The Art of Dredging

Dredging and shipping

How to certify as a D.P.-operator ?

Operators of dynamic positioning equipment (DPO's) are mainly deck officers with an extra accreditation.




How to get such a DP-certificate ?

The main pre-requisite is that you are able to manoeuvre a ship. You cannot tell a computer to handle a ship, if you don't know how to do it yourself.

The first thing you are going to need is a dynamic positioning course. The DP training scheme has been conceived by the Nautical Institute (NI) in London and is the generally accepted certification path worldwide. 


It goes like this:

DP Basic Induction Course

The first component to be completed is the Induction Course.  This program is intended for persons with little or no DP experience. The course takes 4-5 days.

The topics involved in Basic are a primer to dynamic positioning:

  • Principles of DP
  • Elements of the DP system
  • Practical operation of the system
  • Position Reference Systems, Environment sensors, Motion Reference Units,...
  • Power generation, supply & propulsion systems
  • DP classes 1, 2, 3
  • DP Operations

This program is offered at numerous training centers world wide.  A list of Nautical Institute accredited centers can be found HERE. The Basic course also includes excercises on DP-simulators

After basic training, the NI issues you a DP-logbook, that will record the next steps in obtaining a DP-certificate.


30 days onboard training

The next portion to be completed is a 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.

This time at sea involves familiarization requirements, to be signed off by the captain of the ship; then the candidate is ready for the next stage.


DP Advanced Simulator Course

The Advanced Simulator course is again 4 to 5 days in duration; the theory stays in the background this time; focus is on practical issues; job planning, risk assessment, alarms and emergency procedures

Equipment failures such as loss of thrusters or partial blackouts will help the DP-operator develop situational awareness and 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 get 6 months of time on a Class 1 vessel followed by a "Statement of Suitability" from the captain, 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.


Flowchart: obtaining a Dp-certificate (source: The Nautical Institute)


Getting your Certificate

Now that the DP-logbook is completed it may be submitted to the Nautical Institute for the issuance of a 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 and 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 and training centres have increased exponentially since the training scheme was first put into place over 20 years ago.  

Dynamic positioning was originally developed for offshore operations; but becomes increasingly popular outside this branch of industry; e.g. most newbuilt hopperdredgers are DP-equipped.

IMO has finally discovered dynamic positioning, and will rubberstamp the Nautical Institute Scheme in the next version of STCW.


 Marc Van de Velde


Some links:

International Dynamic Positioning Operators Association

The Nautical Institute on DP

International Marine Contractors Association

See also our book review: "DP OPERATOR'S HANDBOOK - a practical guide" 

Subscribe to our newsletter:

Write us: (at)

Manu's scripts

- a sailor's fifth column


Oops! This site has expired.

If you are the site owner, please renew your premium subscription or contact support.