Dynamic positioning (DP) is a computer controlled system to automatically maintain a vessel’s position and heading by using her own propellers and thrusters. Position reference sensors, combined with wind sensors, motion sensors and gyro compasses, provide information to the computer pertaining to the vessel’s position and the magnitude and direction of environmental forces affecting its position. Examples of vessel types that employ DP include but are not limited to ships and semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODU)
The computer program contains a mathematical model of the vessel that includes information pertaining to the wind and current drag of the vessel and the location of the thrusters. This knowledge, combined with the sensor information, allows the computer to calculate the required steering angle and thruster output for each thruster. This allows operations at sea where mooring or anchoring is not feasible due to deep water, congestion on the sea bottom (pipelines, templates) or other problems.
Dynamic positioning may either be absolute in that the position is locked to a fixed point over the bottom, or relative to a moving object like another ship or an underwater vehicle. One may also position the ship at a favourable angle towards wind, waves and current, called weathervaning.
Where IMO leaves the decision of which Class applies to what kind of operation to the operator of the DP ship and its client, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD) has specified what Class should be used in regard to the risk of an operation. In the NMD Guidelines and Notes No. 28, enclosure A four classes are defined:
- Class 0 Operations where loss of position keeping capability is not considered to endanger human lives, or cause damage.
- Class 1 Operations where loss of position keeping capability may cause damage or pollution of small consequence.
- Class 2 Operations where loss of position keeping capability may cause personnel injury, pollution, or damage with large economic consequences.
- Class 3 Operations where loss of position keeping capability may cause fatal accidents, or severe pollution or damage with major economic consequences.
Based on this the type of ship is specified for each operation:
Class 1 DP units with equipment class 1 should be used during operations where loss of position is not considered to endanger human lives, cause significant damage or cause more than minimal pollution.
Class 2 DP units with equipment class 2 should be used during operations where loss of position could cause personnel injury, pollution or damage with great economic consequences.
Class 3 DP units with equipment class 3 should be used during operations where loss of position could cause fatal accidents, severe pollution or damage with major economic consequences.
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