Port Revel

The Port-Revel Maritime Pilot Training Center , located in the municipality of Saint-Pierre-de-Bressieux in Isère , near Grenoble , is a training school for pilots, captains and officers on large vessels such as supertankers , container ships , LNG carriers and cruise ships . The installation uses 1 / 25th scale models on an artificial lake designed to simulate natural conditions, including harbors, canals, and the open sea. It is the first establishment of its kind in the world.


The center dates back to the 1950s, when the company Sogreah , at the origin of the creation of Port-Revel, was interested in the erosion of the banks of the Suez Canal using models.

In the late sixties, observations made on boat models were used by Esso to model the maneuvers of much larger ships such as tankers. The Center was created in 1967 by Laboratoire Dauphinois d’Hydraulique (now Artelia ).

After three years under Esso’s control between 1967 and 1970, the Center was taken over by Sogreah in 1970.

The courses are given by former maritime pilots . Since 1967, the Center has trained more than 6,500 maritime personnel , pilots, captains and officers from all over the world. French, European, Australian, Brazilian and North American pilots account for 90% of students.

This type of training is now recommended by the International Maritime Organization under Resolution A 960 (23) of December 2005.

During the 1970s, most of the students were captains, and then the first maritime pilots came to discover the center in the 1990s.

Maritime piloting in inhabited models has brought the following advantages:

  • instructors are able to adapt teaching to the specific needs of maritime personnel in training,
  • lake facilities have been remodeled to create shallow water areas with currents, and to reconstruct port sites,
  • all types of large vessels are available and electronic devices have become more sophisticated in order to reproduce the actual conditions of navigation,
  • tugs have been integrated into the training since 2000, incorporating mooring, berthing and escorting maneuvers,
  • The propulsion by pod steerable is available since 2006 1 ,
  • the lake area was increased from four to five hectares in the winter of 2008-2009,
  • a large container ship ( 8,500 TEUs ) was added to the fleet in 2009,
  • a large 185,000-ton tanker , the Q-Max, was added in 2010,
  • a variable pitch propeller (RPC) was introduced in 2013,
  • a cruise ship ( 5,000 passengers ) with two pods and powerful bow thrusters was added in 2014.


Models can carry and be maneuvered by at least one person. They must behave like real ships, providing the same sensations to the user. Wind, currents, waves, water depths, channels and berths are reproduced in a realistic way.

The scale models are used for research (for example on the behavior of the ship), engineering (port planning) and for training in the maneuvers of maritime pilots, captains and officers. They are usually 1/25 scale models.

The objective of the training on reduced models is to allow the sailors to acquire or develop their ability to maneuver thanks to a better understanding of the reactions of a ship in real operating conditions. The models are considered by the captains and pilots as the best simulators. The training on these models brings an experience that could never be acquired under real operating conditions, of which neither the shipowners nor the maritime authorities would accept the risks. . The models allow errors and the exploration of limit situations.

Continuing education on models maintains the level of skills and complements electronic simulators.

While maneuvers with currents, waves, tugs, anchors, shore effects, etc. are more accurately reproduced on mock-ups, digital simulators are more realistic when it comes to the gateway environment.

Ideally, maneuver training should be based on three legs:

  1. Training on real ships: the environment is more realistic, but time and acceptable risks are limited.
  2. Model training: maneuvers can be pushed beyond safety limits, ships actually navigate, but the captain’s perception and wind conditions are limited.
  3. Training on digital simulators: water and boats are equations, but the bridge and 360 ° vision are realistic enough to simulate crew management and crisis situations.


The 5-hectare lake is located in the lower Alps , near Grenoble , where the wind pattern is very mild. In addition, it is sheltered by a forest. The uncontrolled effects of wind on ships are minimized.

At 1 / 25th, the lake represents a navigable zone about 5 nautical miles out of 2, which allows several models to navigate at the same time at normal speed and dock at one of the 50 places of the docks. Shallow water areas (less than 10% under keel for some vessels) account for about 50% of the lake area.

A generator of waves, currents and wind generators, various configurations and complex approach to port are part of the lake equipment of which 40% is subjected to currents.

The fleet

The models are all at the scale of 1 / 25th. There are 11 ships and 4 tugs. All vessels are equipped with indicators of rudder angle, engine speed, vessel speed, wind speed, etc. Most ships are equipped with bow and stern thrusters and anchors. Five ships are equipped with a GPS tracking system and special steering devices.


  • The device was described by John McPhee in an article in The Atlantic monthly published in October 1998, later taken up in Chapter 2 of his book Rare Transporters (2006).
  • IMPA, 2014 – IMPA on Pilotage – pp161-169
  • John Mc Phee, 2006 – Rare Transporters – pp43-65
  • Michel R. Denis, 2006 – Unusual Stories – p49 & p113
  • The Nautical Institute, 1997 – On the Pilotage and Shiphandling – p37, p181, p260, p280, p305
  • Caroline Britz, ” Port-Revel: 50 years of maneuvers and high technology “, Sea and Marine , ( read online  [ archive ] ).

Notes and References

In ) This article is partially or entirely from the Wikipedia article in English entitled ” Port Revel ” ( see the list of authors ) .

  1. ↑ ” Viriville: Port Revel: a new ship for Artelia ”  [ archive ] , ledauphine.com ,

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