MM Houston 1/25th Scale Neo-Panamax 13,800 TEU Containership

The MM Houston was commissioned by the Houston Pilots as a research training vessel. The initial purpose of the vessel was to test dredging options for the Bayport Flare approach turn into Bayport Container Terminal in Houston, Texas. The Bayport Flare is a zig-zag approach into a 56 degree turn to the west out of the Houston channel. The Main channel is 530’ and the Bayport side channel is less than 300’. This is a challenging turn and a special area was dredged at scale to test options to ease the turn and remove the zig-zag entry into Bayport.

The MM Houston was a challenging manned model build. The vessel was designed and drafted by Mr. George Burkley and built by Mr. Brett Thibodeaux of MetalTech LLC in Bush, LA. She is built of 3/16ths aluminum with a floating frame system which reduces the heat stress on the outer skin of the ship. The result is a remarkably well-faired hull that closely resembles the MSC and Maersk ship’s of her class in hull form. Special attention was given to her entry and stern sections. To mimic the windage of the containers, removable side panels were designed. Space was allotted for bow and stern tractor tug operators and the piloting area allows for beam to beam movement of the pilot and the ability to look out the “bridge wings” for docking. The entire vessel was essentially designed around the piloting eye-point of the pilot; and it is this restricted visibility eye-point that provides the greatest challenge on this vessel.

The vessel is 48’ long and 6’-4” wide giving her a 7.5 length to beam ratio and predictably high resistance to turn. The actual vessel has 90,000 hp which is replicated at scale through the Electric Yacht 48 volt brushless motor and controller working on a scaled 17” propeller. For a manned model, she is extra-powerful, fast and difficult to turn. At high speeds in our open lake, the vessel can become uncontrollable due to lack of space to slow and turn before grounding. Much care and attention must be given to the tugs to avoid damaging the tug equipment as the hull speed of the model is three times that of the tugs. Our tugs have been dragged-under while tied alongside the MM Houston. In the restricted MPI Houston waterway, this vessel is a true piloting challenge. The narrow channel combined with the close underkeel clearances in the MPI Houston Waterway, make this manned model a world-class high windage experiment unit for testing maneuvers and required bollard pull from the tugs.

The MM Houston is fully equipped with electronics including Wind, RPM, AIS, Digital Gyro, Raven Revolve PPU Bluetooth connector with heading sensor rate of turn, Raven Phoenix Real-Time Kinematic (RTK-DGPS) connected to custom local kinematic base station, Raven piloting software running on a Toshiba Toughbook, Wireless weather sensor package with computer recording capability.