Bridge Command - Tutorials


These tutorials will take you through the use of Bridge Command in stages. They will start with the basics, and progress onto the more advanced features. The tutorials get more advanced, so it will be helpful to work through them in order.

Tutorial 1: The basics

This tutorial will cover the basics of using Bridge Command, including how to use the interface, and some of Bridge Command's concepts.

Starting Bridge Command

Find the Bridge Command folder in the Windows start menu, and click on the Bridge Command icon to start the program. When it has loaded, you will see a screen similar to the one below, where you can select which scenario you want to load.

Scenario selection

With the arrow keys, you can move the selection up and down the list, and see a brief description of each scenario. Bridge Command uses scenarios to set up each simulation. The scenario sets up where your ship starts, where the other ships around you start and how they behave. It also sets up the initial weather and time in the simulation.

Choose the 'Leaving Harbour' scenario with your arrow keys, and select it by pressing enter. Another screen will load, which you can ignore at this stage, and just press enter again to continue. After a little wait while the scenario loads, Bridge Command will start the simulation.

Simulation startup

The simulator interface

In this tutorial, we will just cover the basics of the Bridge Command interface, leaving details to further tutorials or the main documentation.

To give us some time to look around the interface, pause the simulation. Do this by pressing the '0' (Number zero) key at the top of your keyboard. Bridge Command uses keyboard keys for most of the 'simulator' interaction, and the mouse for controlling your ship. In addition, you can use physical throttles and a wheel to control your ship. This is covered in the Controls documentation.

The arrow keys on the keyboard allow you to look around the simulation. Try this, and then try the arrow keys while holding down the 'Ctrl' key. You will see that this jumps to preset views (ahead, port, starboard, astern). Now try pressing the space bar. This will move you between the available viewpoints on your ship.

Having had a look around, and got a feel for the viewing controls, we'll now continue with the simulation, and learn how to use the rudder.

The rudder and engines

Press the '1' (Number 1) key at the top left of your keyboard, or the 'enter' key to resume the simulation from its paused state. Move your mouse over one of the numbers on the rudder bar, and click. You will see that number light up to indicate your current rudder position, with 30 degrees of port rudder on the left through to 30 degrees of starboard rudder on the right.

Using your rudder, make your way out of the harbour, aiming to pass around the stern of both sailing boats.

When you are out and in clear water, we will learn how to use the engine controls. Under the 'PORT' and 'STBD' labels you will see two rectangular areas. These are your engine controls. Click in the area and move your mouse up and down. This will change your engines, and your ship will respond. If you have sound on, you will also hear the engine volume go up and down. If you want to change your engine from ahead to astern, click in the 'Astern' box of the relevant engine, and it will highlight to show which is selected.

To practice using your engines and rudder together, try coming alongside the submarine, stopped to the west of the harbour.

Binoculars and taking visual bearings

In order to find the submarine, it may be useful to use the 'binoculars' mode, which gives a magnified view. To switch to this view, press the 'F4' key at the top of your keyboard. To go back to the normal view, press 'F5'. If you want to take a visual bearing, hold down the 'Shift' key on the left of your keyboard, and move the bearing cursor with your arrow keys.

Time compression and other information

You will also see a set of readings at the bottom centre of your screen, giving you information such as the depth sounder reading, your log (distance travelled), and current speed. In addition it will show the current time compression. In addition to the real-time and paused states already used, you can run with compressed time. You can do this by pressing the number keys at the top of your keyboard, from 2 for 2:1 time compression, 3 for 5:1, 4 for 15:1, 5 for 30:1 and to 6 for 60:1.

Sound signals

In order to sound your ship's horn, press the 'b' key on the keyboard. With this you can sound the appropriate signals when manoeuvring.

Man overboard

If you want to carry out a man overboard drill, Bridge Command has a man overboard dummy. To release this, press the 'm' key on your keyboard. When you have completed your manoeuvre, you can retrieve the dummy by holding down the 'Ctrl' key and pressing 'm' again.

Automatic mode

If you just want to practice navigation, and not the details of ship handling, you can switch to the 'Automatic' mode, by pressing the 'F3' key. This allows you to set your ship's speed and bearing directly. To switch back to the manual mode, where you control your engines and rudder, press the 'F2' key.


If you forget any of the key commands in Bridge Command, hit the 'F1' key on your keyboard, and a full list of commands will come up on screen. To return to the simulation, which is paused while this screen is up, press 'Esc' or 'Enter,' and press 'Enter' again to resume the simulation.

