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Coffs Harbour Marina Reopens After Storm Leaves Marina in Tatters

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Thanks to an amazing team effort, Coffs Harbour International Marina expects to be back to full operating capacity this month. The marina suffered substantial damage when an east coast low passed over the region in June. Wild surf conditions caused waves to crash over the marina’s northern breakwall. The force of the waves broke apart many of the marina’s docks.

Coffs Harbour International Marina - Storm Repair

During an east coast low, huge waves crash over Coffs Harbour’s northern breakwall causing substantial damage to the marina.

If you have ever had the pleasure of working on a 100-year old house that has been through multiple renovations, you know the many challenges this type of work can bring. Uniformity is lacking and daily surprises are the norm.

It takes a special contractor to tackle these jobs with the skill, finesse and creativity required to execute them successfully.

Performing repair work on a large, older marina is not much different than doing repair work on a 100-year old house, especially if the marina has been built or repaired in a piece-meal fashion over time.

If you spend time walking the docks of marinas worldwide, you are bound to see those with a hodgepodge of docks – it is a reality of the industry. Many of the large, older marinas have been added to and renovated over time. As a result, it is common for these marinas to have a variety of dock types. You may see a mix of fixed and floating or of concrete and aluminum. The marina may have a single type of dock but because it was erected over an extended period, the design and construction of the marina’s docks varies from tree to tree.

One of the major challenges for marinas like these is repair work. Because their docks are a mishmash of systems, repair work is often complicated and requires a different solution for each type/generation of dock.

In June 2016, a strong storm system swept through Australia’s New South Wales territory. The storm caused considerable damage to infrastructure along the coastline. Coffs Harbour was particularly hard hit. The local marina, Coffs Harbour International Marina sustained significant damage and was forced to close until repair work could be completed.

East coast low causes major damage to Coffs Harbour Marina

The force of the waves collapsed the marina’s office and destroyed many of the marina’s docks.

In an effort to reopen the marina’s berths as quickly as possible, the marina limited repair work to storm damaged items only. The aim was to address and repair or replace the damaged dock sections.

Coffs Harbour is a 150-berth marina built over 10 years with parts of the marina 25 years old. The marina has four different dock types including two types built to metric measurements and two built with imperial dimensions. This made repair work particularly challenging. All four types were timber waler thru-rod construction, so there was some consistency. However, the docks were from multiple manufacturers and were built over an extended period, so there were a number of inconsistencies between them.

When Bellingham Marine’s crew surveyed the damaged docks to prepare a quote for repair work, they noted differences in the following:

  • Module lengths
  • Module widths
  • Thru-rod diameters – some were 16mm and others were 20 ¾mm
  • Thru-rod spacing (a mix of metric and imperial)
  • Thru-rod placement from top of deck to rod hole
  • Mixed-use of plastic inserts and full thru-rods
  • Variations in knee-bracket and pile guide design

These differences significantly complicated repair work.

Each section marked for repair or replacement had a unique set of conditions and required custom tooling.

The fabrication process for walers and brackets was complex and time consuming. Unique hole patterns were required where one type of dock joined another. Differing walkway modules coupled with differing types of fingers required knee-brackets to have up three different drill patterns.

Bellingham Marine’s team attacked the work with skilled execution and an appreciation for the owner’s urgency to get the marina’s docks reopened as quickly as possible. “It was about getting the boaters back in their berths,” remarked Bellingham Marine Manager of Project Development Gary Charlwood.

“Our crews commenced on site early November 2016 and had completed all contracted work by February 2017,” said Charlwood. “We replaced 390 square meters of pontoons, 3 km of timber walers and 5 km of thru-rods.”

Bellingham’s scope of work also included replacement of service units, plumbing and electrical services, knee-brackets, pile guides and fendering.

Bellingham Marine crews repair Coffs Harbour pontoons

Bellingham Marine was hired to carry out repair work. In total, 390 m2 of pontoons were replaced.

“Communication, early involvement from key team members and an attitude of flexibility were some of the attributes that led to the success of the Coffs Harbour repair project,” shared Charlwood.

“We pulled staff from metal fabrication, float fabrication and our sub-contractors together early in the planning phase. We asked them to tell us how quickly they could help us. We worked the program around what they could deliver and when. This allowed us to identify fabrication and casting challenges early and identify timing solutions more readily.”

“We also utilized a local crane operator, plumber and electrician who were all familiar with the marina, its staff and the site. Their knowledge and experience was instrumental. They knew exactly what was there before the storm; they knew about any skeletons in the closet, and they knew how to ‘open doors.’”

“Throughout the entire process we were upfront, honest and realistic about how soon works could be carried out. Although there was pressure on all parties to get the repair work completed quickly, it was critical that expectations remained realistic and that allowances in material and time were built into the program.”

New Unifloat pontoon sections were tied into the existing docks.

