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The Digital Transformation of Diving System Failure Mode Assessments

5 May 2022

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) or Failure Modes, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) are terms used frequently throughout the diving industry, but exactly what is a diving system FMEA/FMECA?


The purpose of a diving system FMEA/FMECA is to ensure a systematic assessment is carried out on all diving system equipment and the support vessel interfaces. This will identify any areas where the system or vessel interfaces may fail due to equipment operational reliability as well as inadequate operational procedures, lack of redundancy and critical spares required for safe operation.

The FMEA/FMECA of a diving system shall assess the effects on different failure modes on the diving system operating equipment and where required the vessel interfaces. The resultant quantification may highlight deficiencies in design, lack of redundancy and failure to maintain the recommended critical spares to ensure safe and efficient diving operations, with the emphasis on diver’s and operational personnel safety.

The FMEA/FMECA shall consider the failure of electrical, mechanical and control systems hardware as well as all supporting documentation and will identify any Codes of Practice that should be followed during the assessment such as International Codes and Legislation, Class Society Rules, Industry Standards and any Company Management Systems.

The FMEA/FMECA of a saturation diving system is now considered a mandatory requirement within the industry and is highlighted as such in the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) Diving Recommended Practice Report No: 411, as well as the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) guidance note IMCA DESIGN. Furthermore, it is also considered a requirement under the classification of a diving system and will be submitted to the classification society for review prior to the award of class notation.

Guidance of how a diving system FMEA/FMECA should be carried out is identified within IMCA guidance note IMCA D039, FMEA Guide for Diving Systems, dated November 2005.

IMCA D039 is intended to offer examples of a typical methodology used in specifying, performing and maintaining an FMEA/FMECA for a diving system. It is intended to be reasonably short and concise, thus enabling all levels of management, dealing with the ownership or operation of a diving system, to understand their needs and responsibilities with respect to the FMEA/FMECA process.

The guide is also intended to offer examples of good practice to the FMEA/FMECA practitioners and to provide references to other relevant documentation which may assist them in performing a diving system FMEA/FMECA.


Previous Initiatives taken by IOGP include the setting up of a task force to develop the IOGP Diving Systems Assurance Process, where due to concerns relating to the safe and efficient operations of diving system, all supporting documentation as well as the systems are to be inspected.

Furthermore, the ongoing assurance work being completed by Namaka Subsea has identified a growing concern with the content of Diving System FMEA/FMECA throughout the industry.

It has been observed that FMEA/FMECA assessments are not being carried out following the best industry practice of IMCA and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and that IMCA D039 requires an update to ensure the assessments are completed with the emphasis on diver’s and operational personnel safety.

Studies carried out by Namaka Subsea of current diving system FMEA/FMECA on behalf of IOGP members and non-member operators has identified failures of diving system FMEA/FMECA such as;

  • No consideration of the practitioner technical and operational competence
  • No consideration of the support vessel interfaces and services
  • No consideration of the diving system planned maintenance system (PMS)
  • No consideration as to whether the system drawings are a current representation of the system
  • No reference to diving system operating and emergency procedures
  • No consideration of a means of verifying the theoretical conclusion (proving trials)
  • No consideration as to providing a conclusion and current status of the system

Furthermore, large sections of the diving systems, associated equipment and supporting documentation are being overlooked, as a result not all system failure modes are being considered and existing or required mitigation is identified.

Developments within the industry, with the introduction of Programmable Logic Control (PLC) and automated control systems, are also an area of concern as a complete failure of the PLC is often only considered, rather than consideration of the various input and output signal failures of a PLC or failure of the control equipment.

During reviews of several FMEA/FMECA assessments we have identified they are not being used as a “live” document and updated as the system or system procedures are modified and changed. An FMEA/FMECA should always be regarded as a “live” document and be updated periodically when changes to the system warrant a revision.

The Way Forward

In conclusion, it would appear that the industries knowledge and experience of Diving System FMEA/FMECA, as well as guidance for carrying out the assessment and how they should be managed post assessment is limited.

Therefore, further guidance as well as a general awareness of FMEA/FMECA should be provided and should include a more in depth guide as to the competence of the team tasked with carrying out the study. Reviews should also only be carried out by competent persons, who have the technical and operational knowledge of diving systems and diving operations, as well as knowledge of the FMEA/FMECA process.

The industry should now acknowledge that carrying out an FMEA/FMECA is not a one man job, but should be carried out by a competent team, all experienced within the disciplines required to provide technical and operational support of the diving system to be assessed.

Current diving system FMEA/FMECA assessments should now all be reviewed by a competent team to ensure that they have been carried out correctly. It should be ensured all diving system related equipment and supporting documentation has been considered and that modifications carried out since the initial assessment have been captured.

Digital Transformation

Since identifying the issues discussed in this article, Namaka Subsea has developed a FMECA application to assist our team of competent individuals who possess the technical and operational knowledge and experience, to provide the industry with the support required to carry out and review FMEA/FMECA assessments.

The process transformation, not only assists the practitioner but also simplifies the process and stores the data in a central location, which allows Namaka Subsea to identify common failure modes within diving systems, to pre-empt failings and assist with ensuring divers safety and continued life support operations.

Want to know more about our FMECA app

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