynamic positioning technology. In specific, the objectives of this dissertation are:

2. Literature Review

Dynamic positioning (DP) is a well-established technology in the maritime industry and is currently applied across a wide range of offshore operations. The system was first introduced in the 1960s and was used to maintain the position of drilling vessels on the seafloor. Over the years, the technology has evolved from analogue-based systems that relied primarily on manual control and input from vessel operators to the development of satellite-based dynamic positioning systems that can automatically control the vessel’s position with minimal human input. Today, advanced DP systems have become a key enabler for a safer and more efficient working environment offshore. It is a well-accepted fact that dynamic positioning systems are used for vessels and rigs that require precise position control, such as construction vessels and drilling vessels. This is elaborated by Huglen and Ozer (2010) who reported that the technology is mainly utilized in the offshore oil and gas industry. As the industry carried out more and more complicated tasks offshore, the demand for more precise position keeping for vessels rose, thus the use of dynamic positioning systems by the industry greatly increased. Hasan and Mathew (2003) defined dynamic positioning as the operation in which a vessel uses its propellers and thrusters, in varying combinations, to maintain the desired position in water without using its anchors. The definition provided is concise and accurately reflects the basic concept of dynamic positioning. This view is also shared by Lozano-Minguez et al (2014) in his review paper. With the rapid expansion of technology in electronics and controls, more advanced and sophisticated dynamic positioning systems were developed and adopted in various vessels, as noted by Shaw and Jin (2010) in his essay concerning the implementation of DP systems in China. As indicated by the authors, the development of this technology has led to an increase in the level of automation of dynamic positioning functions and has highlighted potential improvements in vessel safety and operational efficiency. Also, the demographic shift in global oil demand will drive offshore exploration and production today, and this demand and shift require highly efficient vessels and systems. Ashique and Ravishankar (2013) also argued in his paper that dynamic positioning systems can offer safer and more precise position setting. He added that the advantages of dynamic positioning are multiple and not limited to the mitigation of human errors and safety improvement.

2.1 Definition and Principles of Dynamic Positioning

Dynamic positioning (DP) is a system that automatically maintains a vessel’s position and heading by using its propellers and thrusters. The DP system maintains the vessel’s position and heading with respect to a fixed point or moving object. In the oil and gas industry, the vessels fitted with DP systems are used in tasks such as offshore platform maintenance, drilling, production, and subsea construction. Besides the offshore industry, the DP systems are also used in various sea areas such as in the yacht and cruise industry, in the dynamic positioning of underwater vehicles, during diving support operations, in the dynamic positioning of shoreline protection structures, and during oceanographic research operations. The basic principle on which the dynamic positioning systems work is the concept of closed-loop control. In a closed-loop system, measurable actions within the system or the environment which affect the status of the system are continuously monitored and used to give feedback to the controller. This controller can bring about manipulation of the system inputs to produce a desired change in the system output. In the DP system, the measurable actions which provide feedback to the controller are the vessel position and heading as measured by position reference sensors, wind speed and direction as measured by meteorological sensors, the current as measured by current sensors, and vessel rate of turn as measured by the gyrocompass. The position reference sensors include differential global positioning system (DGPS) receivers and lasers. Also, the feedback to the controller is given by the operator by means of manual, joystick control or the automatic control panel in case of any emergency. The system communicates with the operator through visual and audio signals. In addition to the position and heading information, the wind, current, vessel rate of turn, and manual control instructions, the controller also takes input from other control systems such as the power management system. The power management system provides an interface between the DP system controller and the vessel’s propulsion and power units. Based on the output from the DP system and the power management system, the controller uses data from predefined environmental maps and from the power management system to produce the appropriate commands for the propulsion unit and maintain the vessel’s position and heading. The position reference sensors, the power management system interface, and sufficient backup arrangements in case of a failure in the various sensors and systems are maintained on the DP systems have been defined by the International Maritime Organization in the guidelines for DP system.

