Planning tomorrow’s navigation today with virtual port development tools



Captain Ian Rodrigues & Capt. John Lloyd, AMC, Australia; Paul Hodgson & Chris Thompson, South Tyneside College, UK; and Geir Lilje, Kongsberg Maritime, Norway


High-fidelity port models for simulator training can be used not only to train pilots, but to safely plan potentially problematic maneuvers

On 22nd February 2011, both the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth were due to sail into Sydney Harbor. With two of the world’s most famous cruise liners in the same place, the sponsors of the visit seized the media opportunity and thrust the event into the limelight, putting a considerable amount of extra pressure on the pilots who would take part in the operation.

The ships were to come in with a five minute separation. The Queen Mary 2 was to transit north of Fort Denison, turn around and hold, whilst the Queen Elizabeth was also to transit north of Fort Denison and hold. At this point the media coverage was to take place, before the two ships made their way to berth. Such an operation, under even higher levels of scrutiny than normal, required detailed planning, so in the same way that pilots around the world do, the Sydney Harbor pilots used simulation in order to ensure that each and every eventuality was covered. They flew out to the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Launceston, Tasmania in order to run the exercise on its extensive simulation facility, which is used to train over 200 students every year. AMC had previously developed a highly detailed area model of Sydney Harbor and could also offer a model of the Queen Mary 2. Unfortunately, the faculty had no past requirement to develop a model of the Queen Elizabeth, but they were able to offer the pilots a model of Celebrity Constellation, which is a virtual clone, and worked just as well for the purposes of the mission planning.

So, with the tools in hand, the team of pilots was able to run every aspect of the mission in the safety of the two simulator bridges at AMC. Each bridge acted as its real-life counterpart, enabling the pilots to run and re-run the mission at will. All perceivable risks were simulated, and plans to manage them were drawn up. The simulator offered the realism required to put the pilots in the hot seat as if they were at the helm. All details were considered, even down to simulating the exact tides and related dynamic currents that were predicted for the day.

When it came to the live mission, the Sydney Harbor Pilots did a sterling job. On the day, there were no surprises, all went to plan, exactly as it was worked out on the simulator and the city got its flagship media event as two classic ships arrived in port within minutes of each other, without any incident. This, of course, is down to the skills and experience of the pilots and their support team; however, had they not spent hours in AMC's simulator planning for the mission, it could well have been a different story.

Port models

The Sydney Harbor Pilots’ use of the ship’s bridge simulator at AMC highlights just how far maritime simulation has come over the last few years. Systems such as Kongsberg Maritime’s Polaris ship’s bridge simulator now offer unprecedented levels of realism and detail that enable pilots the world over to conduct ship feasibility studies in order to train for specific jobs. At the same time, the AMC’s simulator facility and hundreds like it all over the world use Polaris as the foundation of extensive maritime crew and pilot training programs. This invariably means the use of detailed port models as exercise areas. Kongsberg Maritime includes the facility within its simulators for users to develop their own models and indeed the skills necessary to do so.

The UK’s South Tyneside College also runs an extensive simulator suite based on Kongsberg Maritime’s Polaris and, like AMC, has pilots in to use the simulator at least once a month. South Tyneside College has over the years developed skills in database development and ship modeling and has created a large number of port exercise areas for various UK ports including Tees; Tyne, Wear, Blyth, Humber, Firth of Forth, Tay, Orkney; and abroad, TangierMED, Jebel Ali and Tanjung Bara amongst others. South Tyneside College’s port models are used by pilots to train for emergency and ‘abnormal’ situations on its simulators and some Port Authorities use the area to train more junior pilots. Additionally, port areas are used to trial proposals for new jetties and berths, often in association with the civil engineering company who are contracted to develop and build the structure. Some port areas are used by shipping companies to study ship handling, often together with the ship model South Tyneside College has developed for them. South Tyneside College simulators have also been used for feasibility studies like that carried out by the Sydney pilots at AMC’s facility, for missions including towing of aircraft carrier blocks into Rosyth harbor, and testing the Tor Class in the new harbor development at Outer Harbor Immingham.

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