Ending the simulation

To end the simulation, and quit Bridge Command, press the 'Esc' key, at the top left of your keyboard. When prompted, then press the 'Enter' key to confirm you want to quit.


This tutorial has run through the basics of using Bridge Command. You should now be able to use Bridge Command in standalone mode, and practice your ship handling skills with simple scenarios.

Tutorial 2: The weather

This tutorial will introduce you to controlling the simulated weather and visibility in Bridge Command. Start Bridge Command as described in Tutorial 1.

In Bridge Command, you can control the environment in two ways. The first is the weather, which sets the wind and sea state, and the ship's leeway (The amount your ship is pushed off course by the wind). The second is the visibility.

You control the weather and visibility with the keyboard. Hold down the 'F6' key to worsen the weather. In the interface, you will see a data line 'Weather:' appear, and the weather value increase. This goes between 0 (calmest) and 12 (most stormy). As the weather increases in severity, you will see your ship start to roll and pitch more, and holding your ship on course will become harder. To reduce the weather severity, hold down the 'F7' key.

To change the direction the wind is blowing from, use the 'Home' and 'End' keys. You will see the data line giving the current wind direction change.

You can also control the visibility in a similar way. Hold down the 'F8' key to reduce the visibility, and hold down 'F9' to increase it. Again, you will see an additional data line in the Bridge Command interface showing the current visibility.

Please note that these keys work to control the weather with Bridge Command running in standalone mode. If Bridge Command is running with the map controller (as described later in tutorial 4: Running interactive exercises), the weather and visibility is controlled from the control computer, not the computer running Bridge Command.

Tutorial 3: The radar

Start Bridge Command as described in Tutorial 1. When Bridge Command has started, in the lower right of the screen you will see the radar display. Bridge Command simulates a scanning, north up radar.


Radar zoom level

Once Bridge Command has loaded, wait briefly while the first scan completes, so a full radar picture is built up. To enlarge the radar picture, hold down the 'Alt' key and press the up arrow key on your keyboard. You will see the range indicator decrease, and the radar will start scanning a smaller area, showing at a larger size on screen. You can zoom in further by holding down 'Alt,' and pressing the up arrow key as many times as you wish, until you reach the zoom limit. To zoom out, hold down 'Alt,' and press the down arrow key as many times as required.

Radar cursor - for finding ranges

To find the range to an echo on screen, hold down the 'Shift' key on the right of your keyboard, and move the radar cursor with your arrow keys. At the top left of the radar screen, you will see a read-out for the radar cursor range. This can be used in conjunction with visual fixes, or by finding three radar ranges, to fix your ship's position.

Electronic bearing line

With the electronic bearing line, you can set up a line plotted on the radar screen at the bearing you require. To change the EBL bearing, hold down the '=' key on your keyboard, near the top right, and use the left and right arrow keys to set the bearing. At the lower right of the radar screen, you will see a read-out, giving the current EBL bearing.

Parallel indexes

In order to allow you to practice blind pilotage, Bridge Command can plot up to ten parallel index lines, in addition to the EBL. To select a parallel index, hold the Backspace key down, and press the up arrow key once. You should see the read-out at the lower right of the radar screen switch from 'EBL:' to 'PI:1.' To go back to the EBL setting, just hold the Backspace key and use the down arrow, and to go to the other parallel index settings, hold Backspace and hit the up arrow key as many times as you require.

Once you are at the parallel index you want to set, hold down the '=' key. To change the parallel index distance, use up and down arrow keys, and to change its bearing, use the left and right arrow keys.


ARPA is an automatic aid for collision avoidance based on the radar. It tracks contacts on the radar screen, in order to find their relative motion. This allows the closest point of approach and time to this closest point of approach to be estimated. In addition, the system can estimate the contact's true course and speed over the ground. ARPA is a fully automatic system, whereas with MARPA (mini or manual ARPA), the user needs to plot contact's positions on the radar screen, but the other calculations are carried automatically. The capabilities of the own ship radar are on a ship by ship basis. Vessels may have no ARPA, MARPA only, or a full ARPA capability. For details of how to set the own ship's radar capabilities, please see the own ship documentation.

The simulator does not yet meet all of the requirements of the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) for a full ARPA set, but does implement the key principles, including trial manoeuvres.

