Dynamic Positioning to come alongside a dock

Ok, quick show of hands from my fellow mudboat boat trash… have any of you ever used DP to come to the dock?

@boattrash1, I don’t think there’s anyone obtuse enough to trust their DP system coming into a dock. …and there’s so much I could say for accusing us GOM’mers of having a lack of boat handling skills, but I don’t want to wind up like c.captain. Lack of teeth… yeah, I’ll give you that one in a lot of cases… but dude, there’s no one DP’ing inside Fourchon to tie up and boat handling skills are far from lacking.


Listen man I was there when the bubble was about to burst. Every dickhead yachty with a 200 ton license was down there driving newbuild quad screw 220 foot crewboats.I have personally seen captains use DP going into in C-port 1.

The best operator down there was the Yankee towing on the wire going downstream Lafourche.

Is he still there?

I’ve heard those large Island Offshore vessels use DP when docking. I will say I think with z-drives, stern and bow thrusters, and an abundance of power, most large boats in fourchon don’t really take that much skill to handle. That being said, going north in the bayou with crew boats overtaking you on both sides and 312’ headed south towards you certainly has it’s own pucker factor.


I never used DP to dock in Fourchon and never knew of anyone who did.


Cruise ships use DP to dock and undock.

So by the use of transitive properties, they are the ones who are obtuse enough. :laughing:

Are they actually using DP to dock Cruise ships, or independent Joystick system?
There is a distinct difference between the two:

An independent joystick system is DP0.

1 Like

I think you are right, it doesn’t take much skills to handle a modern OSV (or Cruise ship) with Joystick control, thrusters and power in abundance. The old joke about; “give her a kick to Stbd., Mr. Mate” is no longer a joke, but a reality.

Real boat handling skill is called for when you take a low powered, single screw ship with reversible engine, fixed pitch propeller and no bow thruster alongside, or away from a berth in gusty winds, or shifting current. (No tug assistance available, or requested)

Old Alaska hands will probably say, “been there,done that”. So have I, but not in Alaska.

Cruise Ships
“Additionally, with the size of the vessels ever increasing, using DP to aid in docking operations increases the safety of the job & can reduce the time taken to complete the operation.”


Yes, an advertising gimmick when you don’t have DP (Invented by ABS on instigation of Tidewater maybe?)

It only exists in the ABS DPS Classification system:

I did inspections on some TDW boats that claimed DP Class when they actually had an “Enhanced Joystick” system. The Charterers were not impressed.

I rotated through on three of them as they up and down manned between jobs. Nope. I think everyone thinks that because they’re slower than molasses at docking. They’re just really big, really heavy, and really easy to get away from you if you get in a rush.

1 Like

Going alongside on Auto DP, never done that although I have seen one captain try and fail.

Bringing a vessel alongside using the (independent) joystick…Yes, I have done that at one time. I brought the vessel in a good position and had only the Yaw selected. Just before touching the quay, deselect Yaw and push the vessel against the quay…done!

I still prefer the hands-on way of mooring the vessel over a computer.

1 Like

Large seismic vessels often use DP to sit just clear of the berth to enable the correct placing of Yokohama fenders to protect the Barovanes. This can take 20 minutes or so where the vessel has to sit in position about 20 feet or so clear of the wharf face. The joystick is then used to complete the manoeuvre.

Everyone in Fourchon on a utility, crew boat or older mud boat immediately assumes that’s what’s going on. Maneuvering is slower for every foot longer. Visibility on the larger boats are shit in close quarters. If you “bump” something, there’s no bouncing off. There’s damage. Dents or holes. Now I’m sure some use auto head or a similar auto dock but it’s very few.

I do know that on some old seismic boats we ran auto head or joystick or a combination all the way until the last line was secure. That’s how the boats were handled offshore doing acrobatics with buoys, cables, other vessels and subsea equipment. Few people made the cut on those.

Don’t think it solves the problem of not knowing how to handle a boat.


I had a pilot on the Sabine River one time got on board, no laptop or PPU etc. Once we started working up the river I asked him about not having a laptop.

He told me he didn’t mind not having it but if they gave him one he’d use it. He said he’d use any tool that they wanted to give him. I think that’s a good answer.

As far as the "what if’ questions what if this or that fails, I’m not really that worried about it. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. If I lose some capabilities I"ll figure it out and get it done without, that or wait for better conditions.

DP system is for station keeping while Independent Joystick is for manoeuvring:

Most DP-2 & 3 vessels have both an Integrated DP Joystick for use to change heading, or slight position changing etc. while in station keeping mode and a Stand-alone Joystick system to use when docking/undocking etc.

Not to use the last when docking if you have it doesn’t make much sense, while using the DP Joystick for that purpose is not normally done.

My only practical DP experience is with the various yachting grade offerings from VP, ZF and MCM. While the joystick may make close quarters maneuvering a breeze, there i a high prevalence of sloppy implementation which renders the system a dangerous joke. None of them are suitable for docking in DP mode, and there’s a bold lettered warning on the first page of the manual to let you know in case you’re too stupid to figure it out for yourself. Having 800 Hp kick in through twin counter rotating screw sets and translate a mere 40 tons fast towards something hard because the GPS suddenly had a new idea about where it’s at, is only funny if you’re inclined towards the violent kind of practical humor.

I imagine that the professional systems discussed here are an order of magnitude less twitchy, but surely some of the same principles apply?

1 Like

I can tell when the vessel is rotating and moving visually far faster than it registers on the gyro compass. Also, I may not want to use all the thrusters at once. Having a more direct line of control to the thrusters just makes more sense, fewer computers to fail between my input and the thrusters.

Now maybe on a cruise ship with the sail area of a city block it makes sense, but I think most guys down here would rather bump the dock every once in a while and retain some level of boat handling skills.

The independent joystick is an emergency backup not connected to your DP system
Your DP console has its own joystick