How Ship Captains Learn To Navigate the Suez Canal

If you’ve ever wondered how ships manage to navigate the Suez Canal, it might surprise you to learn that there’s a stretch of water where mariners learn how not to get stuck in the canal. Port Revel — a manmade lake near Grenoble, France — was designed to simulate natural conditions, including harbors, canals, and open seas. The channel is built to one twenty-fifth the scale of a section of the real Suez Canal. Trainees have to steer through scale models of massive container ships without getting stuck. The courses are provided by former maritime pilots who teach trainees how to coax a cargo vessel through a narrow point like they will encounter in the Suez Canal. During training on the mini-Suez canal, instructors simulate steering problems and engine outages to see how trainees react. Located in the foothills of the Alps, the Port Revel facility is designed to replicate some of the trickiest spots in global shipping. The lake is fitted with wave, current and wind generators and complex port approach configurations. Ship-handling courses at Port Revel typically last a week and cost $11,700. If that seems somewhat steep, consider that the cost of training is nothing like the cost of having a vessel stuck for a day.