Interpreting Structural Damage Analysis

Port owners and operators can effectively extend the lifecycle of ageing port facilities using a comprehensive model of their assets.

19 November 2021

Coastal Infrastructure

There are many aging ports and port cities. In most cases their main infrastructure was developed over the last 30-50 years, particularly for containers. As the design life for these structures are in the same range, this means they are approaching the theoretical ‘end of life’. So, how do we analyse these structures, and where necessary, prolong their useful life?

Find out more about our work in the port infrastructure

Maritime transport is a pillar of world trade and the global economy, and ports are identified as critical nodes in the transport network.

Ports, harbours and terminals are complex and multi-stakeholder infrastructure. A prosperous port, harbour and terminal project unlocks every opportunity offered by the site, environment, and local economy. Therefore, port infrastructure plays a crucial role in fostering the local economy and world trade.

Numerous articles discuss the topic of age-related deterioration, and they are available from institutions such as Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and Ports Australia, which provide different levels of detail on how to inspect and interpret the physical damage caused by age and environment.

To prolong a structure’s useful life, not only do we need to look at its current state but also understand its initial design, historical use, future loads, and its environment. Effectively extending a structure’s life is more than just maintaining or regaining its original strength as that may ‘work’, but it is not necessarily an optimal solution.

The structure’s original design may have more redundancy or margin than the safety factor from their design codes only. This is because when we choose how to model a structure, simplifications are inevitable and most of these will be conservative, i.e. lead to a higher ‘real’ safety. Similarly, materials and elements chosen cannot practically be optimised for every individual structure component and therefore also increase redundancy or safety.

Structures are often designed to consider ‘future loads’, be it additional equipment, larger equipment or heavier use for the structure. In reality, this future load may never be introduced while in other cases the structure has been subjected to much heavier use. Understanding the historical use of the structure will impact how we interpret the current state and what is needed to prolong its life.

Having a closer look at the future usage of the structure should go beyond just the life extension of it when being used under current circumstance. Technology and the environment are changing more rapidly than most people envisaged. The question of what autonomous vehicles (less differentiated travel paths), decarbonisation driven electrification (heavier equipment, more ducting), or adapting to higher water levels and waves due to climate change might mean in the next 20 or 30 years of the structure’s life is important for effective asset management. 

Ultimately this information should be combined into a comprehensive model of the asset and be the basis of a continued monitoring and management plan to optimise both structural and capital use.

The actual analysis of the current state and structure modelling are, to some extent, the more straightforward element. Future planning, as always requires choices. For example, BMT Deep combined with a flexible plan will allow effective and efficient asset management. By harnessing the benefits of Digital Twin Technology, BMT Deep captures data from tens of thousands of data points anywhere in the world transmitting these at speeds go up to 10 thousand. Hertz/second, enabling you to visualise and track your most valuable physical assets in near real-time, getting up-to-the-minute status reports to help you make informed decisions.

Port Infrastructure, like an iceberg that shows only a small part of itself above the waterline, is rarely seen or inspected closely. The size and robustness of both structures help to decrease the speed of its deterioration, but without regular maintenance, deterioration will still occur, and reverting to its original state become highly impossible.

Asset management should start before first crack appears.

Meet the expert

Jeroen Overbeek

Head of Maritime Design, Asia

Jeroen Overbeek

Head of Maritime Design, Asia

Jeroen Overbeek, Head of Maritime Design at BMT Singapore. He has worked in Consulting Engineering since 1990, and since then, he has been involved in numerous infrastructure projects worldwide with a focus on maritime infrastructure and coastal design. His projects include intakes, outfalls, beaches, revetments, and quays to name a few. He has also worked on a few new developments in Jurong Island, Singapore for Oiltanking Helios, DuPont Company, and Shell and a 1-kilometer shielding wall for the International Cruise Terminal also known as the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

Jeroen has been based in the Netherlands, the USA, and Singapore. He has also worked in Africa, Middle East, and throughout Asia spending time in Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, and China.

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