Politics and Religion: on the water

Jan 15, 2015, 1:31PM EST
Politics and Religion: on the water
The OSVDPA Announces its membership opportunity at a critical time for the offshore markets and, in particular, those stakeholders immersed in the all-important Dynamic Positioning game.

At about the same time that the U.S. Coast Guard, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and a few dozen other flag states were hashing out the so-called Manila Amendments to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code, I had a conversation with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Mayte Medina. As Chief of the Maritime Personnel Qualification Division, she is also one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to the topic of mariner credentialing and training.

As you can well imagine, there were many hot topics at those STCW negotiations, but arguably, none were as contentious as the proposal by some flag states to dumb down or even eliminate the requirement for celestial navigation training. Medina told me (somewhat tongue in cheek and in reference to those discussions), “My Father always told me never to discuss religion or politics at the dinner table or in mixed company. What I found out at these STCW meetings was that most mariners consider celestial navigation to be both religion and politics all rolled into one.”


I had to laugh. Of course, every seafarer has an opinion on that hot potato, a subject which perhaps perfectly defines the line of demarcation between old school navigation and today’s younger mariners who (seemingly) spend most of their time staring at the readout (without ever looking out a porthole) from an expensive piece of electronics on the bridge of virtually every commercial vessel in the world. Another area which tends to evoke similar strong opinions is the practice of Dynamic Positioning and in particular, the training and credentialing of those tasked which such an important task.


Today, some stakeholders define the quality of their offshore support tonnage simply as a function of their redundancy in terms of dynamic capabilities. Descriptions of a particular vessel typically start with, “My boat is DP2 rated,” or another OSV CEO might say (somewhat dismissively of the competition), “Well, that’s only a DP1 vessel. We don’t play in that sandbox.” Without a doubt, the quality of offshore support tonnage for the oil & gas industry is now inextricably tied to (a.) the DP capabilities of that vessel and (b.) the quality and skill of the mariners operating that sophisticated equipment.


With that in mind, the recently formed Offshore Service Vessel Dynamic Positioning Authority, Inc. (OSVDPA) has announced the initiation of its general membership program. Specifically, the Authority is inviting dynamic positioning operators (DPOs); DPO instructors; and other entities and individuals engaged in DP training, operation, or related endeavors to apply for membership.


A new organization, the OSVDPA held its first board meeting only in March of last year, and is charting the course toward a new dynamic positioning operator (DPO) certificate specially designed for the offshore service vessel industry. Incorporated as a non-profit, the OSVDPA seeks to improve the safety of the maritime industry by improving the quality and quantity of certified DPOs. The Authority’s training and certification system will seek to emulate the structure of existing DPO certification methods with some enhancements.


OSVDPA members receive a number of benefits. Chief among these is the annual election, whereby the OSVDPA members shall elect two of their own to be Membership Representatives to the OSVDPA’s Technical Advisory Council (TAC). The TAC is the portion of the OSVDPA leadership composed of industry professionals and charged by the Board of Directors with writing the OSVDPA’s certification system. According to OSVDPA Executive Director Aaron Smith, “The OSVDPA has greatly benefited from the input it has received from the maritime industry. We’re certain that offering everyone—from the DPOs to the CEOs—the chance to have a seat at the table and steer the OSVDPA, will create a better certification system, one that effectively and practically trains DPOs in the safest use of DP technology.”


With the support of offshore heavyweights such as SEACOR Marine and Hornbeck Offshore, OSVDPA is arguably off to a good start. In addition to electing Membership Representatives to the TAC, OSVDPA members are able to address the OSVDPA Board of Directors during their Annual Meeting, have access to direct and specific notice about new features of the OSVDPA certification system, and are invited to participate in member surveys and other information-gathering endeavors in order to shape the future of OSVDPA’s training system.


OSVDPA will divide its Membership into two classes: Corporate Members and Individual Members. Corporate Member applications can come from DP training providers that have taught DPO courses for at least five years, vessel owners or operators that operate DP-equipped vessels and follow industry-accepted guidance, and other entities involved in the manufacturing or use of DP. Individual Member applications are DPOs, DPO instructors, or other individuals involved in DP for a period of no less than two years.


For its part, OSVDPA aims to be a viable alternative for prospective Dynamic Positioning Operators (DPOs) and in order to do that, they need support from the mariners, the vessel operators, the oil companies, industry associations, and flag states. OSVDPA spent much of the last 12 months listening to the wants and needs of each of these segments of the industry. Smith insists, “The OSVDPA system needs to be rigorous in its requirements, yet practical in its implementation.” And that’s a tall order. DP certification requirements combine many things, including but not limited to sea time, simulator training, the venue of where experience is gained and a myriad of other variables. Getting everyone to agree on that – like celestial navigation – won’t be easy.


It is also true that IMCA, OMSA, the Nautical Institute, DNV-GL, the BSEE, the US Coast Guard and the BOEM already form a crowded playing field in the offshore regulatory game. We asked OSVDPA’s Aaron Smith in April what his organization brings to the table that the others, perhaps, do not. Smith replied, “While there are numerous players offshore, mariners seeking certification as a DPO really have only two current options, the Nautical Institute or the DNV. As with anything, there are advantages and drawbacks to each of these systems. What the OSVDPA hopes to do is to combine the best of both worlds and provide a third option that actually works for the offshore service vessel industry.”


In the end, of course, the Coast Guard’s Mayte Medina is right: It’s just not a good idea to discuss religion and politics in mixed company. But, like the Manila STCW negotiations, sometimes it is necessary. This is probably one of those times. More information about becoming a Member of the OSVDPA can be found at www.OSVDPA.org. – MarPro.

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Joseph Keefe is the lead commentator of MaritimeProfessional.com. Additionally, he is Editor of both Maritime Professional and MarineNews print magazines. He can be reached at jkeefe@maritimeprofessional.com or at Keefe@marinelink.com. MaritimeProfessional.com is the largest business networking site devoted to the marine industry. Each day thousands of industry professionals around the world log on to network, connect, and communicate.

Filed under: BOEM, BSEE, Coast, DNV-GL, Guard, IMCA, OMSA, US
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