Model to Assess Structural Stability, Port Operability in San Antonio, Chile

As part of San Antonio Port’s expansion plans, a cross-organizational team has presented its final report assessing the structural stability and port operability of the proposed new outer breakwater in Chile. The report was the result of more than a year’s partnership between HR Wallingford and Instituto Nacional de Hidráulica Chile (INH), which together built and tested models representing a huge area: the 3.9-km breakwater, a submarine canyon and the harbor.

The main objective of the study was to assess the structural stability of a breakwater to shelter the terminals. The modeling also tested ship motions in the new berths, which will enable the port to handle many more containers, which is of critical importance to Chile.

This project represents one of the largest ever models by HR Wallingford. To run the tests, the team built a large 3D model in an HR Wallingford basin (75 m long by 30 m wide), which reproduced the entire length of the breakwater, plus a submarine canyon at its entrance and the existing harbor. It was built at a scale of 1:100. The model was used to test both structural stability and vessel movements.

The 3D model was also used to test wave agitation within the basin and vessel movement. The modeling team was tasked with checking that port operations could be carried out safely in the environmental conditions and local wave climate, for the proposed port layout and exposure, orientation and configuration of the berths. To do this, they tested and measured a number of parameters: wave agitation and vessel movement and calculated downtime.

A particular challenge of the study was to replicate the varied bathymetry that surrounds the port, which has an impact on the transformations of the waves as they approach the structure, and the team needed to replicate that wave field exactly. It pushed them to develop a novel system for generating waves at the boundary of the model.

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