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Not Your Grandfather’s Unifloat

Posted on by RComstock
Improvements made to the Unifloat dock system have improved the system's durability, longevity and performance.

Improvements made to the Unifloat concrete floating dock system have improved the system’s durability, longevity and performance.

Typically on our blog I like to write technical or educational pieces that have an overall focus on marina design best practice, innovation and industry trends. I make a conscious effort to stay away from brand specific pieces as I do not want to compromise the credibility of our blog by including sales pitches.

This article strays a bit from my traditional focus but I thought it still worthwhile to share as many of our readers are familiar with the Unifloat concrete dock system and may have the same question one of our recent clients had – What is the difference between the Unifloat system you produce today vs. the one you manufactured thirty to forty years ago?

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Case Study: Vancouver’s Newest Marina – Milltown Marina

Milltown Marina

Milltown Marina is a great example of a modern, urban marina that was designed and built to provide the best value for the owner and the facility’s users.

Canada’s newest marina, Milltown Marina, sits on the outskirts of downtown Vancouver, B.C. in a well-protected basin on the North Arm of the Frasier River.  The marina’s story is not that different from other Greenfield projects, and it’s actually the commonalities that it shares with other projects that makes it an interesting case study.  Milltown started out the way many new marina projects do with a vision for the site, then a concept design and finally a layout for the docks followed by an issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Like a growing number of Greenfield marina projects, the response to the RFP is where the Milltown project deviated from its original course.  The original plan was to get bids from dock builders to supply the docks that when assembled in the water by a general contractor would make up the configuration shown in the original drawing. The anchoring system would be supplied and installed by a third party and the utilities and accessory packages would be handled separately.  This approach was designed to cut out any middlemen and avoid extra markups.  In theory, the concept makes sense.  The problem is that the modern marina is a complex web of interconnected systems that is most often best approached as a single system by a marina builder who specializes in the design/build of marina systems and who can take advantage of economies of scale.  This is where the real savings happens.

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The Modern Floating Platform

The LMU boathouse sits on a floating platform and features a low freeboard dock on the front of the building for launching shells.

The LMU boathouse sits on a floating platform and features a low freeboard dock on the front of the building for launching shells.

The modern floating platform can serve a variety of functions for marinas as well as a number of other sectors.  From gathering spaces to boat storage areas to foundations for floating buildings, advances in modern engineering have greatly expanded the possibilities for these unique structures.

In its simplest form, the modern floating platform is a custom-built structure, typically comprised of individual concrete modules joined together to form a broad surface or foundation that is, for all intents, a solid unit. These floating structures are extremely tough and can be designed to handle tremendous loads.

The simplest of the platform structures are those that serve as gathering and /or boat launch areas but even those can have a number of unique features and loading requirements.  Examples include sloping freeboards, small boat or equipment storage areas, davit cranes, boat elevators, steps, railings and canopy systems.

On the other end of the spectrum are platforms designed to serve as floating foundations for large superstructures.  When compared to those used to support people and boating activities, these platforms are extremely complex. Calculating the center of buoyancy and ensuring a final proper freeboard can be a challenge.

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The Marina Industry In 2014


Stamped concrete decks are an easy way to add an architectural detail to you marina

Stamped concrete decks are an easy way to add an architectural detail to your marina facility.

As one year comes to a close and a new year begins, we are often asked “what is your outlook for the coming year for the marina industry” or “what are some of the trends you’re seeing and what can we expect to see more of.”

Although much of our comments are logged by editors and shared in their publications, I thought it worthwhile to share some of our comments directly with our readers…

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Quality Assured. Don’t just take your suppliers word for it.

Posted on by RComstock
ISO Certification

Bellingham Marine is proud to be an ISO registered company with a strong foundation that benefits the health of our company as well as that of our customers.

In a recent focus group, participants were asked how they would choose between similarly capable marina companies when it came to purchasing a new dock system. What would be most important to you? For the participants, quality was the number one determiner followed by value.

Although the group shared a number of strategies they would use to determine the level of quality, some insight into a company’s commitment to quality can gained by seeing if they are quality certified.

For those who want the best value and highest level of quality from their suppliers, an ISO Registered Manufacturer is a good place to start. The program’s independent registrar audit can be a key discriminator of a company’s commitment to quality and action.
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Let’s Get Technical about Freeboard and Live Load Capacity

Live Load Capacity

A floating dock’s live load capacity is basically the amount of weight the dock can hold without sinking.

If you work in the marina industry it is important to understand the difference between freeboard and live load capacity and how the two affect the stability and use of a floating dock.

Freeboard, in simple terms, is the height of a dock’s deck above the water.

Live loads are variable and include all unfixed items on the dock such as people and personal items. Basically live loads are how much weight you want a dock to support without sinking.

The two are related. The more live load placed on the dock the greater affect that extra weight has on how high the dock floats in the water.

This is where the discussion gets more technical. All things float based on the concept that they displace the water they are floating on. Salt water weighs approximately 64 pounds per cubic foot. So if we divide 64 by 12 we get 5.33 pounds, which means, if we’re using round numbers, if 5 pounds of pressure is applied to the top of an object, measuring one square foot, floating in salt water, the object will sink 1 inch.