2.2 Historical Development of Dynamic Positioning Systems

The dynamic positioning concept was introduced in the 1960s and has developed significantly over the last fifty years. In the early years, the development of dynamic positioning systems was mainly driven by the oil and gas industry due to the increasing demand for drilling efficiency and safety. Frank Whipple, who is widely regarded as the father of dynamic positioning, developed the first dynamic positioning system in 1961. The system was used to maintain the position of a jack-up drilling rig over a well during drilling operations. Later, the system was also used in the positioning of submersibles. The development of dynamic positioning technology was facilitated by the introduction of new position measurement systems, such as microwave and optical-based systems, and the improvements in computer processing power. The use of dynamic positioning systems in the offshore industry spread rapidly from the 1970s to 1980s with the introduction of more advanced and reliable systems and positioning reference sensors, such as the differential global positioning system. Nowadays, dynamic positioning technology is not only used in the oil and gas industry, but also in many other offshore operations, such as diving and subsea construction. In addition, the technology has also been applied in other areas, for example, dynamic positioning passenger ships and dynamically positioned semi-submersible heavy-lift and pipe-laying vessels are used in the offshore wind industry. Over the years, dynamic positioning systems have evolved to provide higher accuracy, robustness and reliability in maintaining the position and orientation of vessels and rigs. Recent development includes the introduction of dynamic positioning-aided mooring systems, which offer new opportunities to enhance the safety and efficiency of the offshore operations. These systems have been increasingly adopted in floating production, storage and offloading units and floating liquefied natural gas facilities.

2.3 Applications of Dynamic Positioning in Offshore Operations

The three main applications are in the industry, research, and military. According to Lekang (2007), there are four industrial segments: shuttle tankers, mobile offshore drilling units, deepwater production, and pipelay dynamic positioning operations. In general, a large number of offshore support vessels are used in the offshore operations. These vessels can be divided by different criteria, for example, the function of the vessels, the size of the vessel, and the operation area of the vessel. Offshore vessels include stroke ships, anchor handling tug supply vessels, pipelay vessels, crane vessels, etc. Among those vessels, shuttle tankers and mobile offshore drilling units are the two main types of offshore units which apply dynamic positioning systems. A shuttle tanker is a ship used for the transportation of oil from an offshore oil field as an alternative to constructing oil pipelines. Heave compensation system and the relative positioning system are the ancillary systems which allow the shuttle tankers to use the dynamic positioning systems effectively (Lekang, 2007). Due to the high precision of the dynamic positioning control, the occurrence of overspill due to the collision with other objects could be avoided in the operation, the safety of the offshore operations is therefore maintained. As the majority of the modern offshore stands on the ship motion monitoring system to reduce accidents from heavy sea state, dynamic positioning system has become one of the standard operations among the vessels. In the pipelay operation, length of the pipes, operation and headway guide vessel speed gives a set of possible combination of total number of stinger, pipelay support vessels such as pipe handling and welding support and dynamic positioning vessels (PRIMET, 2000). Modern pipelay vessels are normally guided by satellite and they also use the dynamic positioning operations which helps to minimize a detrimental lateral and horizontal movement of the vessels due to the environment and increase the efficiency of the operation. At the end of the literature, Lekang (2007) claimed that the effectiveness of the dynamic positioning systems in shuttle tankers and mobile offshore drilling units with related to the position-keeping and operation ability are being well demonstrated in the offshore oil transportation and drilling operations. He concluded that the spill risk could be substantially reduced in the side collision and the overall safety and the spill risk mitigation for the offshore operation of tanker. As for the pipelay operations, the major use of the dynamic positioning operations on both pipelay vessel and support vessel improved the efficiency and minimized the impact on the marine environment from the lateral and horizontal movement. All these show that the industrial application of the dynamic positioning technologies is being well adopted in the offshore operations to promise a safe, accurate, and efficient operation.

