Man Versus Sea: Engineering Artificial Reefs

the wave muscat

Designers for The Wave, Muscat, were tasked with the challenge of engineering a luxury, mixed-use development stretching along six kilometres of natural beach coastline between Al-Athaiba and Al-Mawelah while ensuring it was protected as much as possible from the Sea of Oman.

Scheduled for completion in 2017, the project covers an area of 230 hectares, with an additional 30 hectares added through land reclamation to accommodate a 300-berth marina and yacht club which will boast internal waterways. It also features an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Greg Norman. The tourism sector of the project has luxury 5- star hotels and a wide range of retail and restaurant outlets.

To protect their investment from the sea, the developers began construction on one of the world’s longest off-shore man-made reefs, designed by engineers WS Atkins. The reef is constructed to reduce the height and strength of the sea during extreme conditions and provides protection to Almouj Marina’s 400 berths, residential properties and hotels. The reef is about more than building protection, however. It is also designed to protect the marine environment.

Artificial reefs are used throughout the world for coastal protection, habitat enhancement and coastal research. The reef at The Wave, Muscat will support the creation of a new marine habitat for fish, encouraging the growth of coral and developing a new environment for other marine species. The project is being carried out in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs.

“We are pleased to celebrate the completion of one of the world’s longest reef here at The Wave, Muscat,” The Wave, Muscat CEO Michael Lenarduzzi told the Oman Observer. “As we place the last part of the reef, we also mark the completion of the first phase of Almouj Marina, Oman’s largest private marina. This outstanding reef will offer protection not just to the marina, but to other facilities and properties located at the seafront. It is both a structural landmark and significant achievement for The Wave, Muscat.”

the wave muscat

Construction of the two-kilometre reef began nearly three years ago. It is made of 20,000 Core-Locs, which are cement unit structures. Each unit must be accurately positioned to provide the correct density to mitigate the energy of the sea. The base of the reef consists of approximately 1,000,000 cubic metres of rock and is 70 metres wide at its base and 17 metres high.

This is just one method of building artificial reefs.

New Zealand coastal consulting company eCoast Consultants is working on a similar, but much smaller, project in Fiji and advocates the use of geo-textile bags. The company says the bags are more environmentally friendly and can prevent erosion by creating a safe access to boats and diverting foot traffic away from coral, while at the same time boosting the country’s surfing tourism industry by producing learner category waves.

eCoast director Dr. Shaw Mead says the bags can be used in remote locations where it is very difficult and expensive to use large machinery and he says they quickly become part of the ecosystem.

“The materials themselves are very conducive to marine life,” Mead told Radio New Zealand. “So what we’ve done up there is we’ve got about six of these very large containers to form the break-water reef there and already between them and in the gaps, they’re thriving with marine life, they’re very good for settlement. So it really becomes part of the natural environment.”

By Justin McGar
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