San Jacinto College Maritime Center site of historic Battleship Texas research

Simulations to move the historic Battleship Texas from its site near La Porte through the Houston Ship Channel began Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center.

The Battleship, known for playing a major role in America’s victory over Nazi Germany during the D-Day invasion and being a Southeast Texas staple, was last moved to dry dock for repairs in 1988.

“The Battleship is in need of major repairs and will go for a shipyard period later this year,” said George Burkley, executive director of the Marine Pilots Institute (MPI). “Our company built a to-scale virtual replica of the Battleship to move out of the slip into the Ship Channel.”

The 108-year-old vessel presented researchers with a few unique complications that elicited a trial run by simulation.

“The rudder is turned 15 degrees, making the ship a bit unpredictable,” said John Stauffer, associate vice chancellor of the maritime technology and training center. “Being able to replicate that condition in our hydro-dynamically accurate, controlled environment will allow the captains to get an accurate picture of what they’re working with.”

Utilizing the Center’s state-of-the-art full-mission bridge simulators, and MPI’s model, researchers were able to simulate moving the Battleship, making adjustments along the way.

Tapped to performed the move are the Houston Pilots and G&H Towing. On the day, Capt. Robert Thompson will steer at the helm of the historic battleship while G&H Towing captains will guide the ship through the channel.

“It’s an honor to be involved in moving the battleship,” said Capt. Thompson. “The last time the ship was moved was over 30 years ago and this technology wasn’t available then. You just had to make a plan as best you could and move forward.”

G&H Towing will test towing the ship from the bow, the stearn, and with multiple tugboats.

“Our job is to make sure the battleship stays on course safely,” said Capt. Robyn Sarvis, G&H Towing. “We’ve used the simulators at San Jacinto College before and they are second to none. Stating that this facility is helpful to our work is an understatement, we will get to run several scenarios in a controlled setting without putting the Battleship at risk.”

Also involved in the research are Texas Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Coast Guard, Gal-Tex, and Valkor.

The Battleship, which has been closed to the public since Aug. 2019 is set to make its move in late 2020 or early 2021, with a final destination unknown.