Design of coastal infrastructure; a look at the basics



J. Overbeek, Delta Marine Consultants bv (Singapore Branch), Singapore


Coastal infrastructure, as referred to in this article, includes the full range of features, from jetties and quays, breakwaters and groins to beaches and shore protection. The actual design of each particular type of structure and facility is very different but all design work is reliant upon the same basic environmental data.

In addition the usual statement ‘garbage in, garbage out’ holds true here also. In this short article we will try and highlight some of the more important considerations in relation to the risks associated with environmental data by reference to several recent projects as examples.

Coastal developments

When the development of coastal infrastructure is considered, be it a ‘new’ beach or an oil terminal, it appears self-evident that environmental factors such as currents, waves and winds together with geotechnical conditions at that location are important starting points for the knowledge base for the development. The environmental conditions influence stability of the coastline, type of foundation, levels of platforms or breakwaters, loads on structures, movements of vessels, environmental impact and the like. All are important factors in determining the technical and economical viability of a development or facility.

Though many developers would openly acknowledge that they fully realise the importance of the foregoing aspects, it is our experience that few appreciate the magnitude of the influence of environmental factors. In addition we have found that amongst those who do, there is a significant spread in the degree of client risk that they would be willing to assume arising from adverse influence of environmental factors on design.

Environmental modeling

Though there are planned developments in or near existing facilities or in established ports where significant amounts of data are available equally, often this is not the case. At green-field development sites or in developing ports detailed data may be unavailable, insufficient or subject to change. Recent examples from our experience include a project on Java in Indonesia where no local measurements are available despite the presence of nearby facilities, and a project in Singapore where, due to the ongoing land reclamation, no hard data is yet available on the situation that may result from the final configuration of the land. In both cases mathematical modeling was used to determine the design currents, waves and winds for the projects.

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