Thursday, 26 January 2012


Over the course of the next week, a colleague of the Antipodean Mariner will be sitting in a darkened bridge as a group of Pilots ground, collide and generally wreck a new 88,000 DWT bulk carrier in a virtual world.

The AM's company are building two Post-Panamax bulk carriers for a short-haul trade between a mine and refinery. The trade moves about 20 million tonnes of ore a year using a mix of dedictated and standard Panamax bulk carriers. Port rules require any ship larger than Panamax dimensions (225 metre length x 32 metres beam) to have a dispensation, and hence simulation of how the new ships will handle.

Ship simulators are used to train Masters and Pilots in ship handling and emergency procedures. Simulators mow also incorporate 'multi-player missions', where the tug masters have a separate set of controls and can integrate their manoeuvres with the bridge team The bathymetry of the port, tidal currents and topography are used to create an interactive 3D model of the port. The simulators are provided with a library of standard ships -tankers, container ships and bulk carriers. The new Post-Panamax bulkers have been modelled from a library ship and tweaked with the known characteristics of sister ships. Sea trials data, turning circle radius and crash stop distances are entered and validated to make the simulator ship handles as closely as possible to the real ship.

Next week, the Port Pilots will put the ship through a programme of pre-planned manoeuvres in flood and ebb tide, laden and ballast condition and with different tug configurations to establish the operating 'envelope' within the new Post-Panamax can safely arrive and depart. The port is busy, tidal and with high berth occupancy and is always scheduling to move as many ships as possible in the high-water window.

Accurate and realistic ship simulation is a cornerstone of the asset-intensive supply chain infrastructure of ports and shipping. Maybe another post in the offing on fast-track simulator training of port pilots as an alternative to recruiting seafarers.

The Antipodean Mariner


  1. Very interesting..Thank you.
    I'm looking forward to your next installment.


  2. I and members of the local Maritime Law Society were invited to visit the simulator at the Maritime School in Auckland 2-3 years ago.

    We were let loose on the "bridge". The consequence was that carnage followed!