Surface Transportation Pier, San Nicolas Island, Pacific Ocean

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GHD was the lead design firm selected for this design/build project to construct a surface transportation pier and shore side support facilities at San Nicolas Island in the Channel Islands off the southern California coast. This project is the first open-ocean, roll-on/roll-off cargo pier in the world.

The project was managed by SouthWest Division for the NAVAIR Weapons Division at Point Mugu. The Navy’s team included a third party review by technical experts from the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center at Port Hueneme.

The components of this project include:

  • Concrete, pile-supported pier extending from the shore
  • Adjustable steel access ramp with supporting dolphins
  • Five mooring dolphins for positioning of the cargo barges
  • Fendering system design
  • Mooring analysis
  • Operations building
  • Cargo storage warehouse
  • Site Improvements

The initial and most complex phase of the design consisted of modeling the proposed mooring system and barge in the sea conditions dictated by the specification. Being the first offshore facility of this kind, this modeling required extensive analysis and review by ocean engineering and naval architecture experts from NFESC and the ocean engineering industry. Our modeling work included the analysis of several different mooring and berthing configurations. These configurations were developed using input from the Navy, the barge captain and crew, and the island operations personnel. This process revealed a necessity to balance the requirement to hold the barge steady with practical and safe methods.

The design work included the design of the movable ramp structure to facilitate loading and off-loading. The ramp is a 52 meter steel bridge structure that is supported and hinged at the fixed pier and supported by chains at the ocean end.

GHD’s participation on the team has allowed the Navy to explore a number of options for the barge landing that were not previously considered. This was due in part to our extensive off-shore marine and concrete pier design experience. This experience permitted our design team to model and analyze the barge motions at the pier and determine the amount and velocity of movement at the barge/ramp interface. This analysis allowed the design team, the contractor, the Navy’s technical personnel, and most importantly the Navy’s operational personnel to comment on and evaluate various mooring options for the project and to select the most advantageous solution to their needs.



As the world’s population grows and our standards of living improve so does our need to manage the water in our environment. We need to maximise its application for human well-being and minimise impact on the environment. GHD engineers, scientists and planners can provide sustainable, cost-effective and innovative water solutions.  We assist water utilities and others who provide water services to optimise infrastructure and adapt to environmental changes in ways that balance the needs of our communities. And we enable clients to meet compliance, improve profitability and maintain their commitment to sustainability.

GHD continually expands the boundaries by engaging in research, enhancing existing systems and strategies, evaluating new procedures and transferring technology from other industries into the water industry. We work with our clients through all project stages planning, investigation, design, delivery, operation and renewal.

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