‘Human-in-the-loop’ simulation: The right tool for port design



Captain W. Frederick Bronaugh, Jr., USN (Ret.), Director of Business Development, MarineSafety International, Newport Center, RI, USA


Engineers, designers, and planners have come to rely on simulation as a means to gain data to design port improvements and to test those designs. They have recognised that computer simulation provides important insights that yield a superior product.

Initial designs may overlook deficiencies that are readily identified using computer simulation. This saves considerable time, effort and expense in making  post-construction modifications. Simulation can also save money even before construction begins by showing the designer where, for example, dredging is not required.

The question for project managers becomes: “What kind of simulation is required to properly define and identify requirements?” With the advent of powerful personal computers there has been a move toward ‘table top’ simulation; the process of using PCs, with special software, to generate data for use in port or waterway design.

It can determine the forces a given ship will generate against a pier in order to design the scantlings of the pier members, generate data on stresses on the lines of a moored ship when a ship passes in the channel, or determine  whether a specific design of ship can keep to the channel with given wind and current conditions.

These, and other engineering details, can readily be determined by running fast time simulation. These simulation programmes, using various algorithms, calculate forces and ship motion, even at times using an autopilot.

This  provides the data in an event rather than a time domain and it is produced instantaneously, or as fast as the calculations can be made. The results are then used to prove or disprove the project team’s assumptions and theories. This kind of testing can yield significant statistical data, give an indication of forces that will been countered and give the engineer a significant body of data for subsequent analysis.

‘Human-in-the-loop’ simulation

Real-time human-in-the-loop simulation is a more encompassing process. Here multiple computers are used to…

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