Vessel Management Systems (VMS)

There various types of drilling rigs such as submersibles, jack-ups, drill ships and semi-submersibles. Most of the newly constructed rigs are equipped with high-tech Vessel Management Systems (VMS).

The main function of the VMS is to monitor and control equipment on-board the rig including:

  • Machine
  • Fire Damper
  • Tank Level
  • Ballast
  • Pre-load Remote Operated Valve
  • Bulk Transfer

Design of the VMS is shaped by marine and offshore codes and standards to provide operational functionality without compromising personnel safety and marine environment. The codes and standards are applicable depending how these rigs are classified. To list a few:

  • Rules For Building And Classing - Mobile Offshore Drilling Units
  • IEEE 45 Recommended Practice for Electrical Installations on Shipboard
  • IMO Resolution A.649 (16) Code for Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units

In general, the utilities to the equipment and VMS are designed to tolerate single fault conditions. For instance, the power supply to VMS is backed up by redundant UPS. The VMS typically employs a PLC-based controller linked several remote I/O modules designed to be situated near the equipment to be monitored and controlled. The CPU modules also commonly known as the processor module is also configured to for full redundancy.

Visualization and Operation or simply known as HMI (Human Machine Interface) is done through several workstation configured as clients in a dual redundant high speed Ethernet network. At the heart of this network is the redundant server that provides the real-time link to the PLC system. Self-diagnostics are built into the PLC and HMI workstations. Constantly performing self-checking task in the background to ensure that the system maintain its reliability. Once a fault is detected, fault alarm will be displayed and alarm logged onto the server’s hard disk.

While the PLC is tugged away in cabinets, the HMI workstation is constantly being watched and accessible to operators for viewing the Drilling Rig status. These include:

  • System Architecture
  • Historical Trending
  • Alarm Summary
  • Events Monitoring


Typically these equipment are closely monitored:

  • Bilge and Ballast System
  • Bulk Mud and Cement System
  • Fire Alarm, e.g. CO2
  • Engine/Generator
  • Hydraulic Power pack Unit
  • Tank Level
  • HVAC
  • Water Tight Door

For the most part, the VMS monitors valves open/close status and also checks if the command to activate these valves actually gets done. If the operator sends a command to open the valves, position feedback sensors are timed to ensure that the action indeed takes place within a pre-determined time limit. Else the VMS would report an error when it sees this deviation and the operator has the information instantly.

At selected locations, Touch panel operator stations are available for operator easy access and operation. It replaces the need for keyboard or mouse that would not last the harsh environmental condition. All operator actions will be captured in the form of event logs that can be stored for many months with the capacity of the hard disk the only limiting factor.

The VMS is fully tested with 100% simulator hook-up during FAT (Factory Acceptance Test) and witness by either ABS, Llyods Register or the like. This validation process not only assures the quality of the system but also eliminate delays during site installation and commissioning.