If your ship has ARPA or MARPA capability, when the simulation starts, you will see the lines ARPA: None selected in the display. If this does not appear, the ship you're on does not have ARPA or MARPA enabled. If you have full ARPA enabled, when other vessels are detected on the radar, they will be assigned a contact ID number, and tracking of the contact will begin. You will see the echoes circled on the radar and with the ID number shown. When they have been tracked for long enough to determine their motion, vectors plotting their motion will appear on the radar. Initially these will be the relative motion vectors. To switch to true (ground corrected) vectors, press the 'T' key on the keyboard. If you want to switch back to relative vectors (the contact's motion relative to your vessel), press the 'R' key.

To see the full details for each contact, including the estimated closest point of approach and time to closest point of approach, a text display is provided. To see this, select the contact you're interested in by holding down the 'F10' key on the keyboard, and using the up and down arrow keys, until you see the details for the contact you're interested in. Remember that the information given is an estimate, and will be most accurate when both you and the other vessel are on a steady course and bearing.

If any contacts have an estimated closest point of approach of under 1 nautical mile, a warning will appear on screen, showing the contacts that are predicted to close to less than this distance, and the minimum estimated closest point of approach.


If you have a MARPA radar, but not full ARPA, you will need to log the positions of contacts manually. You can also use the MARPA in addition to the full ARPA if you wish. To log a contact, hold down the 'F10' key, and use the up and down arrow keys to select an un-used MARPA ID (which will have and ID like 'M1' or 'M2'. An unused MARPA will display all data as zero. Now move the radar cursor over the contact you want to track (with the right 'Shift' key and the arrow keys). Now press the 'L' key on the keyboard to log the position. If you want to log multiple contacts, then select the next free MARPA ID, and repeat for each contact. Now wait until the contact has moved significantly on the radar, then log the position again in the same way. Rembember to select the right MARPA ID for each contact - the radar display will show the IDs in use.

If you want to stop tracking a contact, and clear its data, press the 'Del' (delete) key on the keyboard when you have that contact selected.

Trial manoeuvre:

In order to check what is predicted to occur if you undertake a manoeuvre, there is a trial manoeuvre facility. This modifys the displayed vectors and estimated information, showing what the effect would be if your vessel were moving on another course and speed. To start the trial manoeuvre mode, hold down the F12 key. You will see the line 'Trial bearing:' appearing on the display, with the current course and speed. Holding down the F12 key, use the left and right arrow keys to change the trial course, and the up and down arrow keys to set the trial speed. You can then select contacts as normal (F10 key + up/down arrows) to view the predicted information. To switch off the trial manoeuvre, press the F11 key.


This tutorial has covered how to use and interact with the simulated radar in Bridge Command. It has also introduced the ARPA and MARPA facilities.

Tutorial 4: Running interactive exercises


In the first tutorial, you interacted with other vessels, which had their movements pre-programmed in the scenario. Although these movements can be highly complex, with many legs with different courses and speeds, they are fundamentally inflexible, as the vessel's movements will be exactly the same each time the scenario is run.

In order to allow interactive scenarios, Bridge Command introduces the concept of 'Controlled ships.' These have their starting positions defined within the scenario, but their courses and speeds can be set as the simulation is run.

Two networked computers needed

In order to allow this to work, two computers are needed, connected by a network. Although in theory any two computers connected to the internet will work, the two computers will probably need to be connected to the same local network. This will include any computers connected to the same wired or wireless router.

Interactive exercises are run with Bridge Command running on one computer, and a second program, called the 'Map Controller' on the second computer. In order to set up the interactive simulation, you will need to know the IP address of both computers. An IP address is the way a computer identifies itself to other computers on a network, so will be unique for each computer on the network.

Finding the IP addresses for both computers

The easiest way of finding out your IP addresses is with the console program 'ipconfig'. In order to run this, click on the Windows 'Start' button, and click on 'Run...'. In the box that comes up, type 'command' (without the inverted commas!) and click OK. A command prompt will start, in which you should type 'ipconfig', and press enter.


You'll see one line, circled in the picture above, which gives the computer's IP address. It will be four numbers, separated by full stops. Make a note of this IP address, and repeat this process on your second computer to find that IP address as well.

Starting Bridge Command

Start Bridge Command, and choose the scenario 'Controlled Ships Tutorial'. In the scenario choice screen, above the scenario description, you will see a line saying 'Uses world model:'. Make a note of the world model used by your chosen scenario, which in this case is 'SantaCatalina'. When you get to the 'Map controller & secondary displays' screen, type in the IP address you have found for the other computer (The one you'll be running the map controller on). This will be in the form of four numbers, separated by full stops (so for example it might be

Once you've typed in the IP address, press enter to continue loading the simulation. Once the simulation has started, press the '0' (zero) key at the top right of the keyboard to pause the simulation.

