Simulation arrives at the Port of Felixstowe



Ed Ramsey, Drilling Systems (UK) Ltd, Bournemouth, and Port of Felixstowe, UK


In December 2004, the Port of Felixstowe chose to work in partnership with Drilling Systems (UK) Ltd to develop a stateof- the-art crane simulator, to be used in training employees effectively and safely.

To the casual observer, this may look an odd selection – Drilling Systems had never developed a dockside terminal simulator, and there were competing products already in the marketplace – so why did the Port of Felixstowe select Drilling Systems? The Company has been developing real-time simulators for 17 years, predominantly in the Oil and Gas drilling industry, hence the Company name. It has supplied over 100 drilling simulators in more than 40 countries, which are used for safety training and certifying key employees on oil rigs. These mission critical simulators are used to prevent/reduce incidents, such as the North Sea Piper Alpha platform disaster in 1988 that killed 167 people.

In 2000, the Company extended its activities into crane simulation, having been asked by the UK Government’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to develop a simulator for cranes on offshore oil and gas rigs, handling a wide variety of lift objects (various sized containers, pipes, crates, skips etc). During this development process, the Company developed a modularised solution that would enable other crane types to be modelled in a simulator in the future. In 2002, Liebherr approached Drilling Systems to provide a simulator based on its LHM-500 Mobile Harbour Crane, and this was the Company’s first entry into dockside container handling, before the selection by the Port of Felixstowe.

The partnership between Drilling Systems and the Port of Felixstowe has brought together sophisticated real-time digital computing techniques, with 37 years of gantry crane expertise, and resulted in the most realistic simulation of gantry craneage available today.

The development process

Using engineering/general arrangement CAD drawings as a starting point, each crane is graphically reproduced in the 3D world by initially creating a wireframe version, then “facing” it, before finally applying photo-realistic textures. The mechanics of each crane, including the performance data of the engines, hydraulics and hoisting systems, are incorporated to provide a real-life replication, with the facility to tune the operating performance of individual crane models. The Morris, ZPMC and MGM ship-to-shore (STS) cranes have separate modules, including “plug and play” operator panniers (discrete controls). The easily interchangeable panniers allow different crane types to be modelled on the same, single simulator. Changing the panniers takes just a couple of minutes along with simply loading up a new simulator exercise (snapshot), with the new crane type pre-configured.

‘KraneSIM’ can either include generic port/dockside equipment, or can be focused to represent an individual or group of terminals for a multi-terminal operator. The Port of Felixstowe’s simulator models the exact layout of its Trinity Terminal quay and surrounding yard areas. Phase II will also include the Port’s North Rail Terminal and the Nelcon rail-mounted gantry cranes (RMG).

The KraneSIM Dockside simulator features dynamic rope modelling, originally developed for Drilling Systems’ range of offshore pedestal crane simulators. This feature allows the operator to see a slack line at either boom height (depending on crane type), or at spreader level, providing the real-life visual cues when setting down/picking up the container. The over-exuberant setting down of a container on a terminal tractor will not only be felt at the operator’s chair (through the motion base system), but will also be graphically displayed through a “wave” coming up the cable. This, together with the coiling of the control line through the dynamic rope model, adds to the realism of the training process.

A wide range of weather conditions can be introduced into a simulation exercise, including rain, snow, fog and day/night lighting. Wind conditions, including directional, gusting and strength, are also catered for. A dynamic sea state, affecting vessel movement, can be linked to wind strength, thereby providing further realism to the training scenarios.

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