Ahoy there M’hearties. Thanks for the generous comments and I am well chuffed that you like my description of my job.
I know it probably sounds a bit odd, but I have never considered that what I do for a living was in any way unusual, or that people would find it fascinating.
It is work, it’s what I have to do in order to get as much time off as I do. (I work normally 6 weeks on then have 6 weeks off)
The people I work with all do the same, so the subject of it being about “out there” or unusual, never comes up.
I knew that I was in a bit of a minority of people in one sense, because whenever the subject of work comes up I am one of the few who says “I love what I do it’s good fun, pays well and keeps me interested” I enjoy the challenge of staying at the top of my game and enjoy the fact that the people who count rate me very highly and value my experience and input, so overall job-wise, I don’t have much to moan about.
I am often asked by people I know, or meet, what I do and when I say “I drive specialist ships” it is usually met with a “Oh really!”, and one of those vague looks that means people are being polite, but don’t know what that means.
I think the photos and video give better idea of where I work and the sort of work we do.
My role is the Senior Dynamic Positioning Operator and First Officer.
In short I am responsible for keeping the vessel in position and making it sure it moves where it needs to, when it needs to.
I do this by operating the Dynamic Positioning System (DP) which takes input from all our position sensors, such as
Differential GPS, (a posh and more accurate version of Sat Nav) which gives us an “absolute position,
Taut Wire (which is a wire with a large weight on that goes to the seabed and a sensor at the davit head computes the angle and length of wire to be me a “relative” position)
HPR which is a sub sea sonar beacons and transceiver,
CySacn which is a laser range and bearing system working on the timing of a reflection,
Rada Scan which is a beacon that is placed on an object (like the rig) and is interrogated by a ship board scanner and gives us a range and bearing relative position) .
It also takes info feed from the 3 Gyro compasses, the anemometers (wind sped direction) and the VRUs which are sensors that make corrections to all the others to counteract the vessel pitch, roll and heave (vertical movement in the sea)
Once it has all this info it knows where we are and what way we are heading, and I tell it to “Stay” (arf arf)
As the wind and current and waves and /or other external forces (such as the force of the pipeline we are laying, or the force of what we are trying to lift or pull into position) act on the vessel they try to pull her off position or heading, and the DP system works out what thrust is needed to counteract it, and sends the required signal to one, or some, or all, of the 6 azimuth thrusters (thrusters that can revolve in a 360 degree axis)telling them what direction, and what power is required, to keep us on our chosen position and heading.
This happens constantly and in normal weather conditions, say with wind up to 20 knots and about half knot of current, the footprint (the amount any part of the vessel moves) of this vessel (140 meters by 40 and weighing 27,000 tons) will be less than 10 centimeters.
In winds up to 35 to 40 knots and 2 to 3 meter seas we will still be able to maintain a foot print of about a meter.
Trying to do it manually in calm seas, with little current, and operating the 6 thrusters “by hand”, it is difficult to maintain a footprint of less than two meters, however when all the thrusters are combined on joystick control, and you have lots of practice, one can get it down to about half a meter. the difference is that the DP system doesn’t get tired or hungry or need to have pee or start daydreaming about being at home with his beautiful vibrant wife.
My role is to constantly monitor and tune the DP, to obtain the optimum position holding capabilities for the current conditions and operations, and also to move the vessel into the position required when required.
I also have to be vigilant for any potential system failures or unusual events, and also watching for changes in the weather or sea conditions that would have an adverse effect on the position holding.
In short my job entails constantly considering the worse case scenario and having a plan of action should it occur.
I am also there because I know what to do when it goes wrong and have the requisite experience and skill to be able to get us out of the crap should it go wrong.
If I did ever get it wrong during critical operations (ie when we have divers down or when we are laying pipe under high tension or engaged in a heavy lift) then there is a very high probability that people would die as result of my mistake, so therefore I have to be on the ball.
This is also why vessels of this nature are completely dry of alcohol and we are random tested for drug and alcohol use.
I will pop up another video shortly showing the time lapse sequence of us installing a new oil/gas production platform in the Gulf of Thailand.
It goes from empty sea to completed platform, 5 and half days work in 8 minutes of video. Pretty snazzy it is
In the meantime here is a pic or two of what we look like below the water line and the bloke on the cherry picker in the first one and the chap walking below the central thruster in the second one will give you an idea of scale.
each thruster can rotate 360 degrees and gives the equivalent of about 4 thousand horsepower and we have 6 of them three at the front and three at the back.
So back to the current voyage
Midnight position is 18* 58′ N 117* 31′ E
The sea is slight < 1 meter, wind has veered to SSE 10 knots and the temp at midnight is a positively brisk 25C the water depth here is 3780 meters and we are making good 049*. WE will be upping our security status to Level 2 to tomorrow which means we will be deploying extra look outs to offset the increased risk of pirate activity in the Luzon Strait. WE also batten down and lock form inside all external doors that have access to any vital part of the vessel. These are not the "hijack the vessel - take hostage" pirates you are used to hearing about off Somalia, this lot are petty theft chancers, more "sea pikeys" rather than pirates, so we are just taking prudent precautions. Here is the chart Love and peace Bentley