Starting the Map Controller

Now, on the computer you'll be running the controller on, start the Map Controller. You can start this in the same way as Bridge Command, except you need to click on the Map Controller icon.

When you start the map controller, you will see a screen asking you to select a world model to load. At this screen, select the world model name you noted when starting Bridge Command. In this case, this is 'SantaCatalina,' select this with the arrow keys and then press enter to continue.

You will now see a prompt asking you for the Bridge Command computer's IP address. At this prompt, type in the address you found earlier for the computer running Bridge Command, and press enter.

You will see another prompt, asking you for a log name. This is so you can record the exercise in order to replay it later. Choose a suitable name and type it in. The name should only contain the numbers, letters, and the punctuation you are allowed in a file name (so no / \ * : < > ? " characters). If you don't want to log the simulation, don't type anything and just press enter.

After a short wait, the Map Controller will load, and you'll see a map of the world area chosen. If both Bridge Command and the Map Controller have completed loading, you should see a screen like this:


If the screen is blank, and none of the map is visible, it is likely that the messages sent from Bridge Command to the Map Controller over the network are getting blocked. Double check the IP addresses, and that you typed them in correctly. If this is right, and you still can't get contact, check your firewall settings - Bridge Command uses UDP on ports 18303 and 18304 by default. Check that these aren't being blocked, either by your computer or your router.

Controlling the simulation from the controller

With the simulation still paused in Bridge Command, we'll explore the map controller. First, try moving around the map with the arrow keys on their own. Now zoom in and out by holding down the 'Alt' key and pressing the up and down arrow keys. To show or hide a range and bearing grid, press the space bar once, and press it again to switch back.

You'll notice a number of contacts drawn on the map. The single grey contact is the 'Own ship,' the main ship in the simulation. You should also see two blue contacts. These are the 'Controlled Ships,' which are the ships we can control from this program. In addition, 'Other ships,' which have their actions pre-programmed in the scenario, are shown in green. All of the contacts have small heading lines to indicate their heading.

Now we'll select one of the controlled ships, and run through how they can be controlled. In the lower right of the screen, you'll see a line of text 'Selected ship.' Initially this will be 'Own Ship.' Hold down the 'Ctrl' key and press the up arrow key. You should see this change to '1' and additional information on its speed and bearing will appear. Also, you'll see the ship highlighted on the map with a red circle. Hold down 'Ctrl' and press the up arrow key again, so ship 2 is selected.

We'll now control the movement of this ship, so in Bridge Command, resume the simulation in real time, and then go back to the Map Controller.

Hold down the 'Shift' key, and hold down the left arrow key. You will see the heading line for the ship turn around, and the 'Current bearing' data line change. Do this until the ship's heading is 200, and if you overshoot, go back with 'Shift' and the right arrow key.

To set the ship's speed, hold down the 'Shift' key again, and this time use the up/down arrow keys to set the ship's speed. Set the ship's speed to 15 knots. In Bridge Command you should see the vessel gradually overtaking on your starboard side.

Experiment with selecting the other ship, with 'Ctrl' and the up/down arrow keys, and setting the courses and speeds you want for the two ships, and changing them as the simulation continues.

In order to set up, or reset a simulation, it may be useful to re-locate the 'Own ship' or 'Controlled ships'. In order to do this, select the ship you want with 'Ctrl' and the up/down arrow keys, and move the map with the arrow keys so the centre of the map is where you want the ship to move to, and then press the 'L' key on the keyboard. This will move the ship to this location. This should allow you to set up the simulation exactly as you want it, with multiple controlled ships loaded in any position, and relocated into the positions you want when required.

If you want, it is also possible to hide the 'Controlled ship' models, and make the visible again as required. With the relevant controlled ship selected, hide it by pressing the 'H' key, or make it visible with the 'V' key.

You can also set the weather and visibility from the controller. To make the weather more severe, hold down the 'PgUp' (Page up) key on the keyboard, or the 'PgDn' (Page down) key to make it better. To reduce the visibility, hold down 'Shift' and use 'PgUp', and to increase it hold down 'Shift' and use 'PgDn'.

To change the wind direction, use the 'Home' and 'End' keys. You will see the data line giving the current wind direction change.

