What Do You DO Out There?

I sometimes mention in my posts that I’ve been busy. I was thinking, maybe people might be interested to know what we’re so busy doing out here in the middle of nowhere. Well, at the moment I’m back to working as DPO. Dynamic Positioning Operator. On here they call my job ADPO (assistant). They have a DPO and ADPO. Other places the same jobs are labeled SDPO (senior DPO) and DPO. What we do is drive the ship. 

Or not. 

Seems like most of the time our job is to keep the ship in exactly the same spot. Especially on a drilling rig, which is where I’m at now. We’re working about 100 miles E of Guyana, a smallish country in the Northeast coast of South America. 

I’ve never been to Guyana before and don’t really consider that I’ve been there yet. All I’ve seen of the country is the airport and what I could spot through the rain on an hour long van ride from there to the heliport. I doubt I will be able to see anything else on the way home either. 

Here’s what a day on board here looks like for me…

My alarm rings at 0420. I wake up, stumble to the bathroom, brush my teeth and hair. Get dressed and then head to the bridge to collect the data I must report at the morning pre-tour meeting (work technically starts at 0600). 

After I get the information I need, I head down to breakfast. I’m usually there from 0510-0525 and then have to hurry to get to the meeting at 0530. I can’t be late. I’m not the first person to report, but I am second. I report on the weather during the night, at the moment, and expected during the day ahead. I report on the vessel heading, the wind and current, the ‘drift off times’ for the drillers so they have an idea how quickly they’d have to disconnect if we had some kind of issue. 

When the meeting breaks up, I catch the elevator to the bridge (around 0555) with a few others who work on the Nav deck (this is where most of the offices are on this ship). I meet my relief and go over what’s been happening overnight and then he’s free to leave and I take over the DP desk. 


I go through the checklists, making sure all the reference systems are giving good data, the engines and thrusters aren’t working too hard, the ship is staying well within her heading and position limits. I’ll call the engine room and the drill floor to check our DP status alert lights (green, blue, yellow and red). If anything happens, we can flip a switch on the bridge and everyone will immediately be aware of an issue and take steps accordingly. 

Once I’ve completed the checklists, I continue to monitor everything. I have cameras to see a lot of places on the ship. I usually watch the drill floor, the helideck if there are choppers expected, the boats working alongside, and the cranes to help me see if I need to ballast.

Sometimes, it’s really slow. Other times, the weather is changing or there’s a lot going on and it gets stressful. I’m always busy with answering the phone, making pages, standing lookout, communicating with other vessels, keeping up the log books, etc.  We usually work an hour on the desk and then an hour off for our 12 hour long days. 

The hour off the desk we take care of people with work permits, answer emails, keep our charts and publications up to date, work on any projects the captain gives us, etc. We get relieved for meals, a half hour. The food is pretty good. I wish I had more than a half hour to eat it. I can only really enjoy it at dinner time after I get off watch at 1800. 

This is our routine every day for 28 days. Only Sunday is a little different because we almost always have drills. It’s a US Coast Guard requirement that we have fire and abandon ship drills at least every week. There are a bunch of others we have to have too: man overboard, rescue at heights, confined space rescue, oil spill response, ballast control, helicopter crash, dynamic positioning, H2S, security, search and rescue, etc. 

Sundays at sea used to be a day of leisure. We only had to do the absolutely necessary work for the ship. It was also the day we could take it easy, do our laundry, relax and take it easy. Now, it’s the busiest day on board. We all have so many ‘safety’ items to take care of: lifeboats & FRC (fast rescue craft) for the mates, on the bridge we are doing our housekeeping checklist, cleaning the bridge, exercising the ballast valves, a more detailed GMDSS (radio) check, weekly chart/publication updates, check the beacon batteries, update reports, etc.

People see the DPOs on a rig sitting in a nice chair on the bridge and think we’ve got it easy. That that is all we do.

Not quite.

8 thoughts on “What Do You DO Out There?

    • Thanks for commenting, I’m glad you found it interesting.
      That’s one of the things I always liked about working at sea, there is somewhat of a routine sometimes, but every day is always different. I love going to different ships, meeting different people and especially going to different places!


  1. Hey captain. Good up know that you’re quite active here too as well as at the bridge! I’m not sure if you remember me. But we used to exchange Blog comments long time ago. Anyway I’m glad to meet you again after all these years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear from you again. Yes, I remember you. 🙂 We used to comment to each other a lot. Sorry to lose touch. I hope to become more active again, changes in WordPress have made it much harder to keep up the community and I just need to get motivated again.

      Liked by 1 person

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