Sections of the marina that could not be repaired were replaced with new concrete pontoon modules.

“This was a challenging but extremely rewarding project. We had a great team; those relationships are even stronger now. Everyone put forth a tremendous effort that was appreciated by all.”

5 Fast Facts About Solar Powered Lighting

For small facilities where the logistic of bringing electricity to the dock isn’t feasible there is good news, your options for solar powered lights are improving. But don’t get your hopes up for running an entire marina’s lighting needs on solar lights, it is not in the cards quite yet.

Off-the-grid lights for remote boat docks

Pole mounted, solar powered lights at Townsville Recreational Boating Park in North Queensland, Australia enabled the city to provide safe access during non-daylight hours without the need for running power down to the docks.

A marina’s lights serve two main functions. The first and most important function is safety. There are codes and regulations that govern lighting requirements for marinas and boat yards to ensure the docks and upland areas are well lit. The second function is that of aesthetics and user comfort. Many marinas add supplementary lighting to improve the user experience and to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for their tenants.

As we discussed in our previous blog post about alternative energy sources, different facilities have different incentives in mind when researching alternative power source options. The same is true for solar lighting.

Whether a facility is considering solar lighting for economic, environmental or power accessibility reasons there are five things to keep in mind.

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When it Pays for Your Marina to go Solar

The desire to pursue alternative energy sources is driven by several key motivators including economic savings, self-reliance and sustainability. If you have a marina located in a sunny region with upland property and are looking for ways to cut your operating costs, solar power just might be worth looking into.

solar panels at Marine Group Boat Works

Marine Group Boat Works in San Diego, Calif. recently installed a 483kW rooftop solar system, which is estimated to result in an 81% reduction in annual electricity consumed and an estimated energy cost savings of $155,000 in the first year.

In December of 2016, Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW), located in San Diego, California became one of the first American boatyards to install a large scale, rooftop solar system. According to an article in the Solar Tribune, the new 483kW solar system is located on the boatbuilder’s 35,000-square-foot facility in National City.

The Solar Tribune article also states MGBW anticipates an estimated 81% reduction in annual electricity consumption, generating a savings in energy cost of approximately $155,000 in the first year and over $3 million in net savings over the 25-year warranted life of the solar modules.

When president of MGBW, Todd Roberts was asked why the group decided to go solar he replied, “Our initial decision to go solar was driven primarily by our desire to be a zero-emission, low impact boatbuilder. There’s no question that solar is an economic benefit, but there are many other advantages.”

Solar as an Alternative Energy Source

Alternative power sources continue to advance. Prices of solar photovoltaic (pv) modules are falling, technology is rapidly advancing and local governments and other agencies are creating incentives in the form of rebates, tax credits, loan programs, and grants to support individuals and businesses interested in pursuing solar technology.

But what does this mean for marinas?  Is solar power a viable alternative energy source for marinas? If so, how can your marina take advantage of it?

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How to Create a Successful Future for your Marina

Planning for the long-term growth and financial success of your marina means predicting the future. This includes anticipating and budgeting for future investments in your marina’s infrastructure.

Marina Dock Replacement

A capital replacement fund is part of a long-term financial plan that strengthens the fiscal health of a marina’s business.

Have you given much thought about what it will cost to replace the docks in your marina 20 years from now? Although the idea may be mind-numbing, it’s important information to know.

Knowing this will not only better prepare you for the inevitable future but will give you a clear picture of the value of your current docks.

Owners and operators pour an amazing amount of blood, sweat and tears into building their marina businesses. However, too often planning for the marina’s future doesn’t occur until it’s too late to do it effectively.

How to Determine the Future Cost to Replace Your Marina

If you know the cost to build your original marina and the year it was built, you can get a pretty good idea of what it will cost to rebuild the same marina at the end of its useful life.

In order to make the jump from original cost to future cost, we need to make 2 assumptions.

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Improve Access and Improve your Marina Customers’ Experience

Conscious design choices can enhance ease of accessibility within your marina. Learn 5 things that will promote universal access and guarantee a positive experience for all your customers.

Bellingham Marine's concrete docks at Silver Gate Yacht Club

A dock that is well-lit, has a wide, stable walking surface and is free of trip hazards is appreciated by all boaters.


A happy, satisfied customer can be a business’s best marketing tool. Their word of mouth marketing has the power to quickly build you up or tear you down.

Give your customers something to talk about. Like how much they appreciate the ease with which they are able to navigate your docks. And how comfortable it is to be tied up at your marina.

The idea of accessibility or Barrier Free Access is nothing new. These terms are often used to describe the extent to which an environment is accessible by people with physical limitations or disabilities.

In the United States, the Access Board, a federal agency committed to accessible design gives guidelines for boating facilities, to ensure compliance with mandated accessibility and barrier free access laws and codes. Many other countries have a similar governing body which oversees legal accessibility requirements.

