The Port of Felixstowe is set to introduce an innovative new crane simulator, with a view to improving operator proficiency and enhancing overall port productivity. The Port is working on the development of a computer-based simulator for its gantry cranes, in partnership with Drilling Systems (UK) Limited of Bournemouth, experts in the field of training simulation, with a well-established reputation within the oil and gas and crane industries.
The Port will provide operational expertise and data regarding its cranes, terminal tractors/trailers and vessels, as well as environmental data, to enable accurate modelling of the relevant workplace. This data will then be utilised to produce the new software and hardware for the simulator, which will comprise an operator’s chair, graphics projection system and Instructor’s Station.
The new simulator will provide significant gains in safety, and, with it, productivity levels, at the Port. Sitting in a replica crane operator’s chair and focused upon a 3D visual world, with audible cues from a surround-sound system, trainees can be tested in a virtual operating environment, safe in the knowledge that expensive equipment will not be damaged if mistakes are made. Potentially dangerous scenarios and “crane operator competence under pressure” may be evaluated in a safe manner, using an array of simulated equipment malfunctions and adverse weather conditions.
Paul Davey, Corporate Affairs Manager of Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited, said of the project:
“We are committed, at the Port of Felixstowe, to providing the best facilities available in the training of our employees, and fully recognise the importance of a highly-skilled and competent workforce to the continued success of our business.”
“Through this joint venture with Drilling Systems, we will be able to ensure that trainees possess the requisite skills and professionalism to cope with the rigorous demands of today’s busy port environment, before they even set foot in any of our equipment.”
The simulator will be developed on a modular basis to enable emulation of different crane types through the use of interchangeable control panniers. It will have the capability to replicate the feel of a wide range of the Port’s most modern gantry cranes, from Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC), Morris and MGM quayside cranes, to ZPMC and Morris 16-wheel rubber-tyred gantry cranes, handling both 20′ and 40′ containers.
The simulator will utilise sophisticated real-time, digital computing techniques, in conjunction with a wide range of crane controls and functions, to give a true-to-life simulation experience. Phase 2 of the project will provide an upgrade path to a fully mobile system, being able to be towed inside a trailer by a suitable 4×4 vehicle to the required site.
Work on the simulator began in December 2004, and the phased project is expected to be complete by the end of 2005.