Lord Heseltine opens unique marine modelling facilities at HR Wallingford

The Rt. Hon. the Lord Heseltine CH will be amongst the first to see some of the world’s most sophisticated marine modelling facilities in operation today (30 October) when he officially opens HR Wallingford’s UK Ship Simulation Centre and the Fast Flow Facility at Howbery Business Park in Oxfordshire.

Developments in the ocean can be high risk; fast moving deep water, powerful waves and the ever shifting seabed present significant technical challenges. These new facilities will be used by HR Wallingford to simulate the conditions in coastal and offshore waters, allowing them to to assess and improve the way structures perform in the complex marine environment before they are built for real.

The Fast Flow Facility is the most recent extension to HR Wallingford’s extensive physical modelling facilities. The 75 m long, 8 m wide dual-channel flume can hold a million litres of water, generate 1 m high waves and produce fast tidal currents to simulate the way waves, tides, sediments and structures interact.

Professor Richard Whitehouse, Technical Director of the Fast Flow Facility, said:
“What makes the Fast Flow Facility unique is the way we can simulate sediment movement, big waves and fast tidal currents at the same time. No one else can do this, certainly not at such a large scale.

“We can now look at the way waves and currents move sediment on the seabed in deep water at a large scale, and understand what this means for fixed or floating structures such as marine terminals, offshore wind turbines, wave and tidal energy devices, telecommunication and power cables and pipelines. Modelling large structures and arrays without compromising on scale will help us to reduce uncertainty, optimise designs and more effectively minimise project risks for our clients during the very early stages of a project.”

The UK Ship Simulation Centre houses the latest evolution of HR Wallingford’s advanced navigation simulation technology: four real-time ship simulators, including two dedicated tug simulators. Each simulator is a functioning ship or tug’s bridge surrounded by a 360-degree simulated environment. The four simulators can be run separately or together to allow different vessels in the same simulated environment to interact. They can also link with the six simulators located in HR Wallingford’s Fremantle Ship Simulation Centre in Australia.

Dr Mark McBride, Manager of HR Wallingford’s Ship Simulation Centres, said:
“Safe and reliable navigation is a fundamental requirement of marine development projects, especially with the growing challenge to access new and more demanding locations. We use the simulators to support the design of ports, harbours and marine terminals, to refine operations in the marine environment and to provide specialist pilot training.

Our new simulator suite uses state of the art technology, and they combine HR Wallingford’s extensive hydraulic modelling capabilities with ship handling models. What adds real value for our clients is the support of our expert team of experienced maritime engineers, master mariners, pilots, tug masters, naval architects and software modelling experts, all underpinned by HR Wallingford’s broader maritime and coastal engineering capabilities.”

Dr Jane Smallman, HR Wallingford’s Managing Director, said:
“I’d like to thank Lord Heseltine for joining us today to open the UK Ship Simulation Centre and the Fast Flow Facility. These new world class facilities are part of a £3 million development by HR Wallingford to extend our internationally recognised expertise in maritime and coastal engineering. It’s the vision and foresight of our staff that drives these technical developments forward, allowing us to give our clients advice and solutions informed by leading edge science and technology.”

Image left: From left – right: Dr Stephen Huntington, Dr Bruce Tomlinson, Lord Heseltine and Dr Jane Smallman


Fast Flow Facility Facts

  • The Fast Flow Facility is 75 m and 8 m wide. The race-track layout has two working channels. The main working channel is 4 m by 70 m, and the secondary working channel is 2.6 m by 50 m.
  • The facility holds up to 1 million litres of water (or 1000 m3), enough to fill 12,500 baths.
  • Working water depths are between 0.5 m and 2 m.
  • The reversible pumps can simulate tidal currents; they have a maximum discharge rate of 5 m3/s, and generate fast flow currents of over 2.5 m/s, almost 5 knots.
  • The 1 m deep (16 m3) pit holds 25 tonnes of sediment;
  • The 10-paddle bottom-hinged wavemaker is capable of generating random waves up to 1 m high. At 3.3 m high, this is the largest multi-element wavemaker HR Wallingford has built to date.

Ship Simulation at HR Wallingford

  • HR Wallingford operates 10 real-time navigation simulators in total, four at our UK Ship Simulation Centre in Wallingford and six at our Fremantle Ship Simulation Centre near Perth in Western Australia.
  • The simulators can be run individually or simultaneously, allowing independent interactive control between vessels (ships and tugs or ship to ship) in the same simulated environment.
  • The simulators have been developed to deliver reliable and realistic simulation along with the flexibility to accommodate rapid modifications within the design optimisation process.

Social media

Please use @hrwallingford, #FastFlowFacility and #UKShipSim in Tweets.


Jackie Harrop, information and communications manager
HR Wallingford, Howbery Park, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8BA, United Kingdom
Tel +44 (0)1491 822389, [email protected]

About HR Wallingford

HR Wallingford is an independent engineering and environmental hydraulics organisation. We deliver practical solutions to complex water-related challenges faced by our international clients. A dynamic research programme underpins all that we do and keeps us at the leading edge. Our unique mix of know-how, assets and facilities includes state of the art physical modelling laboratories, a full range of numerical modelling tools and, above all, enthusiastic people with world-renowned skills and expertise.