Code requirements often include:

  • gangway slope,
  • walkway and finger pier width,
  • clear space and clear opening measurements,
  • and slip mix or the number of required accessible boat slips.


Beyond legal accessibility guidelines is the idea of universal design.

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Cut through the clutter: Learn what actions a marina can take that will have the greatest environmental impact

Posted on by RComstock

A growing number of marina developers are looking to take an ecocentric (or environmentally conscious) approach to the design, construction and operation of their boat facility. This article reveals the environmental issues that are the biggest concern on a global scale and offers 6 guidelines for marina owners and operators to use in making purchase and operational decisions.

Environmentally conscious marina develoment

According to John Englander in his book High Tide on Main Street, marinas should be thinking about conservation of “energy” rather than conservation of “things”.

Marinas operate in some of the world’s most sensitive habitats.

As environmental concerns grow, more people are wanting to take an active role in being a part of the solution.

Put these two together, and marina owners and developers are smack-dap in the middle of the world’s environmental efforts.

Population growth aside, the single biggest environmental concern is climate change. Biodiversity, water and pollution are the next big 3.

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Make Sure your FRP Rods are Approved for Pontoon Use

Posted on by RComstock

Not all composite products are created equal, and not all FRP rods are suitable for use in the construction of pontoons.

FRP Rods for use in Pontoons

FRP thru-rods for pontoons are a highly specialized product.
The performance properties of Pultron’s FRP pontoon approved thru-rods are attributed to the composite mix, thread design, use of a specialized nut, and a thorough quality control process.


The FRP pontoon approved Thru-Rod from Pultron Composites is a highly specialized product. It was developed by Pultron in partnership with world marina builder Bellingham Marine exclusively for use in floating dock systems.

Pultron’s one-of-a-kind FRP thru-rod will not fatigue or deform under long term stress. It has tremendous tensile, shear, and thread strength and was specially designed to withstand the dynamic forces and corrosive nature of the marine environment. The rod’s specialized performance properties are directly related to the composite mix, a unique thread design, and use of a specialized nut.

There is great variation between products within the composite industry. By definition, a composite is made up of various parts. While products from different manufacturers may look similar their physical, chemical and performance properties most likely differ.

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High Vacancy Rate? Unlock your Marina’s True Potential

Posted on by RComstock

The owners of a marina in Richmond, California were challenged by an outdated, underutilized dock. They found themselves frequently turning away big boats. Their solution, reconfigure the dock they had to maximize slip revenue and create new revenue streams.

MBYH reconfigured one of their docks using existing dock modules

The marina’s reconfigured dock is shown on the far left during the Strictly Sail Pacific Boat Show. The reconfiguration allowed the marina to bring in bigger boats.

Bellingham Marine recently completed a renovation project for Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, in northern California. Although the marina’s challenges are not uncommon, their approach for overcoming them is somewhat unique.

G-dock at Marina Bay had a number of problems. But the most frustrating for the marina was the high vacancy rates of the dock’s small slips. At the same time, the marina was turning away larger boats looking for moorage.

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One-of-a-Kind Rowing Dock for NE University

A case study in technical design and constructability of floating structures: Northeastern University boathouse ramp and crew dock

Floating rowing pontoon

An oversized aluminum gangway leads down to the University’s low freeboard rowing dock.


The most fascinating part about this small rowing pontoon and gangway built for Northeastern University in Boston, MA, are the challenges associated with the constructability of the design and how they were overcome.

At 100 feet wide by 17 feet long the gangway at Henderson Boathouse is truly one of a kind. To a layman, these dimensions might not seem extreme. But to a marina builder, to build an oversized gangway like the one envisioned for Henderson and have it land on an 8-foot-wide by 120-foot-long floating dock that has a six-inch freeboard is no small feat.

Northeastern’s vision for their new boathouse and rowing dock was perfect on paper. The poster child for functional luxury – elegant in design and calculated in its function.

The challenge was in the constructability of it. The University hired renowned marina builder Bellingham Marine to help design and build a system that would meet the rowing team’s technical, aesthetic and budget requirements.

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New Boat Park Addresses Unique Site and Use Requirements

Bellingham Marine construction concrete pontoon for new boat ramps

Three new boat ramps with concrete pontoons and two new fishing jetties provide much needed access to the waters around Townsville, Australia.

For the residents of Townsville, the process of taking their boat out for a day on the water was riddled with frustration. Long waits and lack of parking combined with the stress often associated with launching and retrieving a boat (especially by individuals newer to trailered boating) was creating frequent outbreaks of ramp rage at the city’s boat launch parks.

The small town of Townsville, located in North Queensland adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, is heavily steeped in a culture of boating. The town has a population of 171,000 residents and nearly 26,000 of them have a boat under eight meters long. With only eleven existing boat ramps to service all the city’s boaters, the city was simply unable to handle the number of boats wanting to get on the water each day.

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