Each member of the Puget Sound Pilots undergoes extensive hands-on training navigating scale model ships. This training starts the first year a new pilot is licensed. Manned models are considered by ships’ captains and pilots as the next best thing to a full-scale prototype for studying and understanding a ship’s behavior. It is the best ship handling training in the world and licensed pilots attend every five years.

It is the best ship handling training in the world and licensed pilots attend every five years.

The Port Revel Centre

One of the world’s best known facilities for manned model training is the Port Revel Center near Grenoble, France. There, students maneuver models, precisely reproduced to a 1:25 scale, on a ten acre lake. To simulate reality, the pilots climb aboard the models. Typically very heavy with weak motors, they are designed to mimic the feel of the large ships the pilots handle.

To ensure that the models behave like real ships, they are equipped with indicators giving rudder angle, engine speed, ship speed, wind speed, etc. as well as bow and stern thrusters and operational anchors. In addition, two scale model tug boats are controlled at the pilot’s orders by a tug master via a remote-control system.

The lake at Port Revel is fitted with wave and current generators and complex port approach configurations. The technology is designed to reproduce squalls, currents, waves, and hydrodynamic effects such as interactions between ships, under-keel clearance, and ship/berth interaction to the same scale as the model ships, ensuring a realistic test for students.

Port Ash, Australia

Another world renowned model ship handling facility is located in New South Wales, Australia. The Australian Ship Handling Centre at Port Ash features a five-acre port built to test pilots’ ship handling skills under realistic conditions. Model ships are scaled to 1/25th of actual size, and to make the model experience realistic, all the distances and speed indicators are similarly scaled. One nautical mile (6,072 feet) becomes 203 feet. In addition, all model times are five times faster and the log and wind speed sensors’ data is automatically multiplied by five so the displays show the proper scale knots.

The Port Ash facility was designed and built by experienced pilots from the New Castle, Australia pilot district. The curriculum was developed by pilots and is taught by pilots. It is attended by pilots from around the world.