Port Revel Offers New Cruise Ship Experience

Published Mar 19, 2014 7:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

A new model of a large podded cruise ship over 1000 feet (300m) long transporting over 5000 people has been built at Artelia’s Port Revel ship handling training center in France. The vessel will enable masters and officers to train in ship handling under various emergency conditions that are unlikely but always possible. In an emergency, the first decisions taken are usually crucial because subsequent actions are conditioned by them. 

Shiphandling training is similar to that of a high-level sportsman, who must keep in top form at all times. This training is required in order to provide a “déjà vu” effect, so that “Truly superior pilots are those who use their superior judgement to avoid those situations where they might have to use their superior skills” (from: Great Aviation Quotes).

The new model at Port Revel is equipped with a propulsion system consisting of two pods. A pod is a sort of gondola that can pivot 360°, fixed at the stern of the ship and containing an electric motor that drives the propeller. It thus replaces both the propeller and rudder and makes a ship particularly easy to handle, provided you know how to use it. Large ships currently fitted with pods generally have two, though anything between one and four can be found on large cruise ships. About one third of existing cruise ships are fitted with pods. To make these ships even easier to handle, they are equipped with extremely powerful bow thrusters that are practically equivalent to the rear pods in terms of power (a bow thruster is a pump fitted transversally in the bow of the ship; it exerts a thrust that can deviate the bow to port or starboard).

With these systems, a modern cruise ship can turn around in a circle that hardly exceeds its own length in less than 10 minutes, which is truly amazing. These propulsion systems have gradually been getting more popular over the past 20 years, representing a genuine revolution in the navigation field. They also need to be operated in a completely different way from traditional propulsion systems comprising a propeller and rudder, and call for serious training.

A further complication in using such propulsion systems is the windage of large modern ships, which can range from 10,000 to 20,000 m2 (1 to 2 hectares!) and generate transverse forces of several hundred tonnes that cause the ship to move sideways. This problem affects not only cruise ships but also container carriers. A large ship can thus drift over the water just as a car drifts on ice.

There is no room for improvisation. It may be recalled that in 2009, Sogreah (now Artelia) launched the Otello, a 1:25 scale model of a 335-metre, 8500 TEU container carrier. This event was part of the celebrations to mark the extension of its ship handling training center: Port Revel. To open the 2010 season, Sogreah launched the latest addition to its fleet, the Q-Max, a faithful reproduction of a 345-metre LNG carrier with a capacity of 266,000 m3. Thanks to this latest model, the result of an innovative and pragmatic approach, sailors can now train on a ship that represents the new giants now sailing the seas.

The Port Revel development program was launched in October 2007 and represents an investment of over one million euros, consolidating the center's worldwide leadership in training pilots in ship handling operations. By extending the lake to cover a total of five hectares, of which 50 per cent is shallow water, doubling the number of quays and installing additional current-generating equipment, Port Revel can now offer an extremely varied range of situations and host 10 trainees each week as opposed to eight previously.

Since Port Revel first opened more than 40 years ago, numerous American, Canadian and
European pilots have appreciated its facilities. Between 150 and 200 are expected in the coming months, for conventional courses or tailor-made training designed by the center’s highly motivated and experienced instructors to suit their specific needs.

As maritime safety becomes an increasing concern, Port Revel is even more relevant than ever in training ships' captains and pilots to handle emergency situations. The European and North American maritime pilots who make up 80 per cent of the center's students are well aware of this and we hope we will soon have the pleasure of welcoming new captains and pilots. To meet these needs, the Port Revel Centre proposes a range of different ship handling training courses using scale model ships with on-board pilots:
Ship handling course for pilots and masters
Advanced course
Escort tug course
Emergency ship handling course
Pod course

The Port Revel Centre was the first of its kind to be created in the world, and it offers significant advantages: Over 6,500 experienced pilots and captains have been trained there since 1967 (mainly from the US, Canada and Europe, but also from Brazil, Turkey, etc.), and many of them are now coming for the second (and even third) time in their career, instructors are highly experienced and motivated maritime pilots, the fleet of 11 models at 1:25 scale reproduces 20 different vessels, four escort tugs are operated by a real tug master at the pilot's orders, Port Revel has inherited Sogreah's century of experience with scale models, numerical simulation, port planning, design & construction, the five ha lake is highly versatile with very little interference from wind; it also features extensive shallow water areas, a long canal, the new Panama locks, an SBM and numerous quays; it is also equipped with wind, wave and current generators and a DGPS for accurate debriefing of the exercises performed on the lake.

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.