I work on large ROV / construction vessels. The ‘Offshore Construction Manager’ has recently been referring to himself as the ‘Offshore Installation Manager’ and claiming he is equal to and has the same authority as the Master in an emergency. I’m not sure of the legality of these fairly spurious claims but I’m pretty sure he ultimately has close to zero authority in an emergency? Is this correct? I believe under the Merchant Shipping Act (UK) that the Master has overriding authority apart from when the vessel is involved in diving operations when the diving manager has responsibility for the divers? Would be interested to hear a few opinions on this from both sides.

As far as I am aware the term Offshore Installation Manager comes from drilling and requires some sort of qualification? Is this true and is there any comparison between the two roles?

Refer to your safety management system. Offshore personnel do not distinguish themselves authority by conversation, and neither does the ISM Code by allowing it. The company is required to have this authority stipulated as not to create ambiguity. This should never be a question. Does the safe manning document require an OIM? Who held this position before the title changed? I’ve worked drilling, construction, ROV, and intervention vessels. I do not see a vessel as you described as being one where Flag requires an OIM. If this is not a stipulated position by the flag state on the safe manning document, it’s a moot point…he can call himself President of the Captain and he would be absolutely nothing in an emergency except a passenger.

You are correct the position is not stipulated on the safe manning certificate. As far as I can tell non-marine workers require no qualifications other than a BOSIET/HUET and a medical and are therefore passengers under SOLAS (SPS code does however provide an exemption for this so more than 12 offshore workers can be carried, but they are still treated as passengers), which means they cannot have any authority other than commercial on a vessel whatsoever?

Does Construction Manager have right to order Master to save property at sea if Master considers it hazardous to his vessel?

The Master has overriding authority - end of story. PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
It seems to me there is an overzealous construction manager onboard that needs to be put in check. I’ve been there. My suggestion to the Master would be to bring this individual in his office and close the door, and have one other officer to take minutes of the meeting. Running a project or a job onboard, even of his role (constrction manager) has overarching authority in terms of the company’s provided service, it does not go as far as the legal authority and liability bestowed upon the Master. I would make that very clear with him. I would also bookend this conversation with a call to the DPA with the minutes of the meeting as well as the part of the ISM Code and SMS that is being put at risk by actions of the construction manager on behalf of the company.

An Offshore Installation under the command of an OIM, Offshore Installation Manager, is not a ship. The most complicated offshore installations are FPSOs, Floating Production, Storage and Offloading installations that are units that are moored or positioned one way or other at sea and receive live crude oil through risers connected to oil wells on the sea floor or from platforms, kills it aboard, i.e. removes gas and sends it back into the well, stores it in tanks aboard and later off loads it to a tanker. All these activities plus electricity generation, catering and maintenance, etc, are managed by specialized staff under the OIM to ensure reliability and safety. The only sea masters aboard may be the Mooring Master to assist the FPSO to be loaded with crude and off loading tankers to be loaded with it and the Safety Manager to look after safety and LSA, which are rather similar to ships. The OIM is generally an engineer.

The law is fairly clear, but the practice is not always so.

ALL the major accident investigations that has been involving MODUs has had the subject of “Line of Command” and lack of clarity as one of the reasons for the accident.
The title OIM on MODUs originate from that. (It was previously only used on fixed installations)

I have myself left a Drillship because I did not get backing of the Management when a dispute arose over who was in charge in emergencies.
If I’m going to be legally responsible for the safety of >100 persons, I’m going to have undisputable command.

As for DSVs this has been my pet subject when inspecting such vessels for some time. This is because I found that there was a tendency to run “two ships on one”. I.e. the Marine crew and the clint’s personnel operated as if they where on totally different units.

This manifested itself by talk of “Us and Them” when is come to things like Safety and implementation of SMS and HSE. Frequently I would find that there were three parties on board; Marine crew, Charterer personnel and Contractors. Each with their own Safety Management and HSE “culture” (or lack there off) and no coordination between them.
There may not be any joint Safety Meetings held, or Toolbox Talks to coordinate what they were doing, or any “Bridging Documents” between the various Operation and Emergency Procedures in use.
If you on top of that had a Company Repr. of the type described by the OP and a timid Master, the roots to a disaster is firmly in place.

The only place I know where there is no dispute on the authority of the Master/OIM is on Norwegian MODUs, where the two positions are the same. The OIM is ALWAYS a Master Mariner with additional qualifications as required to be in command of a MODU.

On some anchored MODUs the title OIM switches, depending on whether the unit is on the move or on location. I believe that in US waters some DP Semis and Drillships are operated like that??

As for FPSOs; the OIM is frequently from Production, unless it is self-propelled and disconnectable, thus requiring a Master. (Some companies prefer to have a Production man in charge on one hitch and a Master Mariner on the other)

Mr Heiwa; You obviously know very little about FPSOs, their operation and management.

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I only worked seven years on FPSOs assisting the OIM with the maintenance, repairs and inspections of the hull, 100’s of cargo tanks and pump rooms and what to with all cracks found. Why do you suggest I don’t know anything about FPSOs? It is not a ship or tanker when moored and receiving oil. It may be a ship when being towed to location, but on location handling oil it is not a ship/tanker requiring a Master.
Anyway, all staff on an FPSO knows exactly the organization and safety aboard. But I agree! To access a cargo tank may be difficult as an FPSO is never gas free. I. explain about it at my website but I cannot link to it as it is considered as SPAM by the moderators. But it is just basic SAFETY. When I started working in the offshore industry handling hydrocarbon oils at sea, I found that the basic system to inert the cargo tanks was unsafe. The responsible parties had just copied the system used on normal seagoing oil tankers to be used on FPSOs not realizing that the two units are different. You find my paper about on the Internet using Google and “FPSO Inert Gas System”.

There is a lot to say about the relationship between OIMs and masters on MODUs, but that is a different topic. So let’s cut to the chase. Anyone who is unaware of their position in the chain of command on a ship needs a good kicking