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VIDEO: Mini-ships prevent big problems

At Port Revel near Grenoble, France, class is in session. Maritime pilots and merchant ship officers from around the world come to the Port Revel Shiphandling Training Centre to improve their skills on miniaturized models of cruise liners, oil tankers, carriers and other vessels on a 13-acre man-made lake.

The school, which has been operating since 1967, is a relatively safe environment where skippers can practice emergency maneuvers without the danger of operating something as large as a 70,000-ton cruise liner.

Each of the 11 ships is scaled down to a 1:25 model of a real ship. The models are equipped with working thrusters, mooring lines, anchor winches, rudders and azipods so they function exactly as a real ship would.

This National Geographic video has more:

Any number of problems can be replicated — loss of engine power, loss of rudder control, crowded harbors.

Machines generate winds, waves, and currents that simulate real-world conditions so pilots learn to maneuver in shallow water and handle emergencies.