Captain Hans Hederström, Managing Director at Center for Simulator Maritime Training, CSMART, and Karan Bhawsinka, Port Study Manager, CSMART outline how CSMART attempts to develop pilotage plans on a bridge simulator together with bridge teams and local port pilots.
According to the Transport Safety Board of Canada “The absence of a detailed, mutually agreed-upon passage plan deprives bridge team members of the means to effectively monitor a vessel’s progress, compromising the principles of BRM.” In a majority of cases when a pilot is boarding a ship for an arrival, the time for the master pilot information exchange is by far too short. It is unrealistic to think that detailed master/pilot information exchange and planning can be performed and agreed at the pilot boarding place.
Except for the dynamic topics like weather and traffic etc., the master/pilot information exchange should be done in advance by both parties. To facilitate this, Carnival Corporation & Plc. Group has allocated significant resources for conducting bridge simulator assisted port risk assessment studies for ports from around the world. This risk assessment program is managed at CSMART, the Carnival Corporation’s maritime training facility in The Netherlands. One of the primary objectives of this program is to develop pilotage plans on a bridge simulator together with bridge teams and local port pilots. In 2017, port risk assessment studies for 21 ports from around the world were successfully executed at CSMART. In 2018, a similar program is already underway.
Every port risk assessment study at CSMART is conducted by a team that consists of CSMART representatives, Captains and senior officers from Carnival Corporation’s fleet, local port pilots and subject matter experts from the industry.
Identification of Critical Elements and Planning
At the beginning of the port study, various hazards in the port are identified and based on these hazards, certain critical elements are defined. Critical elements are navigational parameters (i.e. ship’s speed, drift angle, distance to obstructions etc.) that must be closely monitored for effectively executing a manoeuvring plan.
Critical elements must be defined so that they can be effectively monitored and controlled by the bridge team using visual and digital methods while executing arrival or departure manoeuvres.
Creation of pilotage plans
The pilotage plan is the foundation for the navigation control process. Clear and visible (on ECDIS) limits must be defined in the plan as they form triggers for when the bridge team should intervene. Following steps are used to create pilotage plans:
- Critical navigational elements are identified;
- Planned, reserve and no go zones are defined for all the critical navigational elements;
- Based on these elements, a waypoint based route plan and a manoeuvring plan is made. It is critical that this plan is prepared together with the ship officers and port pilots;
- Where applicable, a commit point is identified and clearly visualized on pilotage plans.
A pilotage plan was developed at CSMART for large cruise ships arriving at Steinwerder pier in port of Hamburg. This plan was prepared together by our Captains and local port pilots using our bridge simulator at CSMART. Pilotage plans are very useful for pre arrival/departure briefing between the bridge team members and for master pilot exchange.
It’s a unique opportunity for bridge teams and local port pilots to work on a ship’s bridge together without the stresses of real world operations. They spend one week together at CSMART developing and testing pilotage plans for a specific class of conventional and/or podded cruise ship while entering and leaving a specific port. This strengthens the pilot-bridge team working relationship and develops a ‘shared mental model’ between them which is critical for the safety of navigation. The outcome of this one week simulation study are the following:
- Generic hazards and navigational challenges of the port are identified;
- A waypoint based route and manoeuvring plan is made and tested on the simulator;
- Critical elements are identified and ‘planned zones’, ‘reserve’ and ‘no go limits’ are estimated and tested on the simulator. Using these elements, navigation can be conducted according to pre-determined parameters;
- Risk assessment of arrival and departure manoeuvres in various metocean conditions is done which results in a mutually agreed operational envelope;
- Issues like commit point and contingency plans are investigated;
- Best practices between bridge teams and pilots are shared;
- The findings are reported and disseminated across Carnival fleet thus providing decision makers with critical information and supporting evidence.
Developing pilotage plans on a simulator comes with its own set of challenges. A few of them are highlighted below:
Ideally, all the simulations should be done using official ENCs on an ECDIS. The bridge team and the pilots are used to working with these charts on ECDIS, so familiarization time is less. In reality, ships can only use official charts for navigation. So a plan made using these charts is more useful and easily comprehensible.
