ASCE/COPRI to Produce First Waterfront Facilities Inspection and Assessment Manual

July 31, 2013
If as a civil engineer you were asked to inspect and assess an existing waterfront facility located nearshore, on the waterfront, or at an inland location exposed to fresh or salt water, and constructed of materials including concrete, masonry, metal, composites, or wood, how would you undertake it?

“There is confusion in the industry,” says Ronald Heffron, P.E., D.PE, M.ASCE, vice president at the Long Beach, California, office of Moffatt & Nichol. “The owner [of a waterfront facility] will oftentimes say that [it needs] an inspection, but the question an engineer should immediately ask is: what kind of inspection, why do you want to inspect, what is the purpose, and what [are] the objectives?”

As the chair of the ASCE/COPRI Waterfront Inspection Task Committee, Heffron and his colleagues on the committee are in the final editing phase of a new Waterfront Facilities Inspection and Assessment Standard Practice Manual, whose purpose is to cover all aspects of waterfront structural inspections under 1 document without the need to refer to multiple references. Presently, the only known guide dealing with this subject is ASCE’s Underwater Investigations Standard Practice Manual. However, the guide, published in 2004, only addresses the underwater aspect of inspecting waterfront structures.

“This new guide describes the need for underwater inspection of waterfront facilities and how one should go about getting those facilities inspected,” says Philip Vitale, P.E., M.ASCE, a reviewer of the manual. “[For] example, how often to inspect depends on the type of material that the structure is made of, and what to expect from an A.E. [architectural engineering] firm that is doing the inspection for the owner; or in the case of a civil engineer, what they should be providing to their client when asked to do an underwater inspection.

“This new, bigger [Waterfront Facilities Inspection and Assessment Standard Practice Manual] gets into more detail, and it has fuller appendices so it has more information.”

Scope of Waterfront Inspections Covered in the Manual

This manual defines the term waterfront structures as piers, wharves (quays), dolphins, bulkheads (quaywalls), seawalls, relieving platforms, gravity block walls, caissons and cofferdams, wave screens/attenuators, marinas, boat ramps, marine railways, floating structures, mooring buoys, and slope protection. The scope of the inspections covered under this manual includes fixed utilities, equipment, mooring hardware, topside paving and drainage, safety features, and appurtenances typically associated with waterfront assets. The definition excludes specialty items such as container cranes and material offloading/conveyance equipment. Nor does the manual address bridges, dams, hydraulic structures, offshore (deepwater) structures, offshore oil/gas platforms, or nuclear facilities.

“The manual,” explained Heffron, “is intended to be a guide not just for the engineers who are doing the inspection work, but also for the owners that have a need to inspect and maintain their existing waterfront assets. So both owners and engineers will use the manual as a tool to guide their waterfront maintenance activities and preserve their assets.”

As regular inspections are considered a necessary part of an effective waterfront maintenance program, users of this manual will be able to break down the methods of inspections to 8 different categories: routine, repair or upgrade, new construction, baseline, due diligence, special, repair construction, and post-event.

“Every one of the eight has a specific objective associated with it, is done for a purpose, and has a unique scope of work associated with it,” says Heffron. “This will really help engineers target the right level of effort to what [inspection] objectives the owner has.”

“What is also important about the manual is understanding the recommended periodicity of inspections,” added Vitale. “How often do you need to inspect a facility? For example, a timber structure will need to be inspected every three years or so but a concrete structure does not need to be inspected until every six years, and that is something that is not obvious to someone who does not have the experience in waterfront inspections.”

How Civil Engineers Can Use the New Waterfront Inspection Guide

Specifically, the manual will focus on standards of practice, including choosing the proper inspection type, minimum qualifications of inspection personnel, and condition rating. The manual will provide guidelines for documentation and reporting, insurance and liability issues, an explanation of waterfront inspection terminology, and what the owner’s responsibilities are in regard to changes in design capacity. Three appendices will address special considerations for specific structures, types of causes of defects, and specialized inspection techniques.

“It is the technical information in the appendix that will give an engineer a little more experience or a little more knowledge of what to look for when you do the inspection,” says Vitale. “And also it will give the owner of a facility an idea of what an engineer will be looking for when [he or she does an] inspection. Because a more educated owner of a facility would be better able to know what to expect from an A.E. firm.”

Since condition assessments typically involve what the manual terms “engineering judgment” and involve factors and circumstances too numerous to be readily defined and standardized, this manual is intended to be used by a professional engineer as part of a structural condition assessment. Therefore, the manual specifically states that the adoption or use of some or all of the recommendations is to be conducted only by a qualified professional engineer.

Heffron added that a presentation of the manual will be made by members of the task committee at a session at the COPRI PORTS ’13 conference in Seattle, Washington, August 25-28. Thereafter, the manual will be submitted to ASCE for publication and sale to the membership.

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