This week, MARIN tested an innovative concept for a floating mega island. This island was developed as part of the Space@Sea project. This project started with the aim to develop cost efficient and reliable deck space to support various activities at sea. The project started in 2017 together with 17 partners as part of the H2020 EU research programme. We tesed the mega floating island in our Offshore Basin in waves, wind and currents.

Floating mega islands offer future-proof living and working space at sea for:

  • Developing, generating, storing, and maintaining sustainable energy (offshore wind, tidal energy, wave energy and floating solar panels)
  • Loading and transhipping cargo in coastal areas where there is little infrastructure
  • Cultivating food, such as seaweed and fish
  • Building houses and recreation close to the water
  • Temporary supporting local communities in case of emergency.

These types of solutions are part of the Blue Future in which the seas and oceans (70% of the earth’s surface area) are used sustainably.

Olaf Waals, manager Offshore: “At MARIN we initiated this innovative project to address the societal challenges of our time. As sea levels rise, cities and harbour areas become overcrowded and more activities are carried out at sea. Raising the dikes and reclaiming land from the seas are perhaps no longer the only solution. An innovative alternative that fits the Dutch maritime tradition are floating ports and cities.”

William Otto, project manager“This is the first time that we investigated in-depth such a large number of coupled, interacting pontoons. Their advantage is that they are modular and thus enable the island to grow, shrink and re-arrange whenever demand changes. They can also be fabricated at several locations around the continent, enabling everyone to build it locally. However, a challenge of coupled pontoons are the dynamics. Under the influence of wind, waves and current, the pontoons start to move and to exert forces on the couplings and mooring system. For a design to handle these motions and loads we need knowledge and tools to predict them. Within the Space@Sea project, we earned that knowledge by model testing and we developed the tools by numerical simulations.”


Hydrodynamically speaking, one of the key learnings is that motions can be reduced by a waveward row of diffracting modules, absorbing and diffracting the incoming waves. By doing so, they provide shelter to the leeward modules. However, in critical storm sea states, this effect can only be obtained with a minimum pontoon size. But despite the comprehensive work, technical challenges still need to be solved, such as finding an economic mooring-concept for shallower and intermediate water depths. Otto:
“We are looking forward to develop the island and its subcomponents further, using the experience and tools resulting from our work on the Space@Sea project during the last three years.”

MARIN is carrying out this research using computer models and model tests in its Offshore Basin (40 x 40 m) in which wind, waves and currents can be simulated at scale.