But there are several limitations in using official ENCs on a simulator. First of all, most official charts are locked for any editing (British Admiralty charts are locked but NOAA charts are open for example). So modifying them to add an upcoming pier or adding new bathymetry data is not possible. Also, using official charts for simulations can lead to mismatch between visuals and charts.
For developing pilotage plans at CSMART, we buy unlocked charts from Transas when open official ENCs are not available. This way, we can insert high density bathymetry data (when provided by port) in the charts which is critical for developing these plans.
The wind used in most simulators is the 10 min mean wind measured at 10 m height. This is because most wind coefficients are measured in wind tunnel tests which use meteorological wind as reference. This wind speed is not equal to the wind speed read from the wind indicator of the ship which depends on various parameters in real world (height and position of anemometer, design of hull, wind direction, handling of wind data by anemometer, local topography etc.). This means that it’s very difficult to use meteorological wind as reference for any operational use. When we are doing simulations with 20 knots wind in the simulator, we regularly get feedback that the ship reacts as it would in 25 knots wind. This is because 20 knots meteorological wind can easily translate to 25 knots or higher wind speed at cruise ship’s anemometer and all officers use this wind as reference.
So any simulation results from a bridge simulator should very clearly highlight this limitation.
To verify the operational limits, simulation runs made at the upper end of the operational envelop should be repeated 2-3 times using different navigator each time. This will add resilience into the risk assessment and planning processes because using the same bridge team for multiple days on a simulator means they can become very good at the repetitive task. But this is not always possible due to constraints of simulator time and money. A new bridge team requires significant familiarization time with the equipment, ship model etc. before they can make simulation runs confidently.
Presentation of results
At this moment, it is not possible to provide plug and play pilotage plans to our ships due to limitations of the ECDIS. Routes can be freely exchanged between simulator and ships but user chart objects (swing area, text, navigation lines and marks etc.) are difficult to exchange. And plug and play solution should not be the intension. Pilotage plans developed on a simulator should be presented in a report format which should be used as a guideline and should never be enforced. This is particularly important when there is difference between official chart data and charts used during simulations (which can sometimes be more updated than official charts).
The pilotage plans developed on a simulator must not be directly used for navigation and they do not replace appropriate voyage planning as required by company policies. These plans form a very good benchmark to base the actual plan on as they have been developed together by a very experience team consisting of ship’s officers, local pilots and subject matter experts. The plan developed on the simulator must be adjusted and fine-tuned during real world operations to account for the prevailing weather conditions and traffic in the port.
It’s very easy to overcomplicate or oversimplify the pilotage plans made on the simulator which can make them unsuitable for operational use. The number of critical elements should be kept in check to keep the plan relevant. There is no need to create a separate plan for every possible wind direction and for flood and ebb current. It’s best to try to create a plan that works in most conditions (for most common wind direction for example) and leave the final fine-tuning to the adaptive capacity of the ship’s officers and pilots. The planned navigation zones should be made wide enough to account for different wind and current scenarios and at the same time leave room for a reserve area. The person conning the ship can decide to stay on upper limit of the planned zone for a certain wind condition and on lower limit for another condition. These detailed guidelines can accompany the pilotage plan separately.
Another thing to consider is if the pilotage plan is applicable to only certain classes of ships. This is normally the case as ship’s capabilities can be very different.
For making pilotage plans for operational use on a bridge simulator, there are many things that must be carefully considered. The result of the simulation are directly related to:
- Quality of the ship models;
- Quality of the port database;
- Capabilities of the bridge simulator;
- Availability of detailed wind data (including local shielding areas) and tidal current data (2D/3D time and spatially varying current model);
- Competence of the participating team.
Including high density bathymetry in port databases is critical for getting useful results from simulations. The No Go areas, the bank effects, squat calculations etc. depend on correct modelling of bathymetry. To do this is a big challenge on a simulator. Different ports provide bathymetry data in different file formats and in different coordinate system. The person developing the port database requires hydrography knowledge and software.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
About Karan Bhawsinka, Port Study Manager, CSMART
Karan Bhawsinka is project manager with a strong technical (M.Eng. in Naval Architecture) and commercial background and 7+ years of experience in the maritime industry. Result driven and customer focused manager with a focus for detail and a global outlook.