Magnetic auto-mooring at the Woolwich Ferry

The new Woolwich Ferry launched in March after work was completed to improve the service.

Transport for London

Two new boats will replace the current 55-year-old fleet and make the service more reliable and comfortable for customers. Mampaey’s high-tech intelligent Dock Locking mooring system will be used for a safe and high-speed operation and are installed at Woolwich and North Woolwich piers.

New boats, berths and mooring system

The new vessels will have more space, cycle-specific facilities and use a quieter, low-emission engine.

The boats are called the ‘Ben Woollacott’, after a former deckhand who died working on the ferry and the ‘Dame Vera Lynn’, after the legendary singer from east London. (Find out more about the history behind the names.) They were built by Polish company Remontowa and have sailed to London from Poland.

New Woolwich Ferry Ben Woollacott (photo credit: Remontowa)


The improvements will contribute to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and support the Mayor’s goals for cleaner air and more river transport.

Benefits for customers include:

  • Improved reliability
  • 14% more space for passengers and vehicles – the boats will be able to carry 150 passengers, with a total of 210 metres for vehicles across four lanes as well as dedicated cycle spaces
  • Step-free access
  • Enhanced safety – the new vessels will berth using Mampaey’s magnetic mooring technology, making them more stable to board and alight

The new boats meet London’s Low Emission Zone standards because they use a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system and Mampaey’s magnetic mooring system enabling faster engine shut-off during after mooring and (dis-)embarkation of passengers and vehicles. This means these boats will:

  • Be fuel efficient
  • Make less noise
  • Produce fewer emissions – two filtering systems like the ones used on London buses will additionally reduce pollutants
intelligent Dock Locking System

Mampaey Involvement

Mampaey has been involved at the early engineering stages, to be able to cater the system to Woolwich’ specific case. In conjunction with Robert West Consulting assessing and setting the framework for the environmental conditions under which the ferries would operate, Mampaey executed an extensive Dynamic Mooring Analysis resulting in the Design loads and movements which the ferries were expected to endure.

This combination of wind and current velocity, waves movements and the motions created by passing vessels gave all involved insight in the iDL system’s required specifications. This was later adjusted to also incorporate the effect of braking trucks (Book of abstracts, 34th PIANC world Congress, PIANC paper Xuelei Feng, Mampaey Offshore).

Once consensus was reached on the mooring procedure, its required strength and the movements the system was to counter, the iDL’s horizontal tri-pod design was optimized to these specific requirements.

Rigorous R&D programs

The iDL features several components that have been through rigorous R&D programs to ensure smooth operations within its intense and frequent mooring schedule; it is expected to reach over 20.000 moorings per year.

At the Woolwich Ferry Terminals, the ferries are moored in the same direction as the tidal current flow. The creates drag in the surge direction. The iDL units must overcome this force to moor the ferry. Due to this setup the surge force is the critical value in terms of the iDL’s mooring capability.

To introduce a surge force equivalent to what it can muster in sway direction, a special “friction shoe” was developed with a rubber type fused with several chemical components, increasing slide friction from the standard 50% to close to 95%. To add to its effectiveness, each mooring module (4 per mooring unit) is mounted on a custom-made sphere hinge, enabling individual adaptation to fit seamlessly to the hull.

Magnetic Modules

The magnetic modules have been engineered to reach maximum saturation (leading to maximum magnetic pull) with a flux (the magnetic radiation) that stay well within the ferry’s hull material and thus harmless to other equipment and people on board. The magnetic modules verify the attained connection force once the hull has been braced. Once the system confirms the force threshold was reached, it will greenlight the operation and the linkspan can be lowered. No electrical power is needed once magnetized and even when there is a power outage, the modules will maintain the measured force without fluctuation. This means they system will disconnect only when ordered to.

The hydraulic system can steer the magnetic mooring pad to any desired point in the restricted 3D framework using forward and inverse kinematics in the required force threshold in any direction, making it a highly flexible and strong system. When moored the iDL uses a combination position and force control to optimally moor the ferry.

All this is controlled by the captains on board and the control tower near the quay and can be remotely monitored and controlled from other locations if so desired.

Mampaey is extremely proud to have been given the chance to show the iDL system’s worth on this prestigious project by Transport for London and Briggs Marine operators. It was an intense and very pleasurable co-operation and we have enjoyed both the highs and the lows of this endeavor leading to the successful delivery of a new and future-proof ferry service. We wish the people of London smooth sailing for years to come!

Custom solutions

Mampaey Offshore Industries specializes in custom solutions for your mooring and berthing equipment. Interested what kind of custom auto-mooring solution we can offer you? Contact us.

May 22, 2019

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