Vital export infrastructure designed and delivered to withstand 1-in-500 year cyclonic events, minimise environmental impact, and protect workers from collisions.
Cape Lambert port facility is operated by Rio Tinto Iron Ore in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Replacement of ageing dolphin structures, critical for the safe mooring of vessels, was designed by Aurecon to retain efficiency of the wharves for iron ore exports.
The project deployed early-phase digital surveying, and a 3D digital twin, to identify and mitigate hazards before construction commenced, and to weave new structures between a forest of existing underwater piles. Durable materials and resilient design features were introduced in the digital twin and executed to minimise impacts on the marine ecology and environment, and to withstand a changing climate in the future.
Australia’s iron ore industry has supported the country’s economic prosperity for decades, so prolonging the life of port infrastructure with minimal impact to operations is important to provide commodities to the international market. Cape Lambert is an important port facility to maintain exports for Rio Tinto Iron Ore from the state of Western Australia, and replacing the ageing dolphin structures within schedule was of utmost importance.
Aurecon worked collaboratively with Rio Tinto Iron Ore, and the construction contractor, to carry out extensive digital site investigations and surveys of the existing wharf structures and ground conditions to develop the digital twin to replace the ageing dolphin structures with minimal impact to operations and the environment.
This meant leaving the ‘comfort’ of traditional engineering approaches, and adopting a digital way of working – designing new dolphins, inclusive of upgraded walkways, using whole-of-project 3D digital twin and virtual reality technology.
Multi-layered geological and spatial survey data was developed into the 3D digital twin to inform design decisions and provide early detection of potential installation clashes and issues between new, and existing, underwater infrastructure.
Replacing the structures required significant upfront planning and construction sequencing. Together with the contractor and their pre-fabrication detailers, the (cloud based) digital twin model, with incremental enhancements in its development, ensured that engineering designs minimised risks prior to the commencement of fabrication/construction. With a strong need to ensure reliability of performance and delivery, and flexibility to adapt to changing requirements, Aurecon enabled the identification and addressing of construction, environmental and safety risks early.
The design team used durable materials and resilient features, including:
- minimal anchor drilling to avoid stirring up the soil which can be damaging to marine ecology.
- details that isolate dolphins and walkways from the wharf for safety.
- rope-snapback screens at critical locations, which significantly reduce the risk of fatal injuries to personnel.
- prefabricated and adjustable elements to reduce onsite construction time and material wastage.
- reusing existing structures where possible.
Sustainability and resilience
The use of durable materials, and resilient features, that withstand the inherent volatility of the sea and the actions of the massive vessels that utilise the port, was important. The new dolphin structures and strengthened access jetty provide greater strength, and resilience to 1-in-500-year cyclonic events, prolonging the service life of this critical infrastructure.
Safety for all who use and operate the terminals is paramount. The new dolphins absorb the energy of berthing vessels and restrain their excessive motions. No forces from the vessels are transferred onto the wharf/jetty assets, so there is no increased risk of harm to the personnel working on the wharf.
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Rio Tinto Iron Ore