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Marine Electronics & Communications

Marine Electronics & Communications

Simulators improve ship manoeuvring and tug safety

Thu 20 Jul 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Simulators improve ship manoeuvring and tug safety
Transas is incorporating its software into Alphatron Marine tug bridges for training simulators

Greater challenges in manoeuvring ever-larger ships is leading to developments in more advanced training software and simulator modelling, writes Martyn Wingrove

Tug owners require more sophisticated simulators to train tug masters and crew how to interact with the larger ships in confined spaces of harbours and terminals. The simulation software can also be used for creating best practice for towage and ship manoeuvres.

Transas and Kongsberg Digital believe they are leaders in developing and delivering tug training simulators and software. Transas Academy vice president Ralf Lehnert explained that manoeuvring activities are having a growing impact on safety and on commercial factors in modern port operations because the sizes of ships is increasing and tugs are becoming more powerful.

As a result, ports are putting more focus than in the past on providing advanced training systems, he suggested. “Team training for tug operations is a critical factor for safe and efficient berthing” in all weather conditions, Mr Lehnert told Tug Technology & Business. The team should include the ship’s crew, pilots, the local vessel traffic management system and up to five tug masters.

Training should involve scenarios based on various weather, tidal and current conditions that will be expected in the port and which would influence berthing or unberthing operations. To achieve this, Transas has developed sophisticated hydrodynamic models for all types of conditions with help and support from global tug handling experts. This means an individual tug master or a full team can be trained in these simulated environments before they are attempted in the real world.

"Team training for tug operations is a critical factor for safe and efficient berthing"

Transas uses mathematical and physical models to program tug-to-ship interactions, which includes high-fidelity modelling of the towing ropes. The simulators can offer up to 360 degrees of visualisation, said Mr Lehnert, allowing “a realistic view of the operational scenery, which is based on the 3D virtual reality of ports and mooring areas”.

The simulation model is also based on specific tug types and various ships to tow. “Altogether, it makes it difficult to decide whether it is a simulation or a real-world scenario,” said Mr Lehnert.

The model is loaded into a physical simulator that replicates tug bridges by using consoles that have specific tug controls. “This makes the simulators an extremely realistic and cost-effective training tool,” said Mr Lehnert.

In March of this year, Transas signed a global strategic partnership with Alphatron Marine and Japan Radio Co to incorporate software into integrated bridges and training simulators. This combines the realistic 3D modelling with actual tug bridge consoles for training centres.

Future developments

Kongsberg Digital vice president for maritime simulation products Jan Ståle Kauserud said that simulators are increasingly used for modelling ship manoeuvring operations in new terminal and waterway developments or extensions. He added that simulation can also help improve procedures for manoeuvring ships and for emergency preparedness training.

“With unparalleled data capture, replay, and playback capabilities, modern simulators provide a flexible tool for testing and validating new manoeuvring procedures and concepts,” Mr Kauserud said. He highlighted some of the benefits of this approach, mentioning greatly enhanced physical modelling of tug connection mechanisms, winch performance and line characteristics, adding that this can support effective testing of innovative and non-conventional methods of tug employment, and mooring configurations.

He expects more advances will enhance tug operations simulation further. “The use of object-oriented and scenario-centric simulation, using physical 3D modelling techniques, will further expand the ability of towing companies, marine pilotage groups and port authorities,” he explained.

Object-oriented simulation focuses on the accurate physical simulation of all components that are important to the simulation. The objects are all the elements that compose the simulation scenario and create an environment that is comprehensive and completely interactive.

In this way all objects are simulated by the program. For example, the fluke of an anchor can get caught on an underwater cable or another obstruction, all of which can be modelled objects. These objects can be physically connected together and separated from each other in a simulation model. In the program, these object interactions could be deliberate actions such as releasing a crane hook from a load, or accidental separations, which could include the breaking off of a fuelling hose. Objects can include:

  • lifeboats
  • deck cranes
  • fuelling hoses
  • hatch covers
  • fenders
  • anchor chains
  • shackles
  • and couplings

“The next generation of simulators will combine all the positive aspects of a hydrodynamic model manoeuvring simulator with 3D physical models and a powerful physics engine,” said Mr Kauserud. The physics engine will simulate mechanical forces that are applied to a tug by other objects, such as ships, locks and harbour walls. The impacts will be simulated in more realistic terms.

“The external forces are computed and applied to the ship, tugs and lines in a correct and empirical manner without the need for instructor-controlled interpretation or subjective judgements,” Mr Kauserud added. An example of this is the dynamic force calculation on tug tow lines. This will incorporate factors such as line length and vertical angle, along with their influence on the actual towline loads and the lateral forces applied to the ship.

New installations

Kongsberg is supplying a suite of bridge and engineroom simulators to a new maritime training centre that Simwave is building in Barendrecht, the Netherlands. The centre will have a number of simulators for a range of ship types, including a K-Sim Offshore simulator for modelling tugs with a K-Pos dynamic positioning unit and 360 degrees field of view, which can be configured for tug training.

Tug and port operations training are an important part of what Modal Training offers from its new £7 million (US$9 million) facility in the UK. It has invested in a tug simulator as part of a large suite of Kongsberg-supplied simulators at a new centre in Immingham on the south bank of the Humber.

Modal has installed a Kongsberg K-Sim class B tug simulator for port operations training. It has also invested in Kongsberg simulators for teaching ship navigation, dynamic positioning, offshore vessel and engineroom operations. Tug Technology & Business editor, Martyn Wingrove, was given exclusive access to practice tug operations on the simulator.

Sam Whitaker, director of Modal and director of strategic projects at the nearby Grimsby Institute said the facility has become a centre of training excellence for the maritime, ports, energy and logistics sectors. “The tug simulator will be used for training Humber pilots and supporting port operations,” he said, adding: “We hope smaller port operators will also use this for multi-skill training.”

Tug operations can be taught on a specially designed Kongsberg K-Sim class B bridge simulator. This can also be configured for workboat operations and for teaching ship handling and tug-ship interfaces. The software includes hydrodynamic modelling that allows vessels, objects, weather conditions and equipment to behave as they would in real life.

The simulator can be used for monitoring and control, thruster and propulsion control and dynamic positioning training. It works in combination with other simulator systems so trainees can operate a tug alongside another team on a ship.


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