Crew Feature: DPO David Llewellyn

1st Mar 2024

As a diving support vessel in the Northern Marine Fleet of managed vessels, the MPV Everest conducts unique operations alien to crews on tankers, ferries and other more well known vessel types. 

The 140m long, 7,277T vessel can accommodate 158 personnel and has an array of specialist machinery and technology onboard to facilitate diving operations, geophysical surveying, ice navigation, umbilical and cable installation, trenching and burial of pipelines, amongst other activity.

The multipurpose vessel contains two cranes, 5 moon pools  and air diving and saturation diving systems which allows divers to work and live in a hyperbaric environment, thus reducing the need for decompression at the end of every dive.

Remaining in a fixed position at sea when all these delicate operations are being executed, the vessel utilises a dynamic positioning control system without the use of mooring lines or anchors.

Such specialist technology requires specialist personnel.

David Llewellyn, Dynamic Positioning Operator on the MPV Everst kindly gave an insight into his career to date and the special role of the DPO. 

He said: “Having spent most of my early career in the [British] Royal Navy, I later qualified as a Deck Officer (OOW) in 2006 and began working in the offshore industry firstly onboard a Platform Supply Vessel (PSV).

“I remember the first time I was alone on the bridge as OOW and navigating through the oil fields in the North Sea which I found nerve racking. It took a while to build up my confidence but with a lot of help from colleagues I managed to adapt.

“Once I was qualified as a DPO this allowed me to work on a wider range of offshore vessels.

“Having spent one year on board my first DSV I was promoted to 1st Officer/SDPO which was a huge responsibility as I was then in charge of the bridge during dynamic position operations.

“I have since worked worldwide onboard Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS), Dive Support (DSV), Cable Lay Support Vessel (CLSV) Pipe Lay Vessel (PLSV), Heavy Lift and Offshore Construction Vessel (HLCV). I have also worked in the offshore wind farm industry on board Offshore Support Vessels (OSV).

“When the Everest is involved in offshore diving operations I am responsible for operating the vessel’s Dynamic Positioning equipment to maintain the vessel’s position.  It uses Differential GPS positioning and other position reference systems to maintain position.”

As one of two DPOs onboard, David’s work can greatly affect the wider operations of the vessel and even the safety of his fellow colleagues, so concentration and precision must be maintained when operating the DPO system.

He explained: “During DP operations there are always two DPOs on the bridge, one controlling the vessel using the DP console and the other who will be keeping a look out and monitoring the weather.

“We receive 6 hourly weather information for our location via our weather information provider. We also set our Radar to long range scanning to detect any approaching squalls.

“Both DPOs will be constantly communicating with each other and also advising the vessel’s Master, the Diving Supervisor and OCM of any concerns regarding approaching weather. A decision will be made on a course of action on whether to continue or suspend diving operations. 

“When the vessel is conducting diving operations in close proximity to a platform jacket. It is crucial that the DPOs remain focussed on the environmental conditions and the vessel’s position keeping.  

“Fortunately, the ship has enough power and thrusters to cope with these conditions. If the weather deteriorates further and the vessel begins to lose position, then we would have to think about suspending operations and recover the divers.  

“I feel a great deal of responsibility for the divers. Any mistakes I make controlling the vessel during diving operations could have serious consequences for the divers in the water.”

The MPV Everest has three remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) on board capable of working to depths of up to 4000 metres.

The ROVs are fitted with manipulators and video cameras and are used subsea to assist the diving team with positioning of equipment and conducting surveys of subsea structures such as pipelines or platforms.

The ROVs carry on board a variety of tools and equipment and can conduct operations which a diver cannot.

With a vessel constantly in a state of bustling activity, the transfer of personnel is more frequent than most other vessels managed by Northern Marine and creates a busy helideck.

David, who is also qualified as a Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO), explains: “Everest is fitted with a helideck forward and above the bridge and we regularly receive helicopters for the transfer of personnel and equipment.

“Most of the Deck Officers have attended courses to allow them to become a HLO to prepare the helideck to receive a helicopter. This involves rigging firefighting equipment and briefing and taking charge of the helideck team.

“The HLO also communicates via radio to the pilots of the helicopter and will inform them when the helideck is ready to receive a helicopter and give them permission to land.”

At 59 years of age and with 43 years of seagoing experience, David continues to upskill, currently enrolled on the Chief Officer distance learning course with Tyneside College (Newcastle, UK) with a view to climbing to the rank.

David added: “I have spent most of my life working at sea and I have seen a lot of changes both in the Royal Navy and in the Offshore fleet and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed my career working at sea, meeting, and becoming friends with so many characters.

“I cannot think of another profession which allows you to travel the world and work with so many different nationalities.”