South Shields Marine School has been presented with the UK’s highest university or college award for ground-breaking work in advanced 3D modelling that is putting the North East on the map globally.
In a VIP ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, February 20, our team received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize from the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
The award is high-level acknowledgment of our skill in 3D digital modelling, a field of expertise in which we are unique in the UK and a key player worldwide.
Over more than 20 years, we have developed the country’s only facility that can create high-tech simulations of under and above water scenarios that allow naval architects to design and safely implement multi-million-pound real-world projects.
The award applies specifically to our work supporting Tengizchevroil (TCO), Kazakhstan’s state oil company, to develop a port and waterway on the Caspian Sea to serve the expansion of the giant Tenzig oilfield.
However, award judges also learnt of another stand-out success – the creation of computer simulations that ensured Britain’s two new aircraft carriers safely reached the North Sea from their berth on the Firth of Forth in 2017.
John Roach, Principal of South Shields Marine School, said: “Gaining this award is truly a landmark moment in our already exceptional history of high achievement.
“We are known throughout the world for the outstanding training we deliver to Merchant Navy mariners, but few people will be aware until now of our expertise in the highly important field of 3D modelling.
“This is a cutting edge specialism, developed over many years through a desire to excel in broader maritime arenas, and it means the UK is strongly represented in this highly important area of expertise.
“An incredible amount of highly skilled work has gone on over many years to achieve this fantastic level of national, and possibly even international, recognition.
“Being presented with this award is a wonderful achievement and something of which everyone at South Shields Marine School is intensely proud.”
The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is awarded to colleges and universities for work judged to deliver real benefit to the wider world and public through education and training.
Sir Damon Buffini, Chairman of The Royal Anniversary Trust, said: “The Prizes are granted every two years by The Queen and are the most prestigious national honour awarded to UK universities and colleges for their work.
“Entries in the scheme are invited in any subject area and are subjected to rigorous independent assessment in a process managed by the Royal Anniversary Trust. Recommendations for the Queen’s approval are made on the prime minister’s advice.
“The criteria are demanding and look for outstanding excellence in the chosen field, for innovation and for evidence of real public benefit.
“Competition is strong and the award is a mark of high quality in education and training which is widely recognised internationally as well as in the UK.”
Our 3D modelling expertise means the UK is strongly represented in an arena whose importance is increasingly being recognised by shipping companies and associated bodies, in turn strengthening the country’s position in a sector with high levels of potential for further growth and global prestige.
For the Caspian Sea project, we created modelling that allowed TCO to build modules for its production plant off site and transport them into the Caspian Sea from the Black Sea via Russian waterways.
To get to Tenzig, the modules were transported on barges up to 110m-long and 25m-wide across part of the northern Caspian Sea where its waters are at their shallowest.
A navigable marine access channel, around 45 miles long but just 63m wide at bottom width and around 100m at surface, and at points just 4.8m deep, was created.
We were able to highlight individual strands of the project that could be of concern, adding to overall planning success.
South Shields Marine School introduced 3D technology in 1998 as a training tool so maritime professionals could use its computer simulators to replicate views of the ports where they worked.
Our first commission was the mapping of the ‘above’ and ‘below’ surface contours of Teesport, so Pilots could be better trained in the ways of its waters.
Success led to matching work in Orkney, the Humber estuary, the entrance to the Tyne and even support which ensured the giant 301m-long Bonga FPSO vessel could exit the river safely, as it did in 2005.
Simulation and modelling allows for investigation and assessment of port developments including berth and jetty alignment, and we also investigate new ship design, carry out navigational impact studies, and examine new bridge construction and ship handling of specific vessels in constrained waters.
Further, we overview towage by vessels including conventional tugs of barges with various loads and hull sections - and are even involved in accident investigations.
By projecting the 3D graphics they create on computers through our advanced simulators, they can test project design scenarios. This ensures multi-million-pound development of shipping areas can be confidently predicted and implemented, limiting room for costly error.
We also develops bespoke training and professional development of the maritime personnel who will work on the completed projects, meeting the needs of industries, companies and individuals.
To map a location, our team develop database modelling from port surveys, independent sources and paper drawings, and takes soundings, compiles tide and light data, inputs depth and radar files, and takes photographs.
The information is imported into 3D digital applications which generate the landform and superimposes the drawings, allowing for the exact positioning of structures.
3D models are also developed of specific structures such as buildings, cranes and jetties which are added to the overall created port model.
These allow designers and their companies to assess the navigational impact of their projects, both during the construction phase and when built.