Everything You Need To Know About Pivot Point Of A Vessel


Maneuvering is the ability of a vessel to turn towards the port or starboard side using the steerage force stemming from the turning of the rudder aft based on diverse requirements. These requirements can be anything like maintaining or changing its desired course of travel, trying to steer clear of an obstruction underway, or approaching a port or dock. 

About Turning Cycle 

A turning circle maneuver is when the vessel constantly turns towards a particular direction such that it completes or tends to complete a full circle after some time and returns to its origin or starting point. 

This is a common aspect of transportation, starting from cars or two-wheelers. Similarly, a turning circle is achieved for vessels by simply applying the constant rudder moment towards a particular side. For example, by applying the rudder angle towards the port side, a vessel turns leftwards and essentially tends to complete a turning circle in an ‘anticlockwise sense.’ Likewise, by applying a rudder angle towards the starboard, the vessel tends to achieve a turning circle in a ‘clockwise sense. 

Simply put, a turning circle is nothing but a vessel turning in a particular direction. The constant turning moment from the rudder is applied for a fair amount of time to develop a motion in a circular trajectory or path.

 Hence, we can all say that when a vessel turns towards a particular side, even for less time, it marks the beginning of the turning circle phenomenon. The turning tendency stops when the rudder is re-aligned, and the vessel re-orients itself to the new direction or course. 

Other kinds of nuances and physical phenomena are involved in this. For instance, for a starboard turn, during some initial moments, the vessel tends to drift slightly towards the port side before re-orienting towards the intended starboard direction and vice-versa. This is due to the interplay of some hydrodynamic phenomena.

The Phases Of Turning 

  1. i) The first, where the rudder force is applied, the vessel tends to initially drift towards the other side and finally attains an equilibrium of forces and moments involved in turning towards the desired course.
  2. ii) the second phase, where the vessel is at 90 degrees from its original direction of heading, and the moments from the induced one of the rudder and the hull are in a state of mutual equilibrium. During this stage, the centrifugal force also comes into action, keeping the vessel oriented towards the geometric center of the circle it traces or tends to trace.

iii) In The third phase, where a steady state is achieved, the trajectory becomes fixed with a constant radius, and all external forces become virtually non-existent, with the hull moment becoming the dominant one exceeding the induced moment of the rudder. 

Now, whenever a vessel is in a state of turn, irrespective of whether it completes a turning circle, the turning takes about a point of action. As we know from the physics of rotation, all bodies in a state of rotatory motion turn about to a fixed point within the geometric limits of the body. 

Pivot Of Vessel

This is the same for vessels, where during stages of turning, the vessel’s turning moment acts about a definitive point of action, which lies on its center line, somewhat towards the fore-end or aft end. This kinematic point of action is known as the pivot point of a vessel. 

In simple words, it can also be imagined as the point of rotation of a vessel. Now, since the hull is never a regular-shaped body, this pivot point is never the same as the Centre of Gravity, or C.G. of the vessel, about which we have dealt with so much in the entire field of naval architecture or marine sciences. 

Neither is it related to the Centre of Flotation or Centre of Buoyancy, which is related to the disposition of the vessel on the water surface and the overall hydrostatics associated with the hull. 

Most designers use the ratio velocity by length or V/L as a parameter for analyzing the behavior of the pivot points. 

  • When the vessel is stationary (V/L=0): There are no forces or motions associated with the vessel. The pivot point is almost close to or coinciding with the C.G., which is near the midship. 
  • When the vessel moves ahead (V/L >0):  The pivot point shifts forward and is roughly located around 1/3rd or 1/4th distance from the bow, as mentioned. 
  • When the vessel is moving backward (V/L <0): The pivot points move backward and, similarly, are located around 1/3rd to 1/4th of the ship’s length from the stern, depending on the speed. 
  • When the vessel is turning: When the vessel is turning either by bow or stern, the pivot point attains a location somewhere between 1/3rd and 1/6th of the vessel’s length from bow or stern, depending on the hull form, speed, and rudder moment applied. The location of the pivot point determines the radius of the circle completed or tended during turning. A smaller circle is achieved if the pivot point is closer to the bow or stern, for forward or back turning, respectively. For the pivot point further from the bow, the circle is larger. In terms of hull form, a fuller-form ship, like a bulker or tanker, has a pivot point closer to the bow than slender vessels. 

The locus of the pivot point traced during turning is the trajectory of the circle created or tending to be created. 

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Source: MarineInsight