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Sea simulation

Marine Institute virtually tests new Marine Atlantic ferry design

Campus and Community

By Moira Baird

The Centre for Marine Simulation has conducted a series of virtual sea trials on a model of the next Marine Atlantic ferry.

The Hibernia offshore operations simulator facility at the Marine Institute.
Photo: David Howells

In July Marine Atlantic announced Swedish company Stena was the winning bidder to provide a 203-metre passenger ferry scheduled for service in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

Stena hired the Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS) to demonstrate the manoeuvrability of its proposed design for a new vessel.

The task required simulated trials in rough weather, ice conditions and tight quarters, including the narrow channel leading to the Port-aux-Basque ferry terminal.

“It was a challenging project that we put together in a very strange time,” said Maria Halfyard, manager of applied research and industrial projects, CMS.

Virtual environment

A team of six employees spent two-and-a-half months laying the groundwork for the simulated tests while following pandemic safety protocols.

A bank of computer monitors with computer renderings of a ferry. Two men are seated at a desk, controlling the images.
Capt. Glenn Fiander (left, on computer screen) and Capt. Victor March conduct simulated sea trials on Stena’s model ferry design.
Photo: Submitted

They built a hydrodynamic model of the proposed vessel based on Stena’s design.

They also updated the centre’s geographic databases for Marine Atlantic ferry terminals in Port-aux-Basques, North Sydney and Argentia using bathymetric charts, topographical maps and photos of each area.

“We’re basically putting the vessel in a virtual environment,” said Ms. Halfyard. “When you’re sailing in one of our simulators, it’s pretty much what you would see in real life.”

Pandemic challenges

Ms. Halfyard says the pandemic posed some challenges for the project.

Maria Halfyard has blonde hair and is wearing a black shirt. She is standing in front of a schooner wheel hung on a wall.
Maria Halfyard
Photo: Submitted

Usually, clients send their own personnel to participate in the simulations and witness the results first-hand.

Since restrictions prevented Stena employees from travelling to St. John’s, the CMS team conducted the tests.

“Having sailed on and navigated ships of various sizes throughout my career, I was familiar with the operation being simulated, but a vessel of this exact size, configuration and in the ports in question was not something I had experience with,” said Capt. Glenn Fiander, a master mariner and CMS instructor.

“We all had to familiarize ourselves with the vessel’s capabilities and handling characteristics before conducting the trials. After a few initial runs, we became comfortable with the manoeuvring characteristics of the vessel and proceeded with the trials.”

A CMS first

Stena vessel designers were able to see the simulations in real time thanks to programmer analyst Jesse Frampton and IT network administrator Steven Pumphrey, who devised a secure, remote connection for the simulator.

It was a first for the centre.

“The good news is, we can use this remote connection for future clients,” said Ms. Halfyard.

The team also met regularly with Stena online, debriefing them via Microsoft Teams on how the vessel performed in the simulations.

“We worked very closely with them throughout the development stage and the simulation stage to ensure we were meeting their objectives,” Ms. Halfyard said.

Detailed observations

The end result was a seakeeping analysis report.

“We don’t provide recommendations — we provide observations of the vessel’s performance in a detailed report. The client then makes decisions based on the data,” said Ms. Halfyard.

The report consists of observations of the vessel’s power and manoeuvring capability in simulated scenarios, including docking and undocking at all three ferry terminals, demonstrating that it can hold station or dock safely in a variety of environmental conditions.

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