he Space@Sea consortium developed a system of coupled, interconnected floating pontoons. As

these barges have standardised dimensions and couplings, they can be combined in any way to form different structures. This creates a modular and flexible floating

island, as the barges can be rearranged to adjust the size and layout during the island’s lifetime. This flexibility is a key differentiator when compared to traditional land-based infrastructure, on which city plans or maps of industrial areas, are almost literally ‘set in stone’.

During the project, which was coordinated by MARIN, four exemplary applications have been investigated: Living@Sea, EnergyHub@Sea, Logistics@Sea and Farming@Sea. To get a good impression of what the floating future could look like in the long term, they were integrated in a demonstrator island (see picture). However, it is very likely that the realisation of floating islands will start with one or two of these activities nearshore. For example, floating extensions of existing cities with sheltered waters. With the knowledge built up within the Space@Sea project, we can gradually bring this technology a step further and ultimately create large-scale settlements at sea.

Designing and testing a multi-use floating breakwater

Joep van der Zanden,

Within the Blue Growth research programme, MARIN applies its hydrodynamic expertise to develop innovative and sustainable maritime concepts. Recently, we developed a multi-purpose floating breakwater that reduces the energy of incident waves in order to decrease wave loads on offshore floating structures and vessels. The application of this concept is also interesting for near-shore environments where floating breakwaters may form a viable solution to reducing shoreline erosion.

Our concept consists of a floating “beach” that is suspended in the water column and enforces wave breaking. This breaking-wave concept enables the structure to effectively reduce the energy of the incident waves, whilst the net wave loads on the structure are minor. The favourable balance between the attenuation of wave energy and wave drift loads was demonstrated through both CFD simulations and basin tests.

In collaboration with partners from Wageningen Marine Research and Deltares, the structure is being developed so to assure it has a positive ecological impact or can support a dual-use function such as shellfish aquaculture. A demonstration video is available at

Wave-induced motions The hydro- dynamic behaviour of the demonstrator has been researched at MARIN. At the beginning of the project, there were no existing numerical tools to predict the wave-induced motions of such large groupings of interconnected pontoons. MARIN therefore improved and extended the software packages DIFFRAC and aNySIM XMF to handle a large number of units (>80). During the project, the improved codes were continuously compared to model test results. Finally, the design of the demonstrator could be optimised for wave- induced motions using the numerical tools. The U-shaped layout provides partial sheltered harbour for the container vessels to (un)load their goods. The demonstrator island was tested at a scale of 1:60 in MARIN’s Offshore Basin and could withstand waves up to a 6 m significant height.

One of the strengths of the Space@Sea project is the diversity of its consortium members. These include architects, urban planners, logistical experts, biologists and hydrodynamic experts. There is also a variety of different types of organisation represented as the experts come from commercial firms, applied research institutes and universities. The diversity of the group minimises the risk of certain aspects being overlooked. Additionally, learning from each other has proven to be great fun and broadened the perspective of each participant.

Space@Sea partners: Deltasync, DST, NEMOS, TU Delft, Mocean Offshore, Hamburg University of Technology, Bluewater Energy Services, University of Rostock, Gicon-Grossmann, Wageningen University, University Duisburg- Essen, TU Graz, Waterstudio, Icepronav, Val Fou, DEME and MARIN.

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