As a graduate engineer who specialises in ship navigation simulation work, one of the highlights of my training is being able to experience real operations. The day at Harwich and Felixstowe, with my colleagues Thomas Clarke and Henry Cruickshank, was no exception.
It started with a safety briefing, with HHA providing all of the necessary PPE, before we travelled by pilot boat to board the Evergreen ship, the Ever Art, which was arriving at Felixstowe for the first time. It is 400m long, has a 62m beam (width) and is one of the largest container ships in the world.
To get on board, in the open sea, we had to step from the pilot boat onto a rope ladder that was dangling down the side of ship, and climb up about 5m to an access door – not a task for the faint-hearted!
Once safely onboard, we were able to observe the pilot and crew navigating the ship along the channel and swinging with tug assistance, to come alongside the berth. This is a manoeuvre often simulated in HR Wallingford’s UK Ship Simulation Centre as part of Continual Professional Development (CPD) training sessions for HHA pilots and tug masters.
Once the ship was moored we were given a tour of the quayside, learning the complicated logistics of how containers are handled within the port, along with making sure each container is loaded and unloaded in the correct order. It was interesting to see how autonomy was being adopted within the port, making efficiency a top priority.