Ship handling centre

Manned ModelsImagine taking the helm of a new build megayacht like the 96m VAVA II which is worth a cool $158million. Skippering a vessel of this size and value demands pilot precision, experience and first class handling skills.

Not all of that can be mastered in a computer driven simulator which is why Warsash Maritime Academy has invested in an award-winning manned model ship handling centre, close by at Timsbury Lake in Hampshire.

It’s a facility which Captain Brendan O’Shannassy, who led the build of VAVA II, took full advantage of before he took the superyacht out of Devonport where she was built.

Practical elements of courses take place on the ten acre lake with an extensive range of manoeuvring and berthing options. 

The main harbour area is designed to provide close manoeuvring practice, while the lake also has a canal with curved and straight sections, a ferry port equipped with a narrow entrance and finger jetty, and a range of other fixed and floating berths, buoyed channels and swinging basins.

The main ship handling programmes for the superyacht industry are:

See also:


Professional mariners and Captains partake in many courses during their career to gain and maintain their licences, some returning to Warsash every five years to comply with state requirements.

A unique facility

The opening of the new centre in June 2011 marked the culmination of a multi-million pound project to produce state-of-the-art manned model ship handling training facilities and an extended range of professional development courses for senior mariners. 

Design and development of this innovative training centre has successfully integrated over 30 years of manned model operating expertise with a comprehensive understanding of the maritime industry’s needs to deliver world-leading facilities and programmes.  

The centre provides specialised training and assessment for masters and senior officers in slow speed ship handling, which significantly enhances international maritime safety through advancement of professional competence. It also facilitates formal research into ship manoeuvring dynamics to inform future professional practice.

With our full mission electronic bridge simulator available for blended courses, the fleet of nine different ship models, a jack up oil rig and four tugs allows an extensive range of ship handling scenarios to be carried out using a variety of models, berths, canals, channels and basins. Unexpected wind shifts and gusts, close quarters situations, the effects of shallow water, bank effect and the demands of complex manoeuvring all combine to provide an unrivalled learning environment that directly replicates real-world situations. This enables professional mariners to practise and progress their ship handling skills through trial manoeuvres in a safe environment.

Pure ship handling

This facility attracts students from across the world and the 30 foot long models are replicas of full-size ships, approximately 1:25 or 1:40 scale models.

The models have exactly the same controls as a real ship and the correct power to weight ratio as their full sized counterparts. They are designed to stop in a scale distance of what the real ship will do, giving students a better training experience than a computer based simulator offers.

The models respond to the natural and unpredictable hydrodynamics which are not easily replicated in a computer simulator. And because of the scaling factors of the models, five times as many manoeuvres can be carried out in a model compared to a bridge simulator or a real ship.

Risk Management

The significant impact of vessel incidents, whether economic, environmental, human or reputational, makes effective ship handling training a sound investment. Even the smallest incident can cost upwards of a million dollars so pilot error really is a risk worth minimising.

Accessibility tools

Change font size

Change colours