Category: News

Upgraded Port of London Ship’s Bridge Simulator to boost trade and growth

The Port of London Authority (PLA) has invested £250,000 upgrading its ship’s bridge simulator, adding a full tug bridge simulator in a move that is set to enable a boost in port trade and helps terminals verify their expansion plans.

The Thames is the UK’s busiest waterway, handling over 45 million tonnes of cargo a year. For over a decade the bridge simulator has been an essential tool for training the PLA pilots who guide ships to and from their berths on the Thames.

The PLA recently announced plans to recruit twelve new pilots this year to help facilitate increased traffic on the Thames and the simulators will play an integral role in their training.

PLA marine operations director, Peter Steen said:

“This upgrade integrates the latest hydrographic modelling, allowing trainees to learn the characteristics of the Thames from the North Sea right through to central London. It gives pilots the chance to experience all kinds of ships from tankers to container ships, cruise ships to car carriers, before they go on-board and ‘drive’ them for real. It’s rare that you would manoeuvre large ships without tugs helping, so the addition of the totally interactive tug simulator really takes the experience to another level.”

PLA research completed last year showed that Thames terminals have plans to invest over £1 billion in their operations over the next five years, several looking at handling larger ships.

“Many organisations come to the simulator for research and development purposes, to check their proposed new berth plans and to see how their new ships will handle on the river, sometimes before they’ve even left the shipyard for their maiden voyage,” commented Peter Steen. “This enables them to adjust their plans, if need be, and reduce the risk of any unforeseen issues when the vessels actually arrive on the Thames.”

Jason Hornsby, Navigator Terminals UK commercial manager said:

“We have frequently utilised the PLA ship’s bridge simulator to help develop future investment projects that would allow an assortment of vessels to visit our Thames terminal.”

Stuart Strutton, Kotug harbour towage UK general manager said:

“The integration of real hydrographic data and weather modelling into the tug simulator, offers our team very real scenarios to train on.”

In addition to its core role in PLA pilot training, the simulator is also used for coaching pilotage exemption certificate (PEC) holders and specialist training for senior officers from shipping companies, tug masters and pilots from other port authorities.

The PLA simulator team are all Class 1 Unrestricted pilots who bring their everyday knowledge and experience into the training environment. Most training course are attended, in part, by a tug master from one of the tug fleets operating on the river and this is seen as an important addition to the experience and training offered.

Technical Detail

Full mission bridge simulator

  • includes full engine controls, bow and stern thrusters, radar, ECDIS, speed logs, a portable pilotage unit and Azimuth Control Device propulsion and steering
  • variable parameters based on Thames hydrographic modelling, flood and ebb tide, wind speed and direction, meteorological conditions including fog, rain and snow
  • over 70 ship types can be simulated
  • record, pause and rewind allowing review and retry of scenarios
  • print outs of each exercise for post-exercise discussion and evaluation
  • training on traffic management scenarios is available

Tug bridge simulator

  • five kinds of tug can be simulated, Voith, ASD, conventional and rotor/tractor
  • variable parameters based on Thames hydrographic modelling, tug line management, flood and ebb tide, wind speed and direction, weather like fog, rain and snow
  • record, pause and rewind allowing review and retry of scenarios
  • view over the tug bow or stern are available


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PLA’s £7million boat does the trick after storm damage closes pier temporarily

A busy London pier that was shut briefly after Storm Katie struck was reopened thanks to a new tidal Thames superboat.

Fans of TV illusionist Dynamo flocked to North Greenwich Pier last week for a spectacular show at The O2, but they almost had to make other travel arrangements – until the Port of London Authority stepped in with a little bit of magic of its own.

Our £7 million mooring maintenance vessel, London Titan, used her 20-metre extending crane arm to remove part of a damaged canopy which was overhanging the MBNA Thames Clippers stop. The pier had been shut for a day and a half, after Hurricane Katie struck.

Titan’s crew, who were carrying out extensive repair works at nearby Greenwich ship tier, worked quickly to winch the canopy arm safely down onto the pier, before engineers ensured that the site could safely reopen. That meant thousands of MBNA Thames Clippers passengers could disembark there in time for Dynamo’s show.

PLA’s Marine Manager Afloat, Michael Russell, said: “Other vessels on the river could’ve done the job Titan did, but I doubt any would have got there at such short notice.

“When there’s a show on at The O2, Thames Clippers extends its service to bring more people to North Greenwich Pier. If we hadn’t been there to sort the problem out, the pier would’ve remained closed and a lot of people might have missed the event.”

Sean Collins, CEO of MBNA Thames Clippers, revealed that two stops on its 20 pier network were temporarily closed on 28th March due to stormy weather. One, Tower Pier, was reopened within a few hours after TFL staff repaired a piece of roof that had broken off.

“The other was North Greenwich Pier that remained closed for 34 hours and would not have reopened then if it wasn’t for the PLA providing a quick response in mobilising London Titan,” he added. It lifted part of a large cylindrical roof structure that had collapsed in the wind, allowing the pier to safely reopen. Their actions enabled our evening commuters to resume using our service and the many customers that wished to use our services get to The O2 for the Dynamo performance.”

Designed by MacDuff Ship Design, multi-purpose Titan is designed both to keep the river clear of obstructions and ensure channels are clearly marked for all to use. She’s capable of working from Richmond in west London all the way out to the Thames estuary. Her work is vital on a waterway that’s home to the UK’s second-biggest port, the busiest inland waterway for passengers and freight – as well as a centre for recreational activity.

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Blue Space to drive maritime trade, productivity & growth

Located near to the QEII Bridge, on the banks of the River Thames, Blue Space @ SusCon will provide office and training space for innovative maritime businesses to undertake their work. The centre will help support maritime industries, facilitate growth opportunities and demonstrate why work force development is an economic benefit to the sector.

This unique 30,000 sq. ft., £6.5 million facility and its large open areas provides good opportunities for organisations to undertake a wealth of different sessions ranging from classroom based activities to hands on skill based training.

Speaking before the official launch, which saw Blue Space officially opened by the Port of London Authority Chief Harbour Master, Commander David Phillips, Peter Green, National Maritime Chief Executive, explained that the new centre will give maritime businesses a fixed place to support the development of their operations and the industry workforce.

Download full details of Blue Space news release.

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