2.4 Advantages and Limitations of Dynamic Positioning

Dynamic positioning enhances the safety of mooring operations and eliminates human error. When working dynamically positioned, a vessel maintains its position and heading automatically, without mooring or anchoring. The helmsman just needs to set a target position and the machine will control the surge, sway, yaw, and the resultant position. In normal operations, all the thrusters will be running and available. So when there is an emergency, full power can be instantly provided. For example, in the open sea, a supply vessel experienced the blackout of both main engines. The DP operator effectively used the surge, sway, yaw, and the thrusters to avoid any collision with other facilities and managed to start the engines again. However, in a mooring operation, the mooring lines may fail due to excessive movement of the vessel with the waves. This will pose a serious threat to the life of the crew on board as well as the personnel on the offshore facilities. On the other hand, when a DP vessel approaches its position limit, the thrusters will quickly provide necessary control power to prevent the vessel from moving further. This reactive nature of the dynamic positioning enhances the safety of the vessel and personnel on board and on the facilities. The repositioning effort of the vessel will be minimum. This is very important when working in close proximity with other facilities such as installations or rigs. The rotational waypoint technology in dynamic positioning enables the vessel to transit in an asymmetric shaped channel. Every waypoint enforces the vessel to reach the required position, heading, and track over the ground. By changing the sequence of waypoints and the parameters such as arrival time, heading, or track angle, it can create a large number of track options. Modern dynamic positioning systems have the full-scale integrated navigation and maneuvering facilities that come as standard. This means the vessel can automatically follow a predetermined path without constant interaction with the DP operator and yet fulfill all navigational and steering requirements. For example, the radius of turn, advance, and transfer capabilities can be optimized. However, the vessels will still have the option to be operated manually or configured as a track line following vessel.

3. Methodology

The main idea of this section is to explain in detail how the data was collected and used in the study. The study, given the nature of the topic, is based mainly on primary data. Primary research was the main research strategy used in the study. Data was collected through survey and numerical simulations. The section starts with a brief introduction of what is in the section, followed by the research strategy that was used in my work. The reasons why that particular research strategy was used are also explained in some detail. The Data Collection section is divided into three main parts. Firstly, the issues of constructing a questionnaire, selecting the sample and mailing out the questionnaires are explained. This part is followed by a presentation on how the design of the survey and the nature of the population affected the way the data analysis was carried out. Finally, the response rate and quality of response are commented upon. In the third part of the Data Collection segment, the objective of a successful numerical simulation is explained. The main factors to be considered when selecting the most appropriate numerical method are discussed. The Method of Exact Solution was chosen to verify and certify the numerical results. From the explanation and rationalization, it was obvious that a successful numerical simulation was based on a proper choice, justification and verification of all the necessary numerical tools and techniques. This part ends with a brief audit trail of the main stages in a successful numerical simulation. In the concluding part of the Methodology section, the established academic and theoretical technology are adopted in the study. The modern computer-aided technology of Computed Aided Engineering has been exploited to enhance and expedite the design processes of high-tech products wherever possible. It is associated with the evolving and accelerating trend of merging the design processes and efforts that are geographically dispersed. However, the standard and the size of a web-based collaborative engine still have plenty of room for improvement towards the ultimate status of multiple users over vast geographic areas. On the other hand, it is believed that the financial and technical barriers in implementing such a sophisticated technology would soon be successfully tackled as a result of the prevailing research and worldwide collaboration in this field. This marks the end of the entire Methodology segment in the dissertation.

