Coastal engineering is a part of civil engineering and involves the sciences of coastal geology and oceanography as well. The solutions provided by coastal engineering help control erosion, nourish beaches, monitor, place and construct coastal structures; and maintain and develop ports as well as various related navigation facilities.
What is coastal engineering?
The hydrodynamic impact of waves, tides, the salty seawater, tsunamis and storm surges and the overall harsh environment of the sea are the problems that coastal engineering addresses. Some of the other challenges that coastal engineers deal with are the morphodynamic changes of coastal region topography, caused by man-made changes as well as autonomous development of the natural environment. Coastal engineering typically deals with problems in areas such as seas and oceans, big lakes and estuaries as well as marginal seas and other coastal regions.
Aside from design, build and maintenance of various coastal structures, coastal engineering projects are interdisciplinary and integrated coastal zone management; coastal engineers have extensive knowledge of hydro & morphodynamics of different types of coastal systems. This can include providing technology and input for specifics such as:
• Port development
• Environmental impact assessment
• Strategies for coastal development
• Offshore wind farm planning and construction
• Land reclamation
• Various natural energy generation facilities
Very often, in a coastal engineering project there is need for metocean conditions such as local wave and wind climate, information on and statistics for different hydrodynamic quantities of interest. In addition, morphological and bathymetry changes are also of direct interest. When studies of morphological changes and sediment transport are being carried out, there is a need for relevant properties of the ecosystem, water and sea bed sediments.
There are a number of opportunities for remediation of the environment in areas where previous coastal engineering solutions have caused damage and have had adverse impacts. Coastal engineering is based on scientific knowledge of coastal geology and nearshore oceanography. Many coastal engineers are involved in complex research in different aspects of coastal sciences, such as surf zone and sediment transport as well as the mechanics of breaking waves.
What is a coastal engineer?
A coastal engineer is a civil engineer who has specialized in and understands principles such as geology, oceanography and various other marine environment factors and aspects. They are involved in the construction and environmental protection of coastal areas and various stages leading up to this objective. However, it increasingly involves the implication and understanding of allowing nature to take its course.
A coastal engineer could work for government departments or even with private organizations that work closely with governments to provide environmental conservation solutions. Some work on field while others may entirely move into consulting after gaining work experience.
Coastal engineers interact and work with different people including clients, consultants, contractors and a number of other key stakeholders that are involved in and contribute to the planning, management and delivery of coastal projects. They also work with scientists and other engineers such as environmental scientists and structural engineers. The stakeholders they interact with include landowners, local authorities, and members of the public as well as regulatory bodies.
Duties that a coastal engineer performs
Depending on the type of organization that a coastal engineer works with, the different duties that they perform include:
• Preparing calculations
• Sediment transport analysis
• Design and development of structure plans and schemes
• Hydraulic (tides, waves, currents) modeling and analysis
• Feasibility and option analysis
• Preparing tender documents
• Technical and commercial reporting
• Cost estimates and profiling
• Public consultation and presentation
• Contract management
• Risk management
• RCA and problem solving
• Flood mitigation by ensuring that development occurs away from the high-risk areas
• Designing, project management, and construction of marine aquaculture infrastructure, and offshore
structures such as seawalls, beaches, ports, tunnels & marinas.
• Designing flood warnings
• Constructing and maintaining structures to effectively prevent flooding
• Evaluating environmental impact of projects & writing related reports for government departments
and the public.
The role that a coastal engineer performs will be dependent on the organization or department they work with. As their seniority increases, there may be an increase in non-technical aspects such as programming and contract management.
Systems and tools that coastal engineers use
Coastal engineers use a large number of innovative and advanced software, tools and technology such as:
• Online information from web portals
• Numerical modeling applications for assessing coastal vulnerability and water quality
• GPS is used for compiling information on regional and local maritime-fluvial cultural heritage
• Some projects have started making use of drones or UAVs for routine surveying of coastal areas and
data collection. UAV incorporating RTK positioning nullifies the requirement for additional GCP
• UAV data processing &analysis tools
• A coastal engineer might need proficiency with a vast range of engineering design & construction
equipment based on the region they are operating.
• Computer systems will be used for collating and analyzing data
This is very demanding job that necessitates long hours on the field in coastal areas, interacting with local agencies, governmental authorities and the public as well.
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