The Maritime Museum held multiple exhibitions during the 2017 Hong Kong Maritime Week, which took place from November 19-26. The exhibitions featured a variety of lifelike models and information on Hong Kong’s maritime history. But the real star of the show was the simulation.
The year-old simulation is programmed to tilt and sway so you can feel what it’s like to be on different types of marine vessels, ranging from a high-speed boat to a cargo ship.
Captain Tung Yan-tung, who has sailed for decades and has impressive knowledge about marine vessels, was there to help me understand all the systems that make a boat move forward.
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We first started the boat by using the accelerator, revving it up to 28.7 knots (around 53 kilometres per hour), which was the maximum-achievable speed. The leading light is pointed towards the place that you wish to go. This only exists in simulations, because in reality, captains should be able to find their way without assistance.
In the simulation, we had to make our way towards Tsim Sha Tsui. Although Tung could easily point out Central and West Kowloon, he agreed that the leading light is useful for those new to steering a boat.
The boat’s navigation system, Tung explained, “acted like Google Maps ... similar to what is used on an iPhone, but manufactured specifically for marine vessels”.
There was also an object orientation system installed onto the boat. This tells you the angle and direction of the boat, so as we turned the helm (the wheel which controls the direction in which a ship or boat travels), we were able to see the boat’s exact angle and direction through a visual display.
Then I was introduced to the boat’s radar. It was a fairly interesting piece of equipment as it showed virtual images of other vessels that were nearby so that we could avoid hitting them.
The boat also had a radio telephone that was controlled by the Marine Department who have authority over all marine traffic between Hong Kong and Macau. We were able to listen in on conversations through the phone and Tung helped to translate all the marine terms I didn’t know.
As I was learning about the radio telephone, my virtual boat kept moving forward and suddenly crashed into the side of something in West Kowloon! It was disappointing that after many tries, I was unable to successfully dock the boat at the Star Ferry Pier.
I quietly ruled out any thoughts of being a captain from my mind. But if you are interested in becoming a ship’s captain one day, read on.
Tung told me about his travels and how he had been all over the world on cargo ships and never had any problems.
He stressed the importance of maintaining a ship and making sure nothing went wrong. “As the captain, you must look after the whole ship, crew, cargo, everything.”
During Tung’s time, there were no navigation systems except for a magnetic compass. He finds ships are much easier to control now.
After finishing marine school, he said he began as a cadet – a student on board a ship. At that time, you needed to complete three years as a cadet.
So after three years, Tung returned to the Marine Department as a third officer. The third officer has a four-hour shift with one helmsman (the person who steers the ship), and rotates with the second and chief officer.
The captain is on call or standby all day. He can be called in by any of the three officers if help is needed or in the case of bad weather.
Tung said, for example, if there was hail or snow, the captain will decide whether it is safe for the ship to continue sailing.
Our conversation was interrupted by the radio telephone. After Tung helped me to translate the marine jargon, I learned that a high-speed boat had just requested permission for departure and that the Marine Department had replied “yes”. The caller had to give the number of passengers, crew and infants on board before ending the call.
The tour was a great learning experience and it was wonderful to have such a knowledgeable captain guide me.