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Web alert: the USCG’s potential regulations for the DP sector

17 December 2015

Background

In the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the US administration requested that the US Coast Guard (USCG) form regulations to govern the dynamic positioning (DP) sector. Although the DP practices were not the cause of the Deepwater Horizon incident, it brought inevitable scrutiny within the industry’s operational practices. As a result, the USCG published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) entitled: “Requirements for MODUs and other vessels conducting outer continental shelf activities with Dynamic Positioning Systems”.

The USCG’s proposed rulemaking

Specifically, the USCG “proposes to establish minimum design, operation, training, and manning standards for mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs) and other vessels using dynamic positioning systems to engage in Outer Continental Shelf activities. Establishing these minimum standards is necessary to improve the safety of people and property involved in such operations, and the protection of the environment in which they operate. This notice of proposed rulemaking would decrease the risk of a loss of position by a dynamically-positioned MODU or other vessel that could result in a fire, explosion, or subsea spill, and supports the Coast Guard's strategic goals of maritime safety and protection of natural resources.”

Although the NPRM does not create many new provisions, it is evident that it aims to ensure that current industry best practices such as those of the Marine Technology Society (MTS) as well as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are implemented into the rulemaking as illustrated with the following:

“We [USCG] propose to incorporate IMO MSC/Circ.645 into regulations as mandatory provisions. We also propose to adopt in regulations DP guidance issued by the MTS as mandatory provisions to provide owners or operators of DP MODUs and other vessels essential information on how to meet some of the requirements in this notice of proposed rulemaking.”

Dynamic Positioning systems, as outlined by the USCG, “typically use computers to automate control of vital power and propulsion systems to maintain a vessel's position using a position referencing system.” It is widely acknowledged that DP systems depend very much on voluntary industry guidelines, guidance from the IMO and classification society rules. The USCG’s rulemaking, when and if implemented, would be the first regulations in the world issued by a regulatory body which would explicitly establish provisions relating to dynamic positioning systems and would also make it a requirement to adhere to operational procedures, reporting and recordkeeping and failure to fulfil such duties could result in civil fines.

For further information and access to the USCG’s RPRM document, please click here.