Image: Andy Goldsmith (IMCA): “Reference system signal jamming is happening in the Middle East”
Blog Editor’s Note: “DP” is “dynamic positioning” a capability that some maritime vessels have to automatically maintain a relatively precise position despite the efforts of waves and currents to move them away. For example, when a buoy tender wants to put a buoy in a very specific position to mark an obstruction, DP can automatically engage thrusters and engines to hold the ship in position during the placement.
Similarly, floating oil and gas platforms use DP to remain in position above a well on the seafloor. Failure of a DP system can cause the platform to break away from the wellhead. If the emergency breakaway equipment does not work properly, catastrophic spills like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster can result.
Many DP systems use multiple sensors, including GNSS, to hold a vessel in place. Floating platforms always use additional positioning sensors such as sonar ranging. DP systems for other surface vessels, such as offshore supply vessels (OSVs), often rely heavily on GNSS.
Jamming and spoofing global positioning systems (GPS) is impacting offshore support vessel (OSVs) safety, particularly in the Middle East
Whether from state-sponsored or criminal activity, GPS jamming is on the rise in the offshore sector, affecting dynamic positioning (DP) system operation and posing a danger to crew.
According to International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), jamming signals from satellites to vessels’ position reference systems helped cause a 50% jump in DP events reported in 2018.
IMCA received 147 event reports in 2018, up from around 95 in 2017 and 80 in both 2015 and 2016.
IMCA technical adviser Captain Andy Goldsmith said part of the jump was due to improved reporting by vessel owners, but not all of it could be explained that way.
Captain Goldsmith was addressing the world’s offshore vessel owners, operators and managers at Riviera Maritime Media’s Asian Offshore Support Journal Conference in Singapore on 18 September.
“A big part of this in 2018 was reference system signal jamming in the Middle East,” Capt Goldsmith said.
If there is an issue with the DP system, a vessel could sail out of position, dragging subsea equipment or divers across the seabed or potentially cause damage to well and oilfield infrastructure.
Thanks to RNTF adviser Guy Buesnel for bringing this article to our attention.