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Centre for Intelligent Systems Research

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Ship Simulation: A Vision of the Port of Geelong's future

Geelong Advertiser and Lloyds List articles

Bigger ships than ever before were piloted down Geelong's long, winding and narrow channel in April - midst unprecedented weather conditions.

But fear not, all is safe .... the big ships and weather conditions were simulated to help Port Phillip Sea Pilots using the Port of Geelong to understand the real life situations they will experience in the future.

Like flight simulators, the ships were in a 'laboratory' of sorts, using the facilities and expertise of Deakin University's Centre for Intelligent Systems Research team. The pilots were able to see just what it might be like to bring bigger ships into the harbour.

The computer model - called NavSim by the Victorian Regional Channels Authority, which commissioned the work - was developed by Cardno, Lawson Treloar - a well-known Australian oceanographic research company as part of a strategic suite of investigations the Victorian Regional Channels Authority (VRCA) is undertaking.

The VRCA and Deakin University created a 3D vision of the port using projection screens and a field of view of 200 degrees. Full surround-sound filled in the gaps to give pilots real-life feel. The complex simulation uses a central server with individual computers driving each screen view. It adds wind direction and strength as well as tide and wave movements to add to the reality of what the viewer sees (or feels) around them.

According to Harbour Master with the Victorian Regional Channels Authority (VRCA) Captain Dilip Abraham, the project will help the port plan for the future.

"With bigger ships on the way we need to understand how our channels will cope, and how we can navigate bigger ships safely into the port, especially if conditions are difficult," he said.

"During the three-day exercise the Port Phillip Sea Pilots will help us to understand the uncertainties and be prepared for the future."

Dr Doug Creighton is a Research Engineer with the Centre for Intelligent Systems Research and is part of Australia's biggest team of experts in simulation, visualisation and haptics (or touch) technology.

"At Deakin we have the capabilities, the equipment and the technology to create simulations using real data to model large, complex systems like the Port of Geelong. When someone sits in the laboratory with a ship's controls around them they can immerse themselves in what they see, feel and hear, said Dr Creighton. "It relates to the local situation because we use real data."

VRCA Chief Executive Officer, Captain Peter McGovern, says "The technology records everything you do, and lets the operator know whether a particular manoeuvre or channel transit is possible. It simulates the movement of a ship through our channels in all weathers". "We want stakeholders and people interested in the future of the port to experience the difficulties associated with a channel transit first-hand," said Capt. McGovern.


Workshops were presented at Deakin's Intelligent Systems Laboratory on April 21, 22 and 23 and allowed people whose businesses are serviced by the port to see the simulations and review how NavSim can help Geelong plan for the future of the port.

VRCA, in conjunction with Deakin University, conducted a series of simulations which were designed to show how future shipping will affect access to the port of Geelong.

For more information, contact Dr Doug Creighton, email

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27th February 2015