Shipping simulation (SEL)

The default North Sea, Baltic Sea and Clyde marine region editions of MSP Challenge each have their own bespoke shipping model and simulation running in the background.

The core shipping simulation software is generic and was developed by Breda University of Applied Sciences' Phil de Groot, based on collaborations with several colleagues (notably Carlos Santos and Wilco Boode) and external advisors (notably Lodewijk Abspoel and Jeroen van Overloop). As a separate application, it takes input data from the MSP Challenge server on the different shipping infrastructure implemented within the edition at hand, calculates the routes ships will take given the region at hand and all its infrastructure, and feeds back that output data to the server again. Without region-specific data on shipping infrastructure (e.g. shipping routes/lanes) and ship activity (i.e., actual number of ships of different types travelling from a port in a simulated month to another port), the simulation doesn't do anything. Data on shipping infrastructure is dynamic, meaning that players/users of MSP Challenge can change them by implementing new plans. Data on ship activity is technically also dynamic, as ship activity can change with each simulated month. However, this data cannot be changed by players/users themselves using the MSP Challenge client. Instead this data is defined in the configuration file, thus upfront when the MSP Challenge edition is instantiated.

The accuracy of this system depends not only on the simulation itself, but also on shipping infrastructure implemented in the edition at hand through the MSP Challenge client software. If there is no shipping infrastructure at the start of an MSP Challenge session (so no shipping routes/lanes, for example), then SEL will generate highly unrealistic or unrecognisable routes. This is why the default North Sea, Baltic Sea and Clyde marine region editions of MSP Challenge have so-called 'starting plans' in place that implement a large set of shipping infrastructure (notably IMO routes and national shipping lanes) before the session starts.

  • Read more about SEL's design and implementation in this paper written for and presented at the Game-On 2019 conference in Breda, the Netherlands.