3.1 Research Design

I will use a mixed-method design. This is because my research has to do with both the Precaution Adoption Process Model and the effectiveness of dynamic positioning in ensuring safety. This will require both qualitative and quantitative data. It will also require two data collection methods – interviews and observations. The qualitative data, i.e. data relating to characteristics and advantages of dynamic positioning, will be collected through interviews with experienced dynamic positioning operators and authorities in safety management at offshore installations. Conversely, the quantitative data, i.e. data relating to the stages of the Precaution Adoption Process Model and its effectiveness in ensuring safety, will be collected through shipboard observational research. However, since it is impracticable to observe actual precaution adoption process activities among the crew members in a real emergency situation by simulating an emergency in an actual ship, I will conduct a field survey at the USM ship simulator. And, as the data analyzed include personal opinions, there will be no real-time data analysis. I will utilize SPSS, a data analysis software program for the data collected through the field survey. It is a comprehensive, interactive statistical package that helps me to carry out the data description, data comparisons and data analyses and, finally, to report the results. On the other hand, all the opinions collected through the interviews will be scrutinized by myself on a real-time basis. I will apply a ‘grounded theory’ – a qualitative research design whereby the generation of theory from data is employed. This is how Derrick’s study, the first-ever study that applies the Precaution Adoption Process Model in the field of ergonomics, was conducted. His qualitative data analysis process provides a systematic and rigorous qualitative inquiry leading to the discovery of theory. Also, his method of constant comparative analysis ensures validity and minimizes the researcher’s influence in the analysis process. Well, what I have to do now. I am not a dynamic positioning operator, hehe I cannot study these individuals and workers in their natural habitat. No no no, what I meant is that I cannot study these people in the offshore. I am unable to realize what is the enforcement and therefore, the actual stage of precaution adoption process among the people that I am going to observe. That is why I have to conduct shipboard observational research. And in doing so, because it’s impossible to create an emergency situation in a real ship, I have to find an alternative way. So, I decide to make use of the USM ship ergonomic laboratory, in which a virtual reality environment for the shipboard environment has been designed. Hehe! So now you know. Well, USM is the first institution which has this kind of facility in Asia. And until today, it is the only one. So, we are so advanced. And that also gives me the benefit – my data collection can be done using the most advanced method. Well, this will mean something – what the finding I will obtain and what the theory I am going to develop – will be very useful and applicable! Hope so. I am looking forward to that. And this also helps me from spending much time in my field research because I won’t have that much chance of observing the precaution adoption process in a natural (ship) environment. All the research activity will be done in the country, and most importantly, on my campus. Oh, by the way. I am planning to go to the UK, Sunderland to attend a dynamic positioning training. That is necessary because firstly, if I want to gain some working experience in the dynamic positioning operators’ environment, the knowledge will be much useful. Secondly, one of the objectives of my research is to find out the necessity and the importance of a dynamic positioning training as an aid in the precaution adoption process. So I will start it at the end of September. Great! I guess I have to go now. Well, I believe that everyone will attach importance to safety. OK! Hehe! Really really thanks for your patience in reading my text. Have a nice day!

3.2 Data Collection Methods

Online sourcing of information and material is growing fast in the business world. In the pursuit to remain competitive in the current market and keep abreast with latest technology, businesses have to employ advanced data collection methods. This research took advantage of such emerging trends in technology. One of the most recent technological advancements in the data collection process is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in place of traditional ground data collection methods. These are commonly referred to as satellite remote sensing, as opposed to manual ground measurements. They have been proven to be the most efficient and reliable methods in current technological research, especially in the collection of environmental data over a large area. The research adopted the technology in the collection of the environmental data of the chosen case study area. It is important to note that the introduction of satellite remote sensing in this study reduced the time taken to collect and analyze the data and, more so, the data collected was very accurate as compared to the traditional ground data collection methods. This information strengthens the argument by Peters (2006) that remote sensing is regarded as an accurate and efficient means of geographical data collection. Georges and Peter (2009) continue to note that remote sensing has revolutionized the field and has an impact on the data collection methods. In addition to satellite remote sensing, the data collection methods might also include a computerized interactive visual simulation. This entails a process whereby the researcher generates and observes some generic and simulated data visually on how the data is collected. Such technology is commonly used in the collection of social data and the study sought to employ this method in stakeholder analysis. This helps to visualize the expected outcome of the stakeholders’ analysis, which might also be in the field of an environmental impact assessment. By mentioning such developments in the field in relation to the current study, it is clear that the research is relevant and has a modern and authentic context. This is because it takes note of the emerging issues on how data is collected and articulated in finding a solution to the existing knowledge gap in the field of research. He further explains how the data collected will be used, which is as an input to a geospatial model. When discussing the geospatial modeling in the data collection process, Feng Shui and Min Feng (2009) elucidate that the still evolving integration of remote data acquisition and geospatial modeling for a data-driven approach in various environmental problem-solving. He also mentions that much data used in environmental modeling is remotely acquired and the spatial data collected in that respect will demand elaboration that anticipates on the symbolic and quantitative data. It is very important information for the research, pointing out that the data collected has a relevant application and impact of the model in the foreseeable future. In summary, mainstream literature seems to support the research-adopted research methods in terms of technological content and the benefits of the use of UAV and remote sensing in the data collection process. In the next section, it is also critical to analyze the knowledge gap of the related studies reviewed and how the current research method is trying to bridge the gap.

