Getting Your Dynamic Positioning (DP) License

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November 29, 2010

Here you are, fresh out of the academy with your watch keeping ticket, & you are looking to get the additional DP endorsement.  Or perhaps you have been at sea for 20 years & feel its time to try something new.  Or maybe you can just see which way the wind is blowing.

Any of these are great reasons for getting into the technically challenging & exciting field of Dynamic Positioning.

So where do I begin?


The first thing you are going to need is a dynamic positioning class. The DP training scheme has been conceived by the Nautical Institute in London & is the generally accepted path to certification worldwide.  It is based on the completion of a number of components & on the participation of many different people, namely:

  • The prospective DPO
  • The Ships Master
  • The duty DPO’s on the vessel you train on
  • The Training Centre Instructors

DP Basic Induction Course

The first component to be completed is the Induction Course.  This program is intended for persons already holding a marine license, but with little or no DP experience.  Depending on where the course is taken, the duration will be between 4 to 5 days.

The topics that will be covered give an overview of DP operation & will include:

  • Principles of DP
  • Elements of the DP system
  • Practical operation of the system
  • Position Reference Systems, such as Fanbeam
  • Environment sensors & ancillary equipment
  • Power generation, supply & propulsion systems
  • DP Operations

This program is offered at numerous training centers world wide.  A list of Nautical Institute accredited centers can be found HERE.

C-Mar operates 6 centers around the globe, with their most recent being opened in Mumbai.

Bibby Ship Management also has training centres around the globe & offers DP training.

30 Days Sea Time


The next portion to be completed is a MINIMUM of 30 days at sea onboard a DP equipped vessel.  Here you will get a chance to get some hands on experience in an operational environment.

Your NI issued DP logbook has a number of tasks that the potential Operator must complete during this time, which are to be signed off by the Master when he is satisfied they are understood.  Examples of these tasks are:

  • Setting the vessel up on DP
  • Maneuver vessel in Auto-DP mode
  • Control vessel movement using Joystick Control
  • Understanding DP computer system
  • Understanding of PRS is use

In many cases, the company that you are currently employed with will send you for the induction course & then have a spot on one of their DP vessels to get the requisite 30 days sea time.  However, with the increasing popularity & use of DP on vessels world wide, many sailors are choosing to fund the training themselves in an effort to get work on a DP vessel.  In this case getting the 30 days required is often one of the most frustrating aspects of the entire training scheme, as employers often will not hire an Operator without experience, but you can’t get the experience unless you get hired!

However there are some resources to assist you in finding that elusive berth.  There is the active Dynamic Positioning Operators group on Facebook, which has an active discussion board & wall where all types of topics of interest are discussed.  It should be noted that you must have at least completed your Induction to be accepted into the group & that employers or recruiters will not be accepted.  This ensures an open forum where sailors can speak freely with no fear of reprisal.

Additionally there is a great new program in the works by the IDPOA to assist budding DPO’s in their quest to find a berth.  Check out their proposed Training Initiative.

Once all the familiarization requirements are met & signed off, then the candidate is ready for the next stage.

DP Advanced Simulator


Once again its back to school!

The Advanced simulator course is again 4 to 5 days in duration.  This time the theory will play a smaller role & the focus will be on practical drills.  This will aid in job planning & risk assessment, with a number of operational problems to be studied.  The following topics will be covered:

  • Practical operation of the DP system
  • DP Operations
  • DP alarms, warnings & emergency procedures

Equipment failures such as loss of thrusters or partial blackouts will help the Operator develop situational awareness & trouble shooting skills.

Final Sea Time Requirement

At this stage you are officially a Junior DPO.  Now the final sea time requirement needs to be completed.

The fastest way to complete your time at this point is to do 6 months on a Class 2 or 3 DP vessel.

If working on a Class 1 vessel, 2 months of experience is only equal to 1 month experience on a Class 2 or 3.  If you are moving between ships & can get 2 months of time on a Class 2 or 3 vessel, then you will require 8 months on a Class 1 to fulfill the requirement, instead of the 4 months required if on Class 2 or 3.

Finally, if you get 6 months of time on a Class 1 vessel followed by a Statement of Suitability form the ships master, you will be issued a LIMITED DP certificate.  The full certificate will not be issued until you serve an additional 3 months, where the 2 for 1 for Class 1 time is still in place.  2 of those months however MUST be served on a Class 2 or 3 vessel.

Statement of Suitability

As previously mentioned, the Master must sign off in your book that he feels you are properly trained & ready to stand an unsupervised DP watch.  This is relatively straight forward & as the potential Operator will have between 6 to 10 months experience under their belt at this point, it should hopefully be only a formality.

Getting your Certificate

Now that the logbook is completed it may be submitted to the Nautical Institute for the issue of a certificate.  It should be noted that some companies may first require the logbook to be submitted to the office, where it can be verified that the requirements have actually been completed to their satisfaction.

>As you need to send in the actual logbook it is a good idea to go through & make copies of every page, just in case it gets lost in the mail!

When it is sent back the Award of Certificate page will now be complete & you will have your very own Certificate Number.  There will also be an additional paper certificate.  In order for the certificate to remain valid a minimum of 6 months DP experience must be completed every 5 years.  If this is not completed & you let the certificate lapse, then you will be required to start over from the beginning.

The Future

These days the number of certified DPO’s & accredited training centres have increased exponentially since the training scheme was first put into place over 20 years ago.  For a look at how the training scheme is being re-examined, take a look at The Future of DP Training.

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