Bechtel Expert at Ocean Summit

Bechtel’s senior ports specialist, Marco Pluijm, announced today that analyzing natural barrier islands could help to make coastal infrastructure more sustainable and resilient.

The new approach marks a huge step-change in the way marine infrastructure is currently designed, which is usually based on studying trends and processes that are hard to predict.

Presenting at the World Ocean Council’s Sustainable Ocean Summit in Singapore today, Mr. Pluijm said that the new approach would help engineers to develop innovative solutions to mitigate the devastating impact of sea-level rise from extreme weather events like hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.

Natural barrier islands have evolved over thousands of years, adapting their structure to cope with the impact of the sea and natural disasters such as storms and hurricanes,” said Pluijm. “Looking at nature, we can learn for instance, which dimensions work best for breakwaters. We can also learn from natural processes, such as the movement of sediment, how to reduce impacts, so that marine infrastructure can be up and running much sooner after an event.”

Lessons learned from studying natural barrier islands, like Dauphin Island, Alabama, USA, could also help to provide additional off-shore facilities and assets for a number of stakeholders, such as homeland security, disaster relief, renewable energy, tourism, commercial fishing and wetland conservation.

The new approach could particularly benefit New York (in line with its ongoing Post-Sandy resiliency program), California (in combination with enhanced coastline management and water shortage management), and parts of Africa, to help solve the swell issues and operational limitations in existing ports in that region.