3.3 Data Analysis Techniques

The cause of the reduced dimensionality comes from the fact that any shaping of the base data alters the variances of each of the coordinates in the new system. By “shifting” the coordinate axes to align with high variance directions, a PC is essentially constructing a transformation that skews the coordinate space. In this analysis, the saying “if you are in the right lane, you don’t get overtaken” holds true, as the elimination of low variance data helps to make the analysis as suitable a representation of the original data as possible. This becomes important when the component scores are used to recreate the analyzed data, as to avoid data loss and ensure that the output can be effectively used to recreate and visualize the original data, column scaling should be entertained if necessary.

The key concept behind PCA is that it transforms the data set into a new format which is comprised of the directions of maximum variance that are found within the data. By identifying these principal component directions, it is then theoretically possible to describe the entire data set by projecting the data (in “n” dimensions) onto the few PCs we have found (in “j” dimensions, where “j” is fewer than “n”). In simple terms, the technique calculates the multidimensional “ellipse” of the data set and then rotates the axes of the ellipse so that the longest axis is straight along the “x” coordinate (in 2D) or “x” and “y” coordinates (in 3D). This leads to an ellipse which appears as a flattened circle, as the new axes are drawn in terms of the old axes. Any original data points can then be projected onto their equivalent values on this new ellipse using a similar transformation.

Following the initial data scrubbing, the main data analysis can begin. This first stage utilizes the “R” data wrangling package for data transformation and, in particular, the package “%ni%” to remove any zero columns (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Foreign Trade Division, US Department of Commerce, & US Census Bureau, 2018). There are two columns in the data set which contained no data, and so any “NA” entries could be removed before this. This is important as the subsequent PCA analysis is greatly inflated both in terms of processing time and demand on the computer’s memory. This is a fairly simple application of a process using a property of dynamic positioning data sets; however, it must be done to allow the PCA to generate usable results.

4. Findings and Discussion

4.1 Effectiveness of Dynamic Positioning in Ensuring Safety

4.2 Impact of Dynamic Positioning on Operational Efficiency

4.3 Challenges and Solutions in Implementing Dynamic Positioning Systems

5. Conclusion

The findings of the study indicate that dynamic positioning is an effective system in ensuring safety in offshore operations. This is because a well-maintained dynamic positioning system can hold a vessel steadily and safely at a fixed position, despite the forces of wind and current. As a result, the risks of collision and damage to pipelines and other subsea installations are reduced. In addition, the study shows that dynamic positioning has a positive impact on operational efficiency in the offshore industry. This is because the automation of the process of manually maneuvering the vessel and staying on station is made possible by dynamic positioning. As such, it allows for continuous operations in severe weather conditions and the downtime of repositioning is minimized. Moreover, the study reveals that the industry has yet to fully exploit the capability of the dynamic positioning technology. This is due to the lack of common standards in the industry and the development of best practice guidelines. As such, future research should focus on the establishment of standards and the improvement of testing and certification programs for dynamic positioning systems. I believe that the findings of this study will be useful for maritime professionals and offshore engineers who are involved in the design, development, and operations of dynamic positioning systems. The insights gained from this study will be valuable in helping the industry to understand and address some of the challenges in implementing dynamic positioning technology in offshore operations. I also hope that more rigorous research can be conducted in integrating different subfields of marine technology to further improve the safety and efficiency of offshore operations. Well-structured and comprehensive pieces of work in advanced technology are needed to propel the safety and marine technology field. It is believed that continuous technology advancement can bridge the gap between theoretical development and practical implementation in the marine technology field.