With that simple concept in mind, we can show how live load capacity affects the freeboard of the two most common types of floating dock systems. Continue reading →

A Look at Some of the World’s Largest Floating Concrete Ferry & Cruise Terminals

Posted on by RComstock

Over the past 12 months, Bellingham Marine has completed a handful of floating ferry and cruise ship terminals. With so many terminal installations going in worldwide, I thought it worth a closer look at a few of them. Their design showcases some of the most extreme technologies, engineering and design options available in the world of floating platforms and dock systems. Terminal sites are usually more exposed than your typical marina and the loads placed on the docks from heavy foot traffic, complex gangway and railing systems and not to mention large vessels are much greater than in your typical small boat harbor. Thus, the docks are beefy – built extra tough, and are designed to handle extreme conditions.

Stanley Bay Ferry Terminal

Stanley Bay Concrete Floating Ferry Terminal

The floating ferry terminal in Stanley Bay features a dual level freeboard.

Situated in the heart of Auckland, is the new Stanley Bay ferry terminal built for Auckland Transport. The terminal services ferries between downtown Auckland and the North Shore. The terminal’s post-tensioned floating concrete platform, which is used for loading and unloading passengers, measures 4.8 meters (16 ft) wide by 15 meters (49 ft) long. The platform is comprised of five concrete modules – the largest of which is 3.05 meters (10 ft) tall by 4.8 meters (15.7 ft) wide by 3 meters (9.8 ft) long and weighs over 22,000 kg (48,502 lbs). It features a split level deck that steps down from 1.5 meters (5 ft) to 1 meter (3.3 ft). The dual level freeboard allows the floating terminal to accommodate both larger and smaller ferries.

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Should you Require your Dock Builder to be Bonded

Posted on by RComstock
Marina Construction - Cabrillo Way Marina

The Port of L.A. required its marina builder to carry a performance bond on their project at Cabrillo Way Marina to help reduce their risk exposure during construction of the marina.

Embarking on a major renovation of your marina or starting the process of building a new facility is filled with a variety of risks. Maximizing your opportunities to limit those risks will help ensure the successful completion of your project.

One of the ways to help minimize your risk as an owner or developer is to require your general contractor or marina builder to carry a performance and payment bond.  Your contractor’s ability to be bonded at a favorable rate is a good indicator of the company’s financial security as well as their ability to perform the required work.

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A Look Back at 2012 in the Marina Industry

YCCS Marina, Virgin Gorda

The extra wide floating docks at YCCS marina are perfect for accommodating the crowds of people that visit the facility during the club’s annual Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous.

The passing of time is inevitable; another year has come and gone and we are now well into 2013. For the marina industry, 2012 continued a steady march forward toward greater innovation, higher customization and a stronger push for value. Part fueled by tighter budgets and part by improvements in materials and technologies, the marina industry is becoming leaner and more advanced.

A look back at the many discussions with owners and developers over the year reveals an ever increasing importance being placed by owners on aesthetics, functionality and last but not least value.

Many of the trends in aesthetics center on customization and personalization. Each year, the number of clients requesting colored and /or stamped concrete docks increases. Rounded finger ends are becoming a standard feature in Australia and are continuing to increase in popularity in the U.S., use of LED lighting is becoming more widespread, and requests for hardwood and composite trim packages are starting to show up in large public projects. The high-end finishes and architectural details once reserved for the most elite marina facilities are making their way into the mainstream. Those looking for more elaborate designs are taking notes from the yachting industry. Sleek finishes, organic styling and use of advanced lighting technologies are setting the stage for today’s most luxurious marina properties.
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Use of Treated Wood Products in the Construction of Floating Dock Systems

Timber Floating Docks

The perception that treated wood products are less environmentally sensitive than other available products for the construction of floating dock systems is not based on empirical data but rather opinion.

There are many hazards that threaten our natural resources and careful management of human activities is essential.  However, sustainable management carries with it a responsibility to segregate real from perceived threats and to focus our energy on the real hazards.  – Dr. Kenneth M Brooks

Wood is an ideal marine construction material for floating dock structures.  Its resilience to wind and wave exposure makes it a perfect building material for this application. Wood can’t rust, won’t corrode and is surprisingly fire resistant. Most importantly, it can bend or “deflect” an infinite number of times when loaded without weakening or yielding its strength.   In addition to wood’s inherent natural properties, its environmental benefits over other common construction materials have been documented in numerous studies and papers.  According to the USDA, “wood has a vital role to play in meeting the growing demand for green building materials.”[1]

However, for wood to meet its true potential as a sustainable building material in the marina industry, it is critical that it be properly fabricated and treated for use in aquatic environments. Without proper protection wood is vulnerable to rot, decay and destruction from marine organisms.   Use of wood preservatives is important for the longevity of structures within our marinas and the sustainability of our forests.  Long lasting treated wood products mean that docks and other over water structures will not need to be replaced or repaired as often; thus avoiding unnecessary disturbance that occurs to the environment during construction and requiring use of fewer trees.

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