If you want to carry out a man overboard exercise, you can deploy the man overboard dummy from the controller. To release the dummy, press the 'M' key, and you should see a yellow contact appear, giving the dummy's location. To retrieve the dummy, hold the 'Ctrl' key and press M.

If you forget any of the commands, you'll see a summary on the right hand side of the controller screen. In Bridge Command, if you want to get help, press the 'F1' key to bring up a list of all the Bridge Command key commands.

When you have finished, exit both Bridge Command and the Map Controller by pressing the 'Esc' key on each computer's keyboard.

Replaying exercises

If you have used the option to log the simulation, it is possible to replay the exercise in both 2d, in the form of a map based overview, and in full 3d. The 3d replay is an addition to the 2d, so for both you need to replay in 2d.

We will first cover replaying in 2d, and then cover the 3d replay at the end. The log is stored on the same computer as the map controller that logged the simulation, so start the replay program. Start this in the same way as Bridge Command, except click on the Simulation Replay icon instead of the Bridge Command one.

The replay program will start, and will ask which world model to load. This is the same world model as you selected in the map controller when you set up the exercise. So for this tutorial this would be SantaCatalina. Select this and press enter to continue. There will then be a prompt, asking for the name of the exercise you want to replay. This will be the name you gave the log when you were starting the map controller, so type in this name again and press enter to continue. There will then be another prompt, asking about 3d. For this tutorial, just leave this blank and press enter to load the replay.

When the replay has loaded, you will see an interface similar to the Map Controller interface, which you can move around in a similar way. As before, you move around the map with the arrow keys, and zoom in and out by holding down the 'Alt' key and pressing the up and down arrow keys. You can control the time compression in the playback in the same way as in Bridge Command, with the number keys along the top of the keyboard, with '0' to pause the replay, '1' for real time, and increasing time compression up to 60:1 with '6'.

In order to replay in 3d, you'll either need two computers, as for running a simulation with the map controller, or to run both the 2d and 3d parts of the replay on one computer, which will give slower performance in the 3d replay.

If you're using two computers, start Bridge Command on one computer, having found that computer's IP address, as explained above. Select the scenario you will be replaying, but when you get to the 'Map controller & secondary displays' screen, type the single character 'S', which will put Bridge Command into slave mode, ready to receive input from the 2d replay.

Now start the replay from the second computer as before, but instead of leaving the third prompt blank, enter the IP address you found for the Bridge Command computer. This will relay the replaying simulation to the Bridge Command display, which will display it in 3d.


With the Map Controller, Bridge Command can be a powerful tool for running, recording and replaying interactive exercises, which can be made as simple or complicated as the task requires.

Tutorial 5: Multi-screen simulation


In order to provide a fully immersive simulation environment, it is possible to run the simulation across multiple screens, so anything up to a full 360 view can be shown. This would allow a full ship's bridge to be created, with Bridge Command simulating the entire environment around the ship, which could be projected onto screens surrounding the bridge. Or at a simpler level, three screens on a desk can give a 270 view from your simulated ship to give a fuller simulation realism. Each screen displays a 90 viewing angle.

To run with multiple screens, Bridge Command must be running with the Map Controller, and one computer is required per screen. All the computers must be on a network, just as in the interactive exercise tutorial. If you have not read this tutorial, it will be very helpful to read it first.

Setting up

Find the IP addresses of all of the computers you will be using, and start Bridge Command on one computer, which will be the 'Master.' When you have selected a scenario, at the screen where you normally enter one IP address for the Map Controller, enter the IP addresses of all of the other computers including the Map Controller computer, separated by commas (','). If you wish, add the character 'M' to the start of the list. This will force the main Bridge Command display into 'master mode' so when you take a visual bearing, the angle of view will not follow the bearing on screen. This will be useful for full bridge simulators, where you don't want the viewing angles to change.

As an example, if you have four other computers on the that you will be using, with IP addresses,, and, you would enter M192.168.0.2,,, The order of the IP addresses is not significant.

Now start the Map Controller in the normal way on one of the computers, entering the IP address of the 'Master' computer when required. On each of the other computers, start Bridge Command, select the same scenario, and at the screen where you entered the IP addresses on the Master, simply enter the single character 'S', and press enter. This will put these programs into slave mode.

Now set the viewpoints you want in each window, and run the simulation exactly as before. You can change the viewpoint on the slave displays as normal with the space bar, but when the viewpoint is changed on the master, the slave displays will change with it.