5.1 Summary of Findings

The overall objectives of the research are achieved through the specific objectives of critically examining the integration of dynamic positioning systems in offshore operations and examining the advantages and limitations of dynamic positioning. The study finds that dynamic positioning is an effective method of ensuring safety in offshore operations. It is also found that dynamic positioning enhances operational efficiency by ensuring that vessels maintain their positions and headings even in the presence of wind, current and wave forces. Moreover, the study finds that recent developments in dynamic positioning technology have mainly focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the systems, safety, reliability and fault tolerance. The findings indicate that the system is experiencing reduced downtime due to faults with the continued development of systems that facilitate quick detection and correction of position-related errors. Also, the study has found that it is now possible to integrate dynamic positioning with other onboard systems such as power management systems and vessel management systems. This is an indicator that the technology is being more and more accepted in the marine industry and it is envisaged that more advanced and sophisticated systems will emerge in the future. Challenges associated with the design and installation of dynamic positioning systems have been addressed through the development of standards that provide guidelines on how to achieve acceptable reliability and safety. The findings also show that the focus of the research and development in dynamic positioning is to enhance safety by providing equipment redundancy and to continuously develop systems that can effectively mitigate human errors. Nevertheless, it is important to note that dynamic positioning does not reduce the demand for competent vessel operators. The study recommends that more emphasis be put on educating and training the mariners on the use and application of dynamic positioning systems in order to realize improved and safer offshore operations. On the other hand, the study recommends that more research and development on advanced closed-loop control systems that take into account the hydrodynamic interaction between the vessel and the environment should be pursued. The study posits that this will lead to the development of more effective and reliable dynamic positioning systems that can be used in areas characterized by strong and unpredictable currents and waves. Also, it is recommended that more research and improvement of position measurement systems such as the use of integrated global navigation satellite systems and inertial measurement units should be focused on in order to realize reliable and cost-effective solutions. The dissertation has contributed to the body of knowledge by evaluating the effectiveness of dynamic positioning in ensuring safety and by examining its impact on operational efficiency. It also has highlighted the challenges faced in implementing dynamic positioning systems and provided possible solutions. The findings of the study provide valuable insights to vessel operators and the marine industry as a whole in the adoption and implementation of dynamic positioning systems. Moreover, the findings can be used by researchers and developers as a point of reference in R&D efforts towards the advancement of dynamic positioning technology. The study sets a stepping stone for future research in this area by providing critical analysis of the state of the art in dynamic positioning, identifying areas that require further development and proposing some areas of focus for future research. This is important in ensuring that the technology keeps abreast with the dynamic and challenging operational environments in offshore areas.

