A megaport for Kuwait – confirming the layout


John Baugh, principal scientist, HR Wallingford, Wallingford, UK




The State of Kuwait has had a long-term plan to construct a regional scale hub port for the northern Gulf in Kuwait. During the 1990s, a port masterplan study examined several possible locations for the proposed port, including two to three sites around Boubyan Island. During the period from 2003 to 2005, a masterplan for Boubyan Island was undertaken, with reference to development options and environmental conditions. This work was informed by extensive surveys and site investigations.

Further masterplanning, concept design and economic and technical feasibility studies of a container port located on Boubyan Island were completed in the period from 2004 to 2009. These included an expansion of the plans from 9 berths (2006) to 24 berths, with a potential to extend to 60 berths. These studies led to the layout as defined in the tender for detailed design, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and construction of Phase One of the port, which was awarded to Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co Ltd (HDEC) in 2010.

Within the HDEC team, Haskoning Nederland B.V. undertook the confirmation of layout and detailed design studies and HR Wallingford provided a programme of modelling and assessment services, both for the port design and for the environmental studies.

The site

Boubyan Island is the largest of Kuwait’s islands, with an area of approximately 850 square kilometers. The island is very low lying, is regularly inundated and consists almost entirely of soft mud (Sabkha). Surrounding the island is a set of khawrs (channels). The port site and channel were in the Khawr Abd Allah, to the north east, which lies between the island and the coastline of Iraq. Depths in the Khawr Abd Allah are typically 10 meters below Chart Datum.The seas surrounding Boubyan Island have been identified as having high biological productivity and ecological diversity. The environmental sensitivity of the island is such that the masterplanning exercise included approximately half of Boubyan Island as a nature reserve.

The scheme

Phase One of the proposed port, now referred to as the Mubarak Al-Kabeer Sea Port, consists a quay wall approximately 1,600 meters long, a reclaimed area of 176 hectare acres and a small vessel harbor. In addition to the scope of studies for Phase One, studies were required to provide detailed design for Phase Two and for the confirmation of the overall layout for all development phases up to and including Phase Four-b, which is to include 10,800 meters of quay and requires a reclaimed area of 864 hectares. The port requires a dredged manoeuvring area and up to 50 kilometers of approach channel to link the port site with the Gulf. Dredged depths for Phase One are advised to be an average of 6 meters below the present bed level in the proposed port manoeuvring area.

Scope of studies

The contract to confirm the port layout (all four phases) and to undertake the detailed design and construction of Phase One included a very tight programme. To meet this objective it was therefore necessary to undertake many aspects of the study in parallel, including studies to confirm the layout and support the detailed design. The programme also required the design studies to be undertaken in parallel with an important data collection exercise.

Therefore, the studies required to support the design had to do so based on existing data, primarily from the 2003 to 2005 surveys. As further data collection was to be completed during the design studies, an additional validation stage for the findings of the study was included in the latter stage of the work. This approach allowed all the aspects of the port design and potential environmental impacts to be addressed quickly, giving maximum time to deal with any particular difficulties which may emerge. The scale of the proposed development meant that regional scale investigations were required to understand the primary environmental forces (flows, waves) that would act on the port, and the potential for the port to change these forces with consequential effects on sediment transport, water quality and long-term morphological change. Furthermore, detailed modelling studies were required to address a series of issues key to the design of the port, including vessel movement at berth, overtopping of the structures and flushing of the small vessel harbor. The proposed port design confirmation studies required a rapid supply of information for a number of phased layouts in a site that was complex, dynamic and sensitive. Studies were multidimensional and covering a wide range of spatial scales.


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