The evolution of dynamic positioning

Paul Boughton

Howard Shatto, the father of Dynamic Positioning (DP) said that “there’s always more to be done” and that “technologies can always be improved” when discussing the future of DP – naturally, he was not wrong. Today the requirements, rules and regulations of dynamic positioning continue to change, sensor manufacturers have to be more proactive to meet the ever increasing demands of performance, quality and reliability. Whilst these are all of equal importance, Guidance Marine, the company that developed RadaScan and CyScan believes the message is simple: we are in the business of safety. The core principles of DP won't change, the fundamentals of the system will remain, but technologies will advance. Whether it be laser or microwave, today’s sensor technologies work in synergy with the DP system and are integral to the safe navigation of offshore vessels worldwide. One thing is for sure, precision positioning is a science. A science that has seen Guidance launch three successful local position reference sensors into the DP market. 

Gulfmark Americas has been using the CyScan Mk4 on its DP vessel fleet for several years and has also been actively replacing older CyScan Mk3 units with the latest Mk4. Danny Lee, director of DP Technical Services at Gulfmark, said: “The CyScan Mk4 has proved to be an excellent reference sensor for the Gulfmark fleet and has been the standard laser reference on all our newer vessels. We are also in the process of upgrading vessels fitted with the older CyScan Mk3 to the Mk4 so we can benefit from the latest design features the new Dashboard interface.” 

CCC Underwater Engineering has been using the CyScan Mk4 in its DSV fleet since it was introduced. Mylai Prabhakar, an electrical superintendent from CCC Underwater Engineering said: "CyScan Mk4 is a reliable reference sensor. In the Persian Gulf conditions are found to be very stable even during extreme weather conditions. We are installing CyScan Mk4 on our new build vessel as well. We are also upgrading the last Mk3 to Mk4.”

At present, the task is virtually the same as it was all those years ago: measure the position of the vessel with respect to the rig/asset – the expectations are just higher. The market requires multiple redundancies with independent failure modes, preferably with different principles of operation. More and more vessels are being installed with multiple local position reference sensors, a combination of both laser and radar – will there be a third? The days of DP-1 vessels in today’s offshore operational climate are coming to an end, DP-2, and in some instances DP-3 are now becoming the norm for operations such as supply, anchor handling and crew boats. Dynamic positioning is still one of the biggest engineering achievements of the 20th century. Guidance Marine will strive to contribute to the ever increasing demands of the market place and achieve further innovation in reliability, mechanical robustness and improve performance, both with sensitivity and accuracy.

Bumi Armada, a Malaysia-based company among the top owners and operators of OSVs in Asia has also enjoyed the benefits of the CyScan Mk3 since its launch over a decade ago. So much so, the company has been using Mk4 on its DP vessel fleet for several years, replacing legacy CyScan Mk3 with Mk4 systems. John Bruinsma, head of OSV – Operations believes, “The CyScan Mk4 has proved to be an excellent reference sensor and has been the standard laser reference sensor on all newer vessels.” As a result, Bruinsma goes on to say: “Bumi Armada is in the process of upgrading the last remaining vessels fitted with CyScan Mk3 to the Mk4.”

Looking ahead, Guidance Marine will be adding a close range, targetless sensor to its portfolio later this year. Designed to assist with collision avoidance, the technology will deliver new levels of close proximity safety to the industry.

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