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Developing a unique new mooring system for Falmouth Harbour Commissioners

Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) are a statutory port authority with responsibility for the Inner Harbour at Falmouth (excluding Falmouth Docks), the Penryn River up as far as Coastlines Wharf, the southern part of the Carrick Roads, and a large part of Falmouth Bay.

FHC’s purpose is to maintain an organisation of quality and excellence to safely manage Falmouth Harbour in order to facilitate sustainable prosperity for the Port to the benefit of the users of the Harbour and the wider community.

FHC engaged with Marine-i for help with developing a new mooring solution. The project intends to meet the challenge of anchoring very large vessels or platforms without the requirement of very large capacity lifting vessels. A modular system with numerous relatively lightweight components enables installation, maintenance and decommissioning operations at low cost. 

Such a system would have a beneficial impact on increasing the operating capacity of Falmouth Harbour, without the need for large-scale infrastructure development.

The mooring system design was modelled numerically and experimentally at scale during the first phase of the Marine-i project, establishing the viability of the concept, and the effectiveness of the design in reducing loads on individual components.  The next stage of research and development has further refined the design, numerically modelling ultimate and accidental limit states in extreme weather, and identifying an 8 legged mooring system with multiple gravity and drag anchors all well below the maximum 4 tonne lift of the existing Falmouth harbour tender. This process has been undertaken in adherence with standards for anchoring defined by international certification bodies. 

The study informs the design, procurement and build of a prototype by FHC, with estimated costs included for the full scale testing of a single mooring leg. The next element of the project will be in demonstrating the holding power and embedment distance of the mooring leg in common seabed types, with the outcome that the system design and installation methodology are deemed suitable or unsuitable for cost effective and practical installation in the Carrick Roads, and further afield, for use by large vessels. Although the decision to proceed to trial has not been taken, if the outcome is positive, full scale testing of a complete modular mooring system will then take place, before certification and commercialisation. 

Miles Carden, Chief Executive of Falmouth Harbour says:

“We are very grateful for the support that we have received from Marine-i which has enabled us to progress with this project. This project is breaking completely new ground for mooring systems, so having access to the world-class research expertise available from the Marine-i partners has been critical in progressing the modelling of the new design. If successful, the impact of this new mooring system on Falmouth Harbour operations would be felt for many years to come. We are now awaiting progress with Floating Offshore wind project developers prior to committing further, as a partnering approach would be preferred, but the evidence we have to date will be incredibly useful as these exciting proposals progress.”

Prof Lars Johanning, Programme Director for Marine-i, says:

“The project will push the boundaries of the economics and feasibility of large holding power mooring systems. Gravity anchors and, potentially, drag embedment anchors will be applied in a novel configuration, potentially using very innovative techniques.

“There are no other modular mooring systems with suitable holding power and low mass components. By pioneering a completely new solution, this innovation could benefit marine operations and port infrastructure nationally – and internationally.

“It will also allow Falmouth Harbour to expand into important new operations, such as providing support to the emerging Floating Offshore Wind industry in Cornwall.”

[Photo credit: Falmouth Harbour Commissioners]