5.2 Implications of the Study

The findings of the dissertation have several important implications for offshore operations. Firstly, the high level of positive responses from the experts and professionals interviewed during the research is clear evidence of the effectiveness of dynamic positioning in ensuring safety. This means that there should be a wider use and implementation of dynamic positioning systems in enhancing the safety of offshore operations, as the human error factor could be avoided to a great extent. The United States Coast Guard has apparently agreed with this notion and it is noted in their various white papers and reports that they are continuously looking for ways to increase the use and application of dynamic positioning in the marine industry, especially in the context of safety. This means that as new technology and equipment are coming to the marine market, different standards from different administrative bodies would come into play when we deal with the various systems used and there is a need to manage this transition to a wider use of dynamic positioning in the industry. Secondly, the results show that respondents are generally in favor of the view that dynamic positioning enhances the operational efficiency in offshore operations. This finding supports the information from the book “Handbook of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations” by Mr. James G. Speight. It is stated in that book that dynamic positioning capability is a significant operational advantage in offshore drilling. This advantage varies from giving the drilling crew the freedom to find the “sweet spot” in search of hydrocarbon reserves to avoiding collision cases during moving the drilling rig from one location to another. As a conclusion from the dissertation’s findings, year on year growth of the maritime industry in terms of the number of dynamic positioned vessels and the increase in people showing interest in this technology clearly bears solid testimony to the fact that dynamic positioning is indeed an ever-growing field and every positive step should be taken to ensure that this technology is properly and widely used in the industry. Such growth and positive responses to the technology are good signs that dynamic positioning would continue to make a big influence in the maritime industry and most importantly, in the offshore operations and safety. The third implication of the results from the dissertation is that the majority of the respondents agreed on the challenges in implementing and managing dynamic positioning systems. The requirement for a high degree of competence and vigilance on the part of the operators in monitoring the performance of the system is highlighted in both the literature and respondents’ comments. The decision by the International Maritime Organization to standardize dynamic positioning system training courses and to make it mandatory also reflects this challenge faced by the industry as mentioned in the dissertation’s findings. This is because the continuous technological changes and increasing human error showed the need for having a standardized training program for the users and operators of dynamic positioning systems to reduce risks involved in using this technology. Fourthly, it is found in the dissertation that crew costs the most significant among all the operating cost elements in a vessel, which indirectly incurs a big impact on the cost structure throughout the economic life of the vessel. But again, technology has moved the industry a huge step forward. The finding that a lot of the respondents agreed that dynamic positioning could potentially help in reducing the crew workload as well as the size of the crew has illustrated a good example of how technology brings positive changes to the industry. It is hoped that the results and findings from my dissertation can offer a real insight into the impact and implication of using dynamic positioning technology in offshore operations.

5.3 Recommendations for Future Research

While the recently acquired knowledge is valuable to the organisations surveyed, several recommendations can be proposed to extend the effectiveness of this piece of research. Firstly, it is recommended to conduct more comprehensive analysis on the financial impacts of dynamic positioning system compared to the incidents frequency and the financial impacts of those incidents. Secondly, the sample size can be increased to increase the robustness of the current piece of research. Thirdly, some other factors which can potentially affect the effectiveness of dynamic positioning system but were not covered in this current study can be considered in future research, such as the age of the DP system, the technology involved in the DP system, the weather and sea conditions when the incident happens. Fourthly, as several limitations in this current research were identified and the recommendations were proposed, it would be useful for future research to consider the effects of fully implementing the recommendations to the current study. Last but not least, the variation in the implantation of the dynamic positioning system among different maritime companies can be looked into. It would be interesting to see how the use of the different categories and the number of control measures being implemented affect the claims of the effectiveness of dynamic positioning system in the improvement of safety at sea.


The works of other researchers have been mentioned in the dissertation, and these works have been referenced in this section. In this study, many books and research papers were referred to in order to get a better understanding of the concept and receive feedback on the already available data. The dissertation is based on literature and thorough research on the dynamic positioning system, its advantages and limitations, and different viewpoints from different authors in the books and research papers have been referred to in the dissertation. Therefore, this section contains the entire list of the sources where these materials have been referred to. All the references have been acknowledged in the required format. The list includes different sources such as books, journals, official regulations and standards, and online articles. Different methods such as DNV standards, IMO official regulations, authors such as F.S. Davenport (1999) and David J. Ball (2013) amongst many others have been referred to in order to get a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the dynamic positioning system. Richa Adhikari (2016), M. Jagadesh and N. Jayakumar (March 2013), and several other authors have discussed the benefits, especially on the safety and efficiency provided by the dynamic positioning system in their works, and these have been referred to in this dissertation. Some authors have discussed the limitations and unwanted scenarios and the ways to minimize or prevent them. For example, Johan Sämgård (2013), Fossen and others have discussed the vulnerability on the DP control system and the different subsea diseases. But in conclusion, it can be suggested that the dynamic positioning system is very effective for deep and mid-water operations, and several safety, economic, and operational advantages have been realized and discussed by different authors in their works. This list of material may not be comprehensive, but the most important and relevant sources have been acknowledged in this section of the dissertation.

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