New Scheme Tackles DP Fraud and Specialization

DPO system
Alexis Platform

Published Apr 30, 2015 7:38 PM by Wendy Laursen

The Nautical Institute (NI) has launched a new online platform to handle accreditation for dynamic positioning operators. The move comes after changes effective this year to the training scheme and standards required by dynamic positioning operators (DPOs). 

The Alexis Platform (www.nialexisplatform.org) was introduced as a single-access point for accreditation after changes were made following a comprehensive review of training needs globally in 2013. It provides a single point of access for applications for new and revalidated Nautical Institute DPO certificates and enables the validity of certificates to be checked by employers.


One of the outcomes of that review was the need to reduce fraud, and the platform is designed to do that, says Regina Bindao, Director of Accreditations at the NI. The old system allowed people to apply even if their paperwork wasn’t complete. “Alexis has many more checks in place for applications coming through, so it avoids incorrect applications and provides more help and straight answers to the applicant when something is not in compliance with the scheme.”


Added to that concern is another of the main changes to the scheme – the introduction of restricted certificates for shuttle tankers and unclassed vessels alongside the established limited and unlimited certificates.

“The main issue with shuttle tankers is that they are not on DP a great deal, particularly the ones operating on the longer sea routes, such as those from Brazil to the U.S.,” says Philip Wake, Chief Executive of the NI. “Their amount of time on DP is very limited, and it was an issue that meant that even with the reduction of DP sea time down to 120 days their trainees wouldn’t be able to complete the training scheme within the four year time frame,” says Wake.

“The other issue is that the offshore loading process for shuttle tankers is a very specialized operation, and they wanted that to be included in the training scheme – offshore loading as well as DP.”

In the past, concerns have been raised about the competence of some DPOs to navigate a vessel when it is not in DP mode. “It’s a matter of bridge team management,” says Wake. “If you’ve got someone on the DP desk who is not qualified to navigate the ship as a normal bridge watch keeper, then you have to have very clear processes in place for the handover of control from the DP desk to the bridge officer. 

“Of course, under maritime law, the officer of the watch and the master are legally responsible for the ship at all times, whether it’s in DP or not. So, there are issues in terms of procedures on board whether the DPO is a qualified watch keeper or not. You still need someone looking out the window in normal navigation mode, even if somebody is on the DP desk.”

Sea Time

The new scheme sees the amount of sea time required moving from 210 days to 120 days. This was a topic that drew significant debate, says Wake. “There was quite a strong proposal to go down to 90 days DP sea time, but the majority wanted to stick with 120. Those issues are rumbling around. Mainly it comes down to the type of ship; how often they are operating in DP mode and therefore how quickly can they get their people through the training scheme.”

The new scheme changes these qualifying days from having a minimum of one hour on the DP desk to a minimum of two hours per day. Within the 120 days, it is possible for DPOs to do a sea time reduction course in a simulator that replaces 30 days of operating time at sea.

More Changes

The new scheme, effective January 1, also included the following changes:

• Moving from 30 days familiarization to 60 days DP sea time between induction and simulator courses
• Introducing additional assessment after completion of simulator course
• Moving from a log book to an enhanced task book
• Moving from no revalidation requirement to revalidation every five years

“We are now in a period of consolidation post the review and introduction of the new standards which will ensure that the maritime industry continues to maintain appropriate levels of professional development based upon knowledge, skills, experience and attitude which together produce competence within the NI-certificated DPO community,” said Wake.

The training standards were updated in consultation with industry organizations such as the International Association of Drilling Contractors, International Chamber of Shipping, International Dynamic Positioning Operators Association, International Marine Contractors Association, International Support Vessel Owners’ Association, Oil Companies International Marine Forum and regional training providers in Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Future Functionality

In a second phase of development for the platform, the NI plans to introduce dedicated areas for accredited DP and oil spill response training centers and industry stakeholders.

The NI, which is a registered charity and operates the scheme on a not-for-profit basis, has invested more than £100,000 ($154,000) in the development of the Alexis Platform and has created 10 new posts at its head office in London in response to the growing demand for DPO certification. 

The number of certificated DPOs has increased from 6,000 a decade ago to more than 25,000 today with the annual number of certifications dealt with by the NI more than tripling over the same period to more than 3,000 per annum in 2014.