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Ports & Waterways

Ports and waterways are vital to our communities. From the economies of maritime shipping to the draw of relaxing on a natural waterway, it’s no surprise that bustling cities and growing industries love the water.

We always plan to make the most of our limited infrastructure resources by preserving, renewing, and reimagining what came before. Urban’s ports and waterways team is built to address your maritime infrastructure challenges, with the capabilities to inspect waterfront structures, the experience to analyze complex marine environments, and the vision to imagine a waterfront’s future.

Dive Team Pier Inspection

Rehabilitation of Historic Docks and Piers

Founded in Philadelphia, our Ports and Waterways group got its start rehabilitating historic piers. When a pier has stood for over 100 years and starting from scratch is not an option, rehabilitation poses unique challenges. We have honed our technical skills on these structures, building a nuanced understanding of historic design methods, material preservation, and load paths. 

Underwater Condition Inspections

Underwater condition inspections are the first line of defense for owners, giving a complete picture of the dock’s condition and providing a quantitative and qualitative assessment to develop priorities. Our professional engineers have led underwater condition inspections across the United States and Canada, inspecting all commonly used materials in a variety of conditions. Our team always dives with an OSHA-compliant three-man dive crew, and comes equipped with ultrasonic gauges to measure remaining steel thickness, sounding and coring equipment for timber and concrete, and full radio and video communication. Our team knows how to satisfy municipal inspection ordinances, and helped develop the pier inspection ordinances in the City of Philadelphia.

Terminal Berthing and Mooring Design

Before cargo transfer can begin, all vessels need a safe place to berth and moor. Our team uses modern software and the latest techniques to design berthing and mooring solutions to overcome everyday environmental loads, passing vessel forces, and most extreme event loadings. We have developed berthing and mooring solutions for all vessel types, from shallow-freeboard barges to large-displacement neopanamax vessels, in challenging tidal rivers and coastal areas. When building new dolphin or wharf structures is not feasible, we can retrofit existing structures to receive new engineered fenders and mooring bollards, and design reinforcement as needed.

Pile Design and Testing

Nothing can derail a successful construction project like poor geotechnical conditions. Our geotechnical knowledge allows us to craft specifications to suit each project and interpret dynamic test data in real time. This allows for rapid confirmation of pile capacities and minimizes construction downtime. We aim to balance the cost of preliminary geotechnical investigations with the potential savings of confirmed pile capacities.

Damage Investigations & maritime Claims and Litigation Support

Has your dock been damaged by an ice floe, a piece of flood-borne debris, or vessel that lost power? Our experience in marine forensic engineering means we know where to focus our efforts after damage. We quickly document conditions, analyze the event and remaining structures, and provide a post-incident report. We excel at assisting in post-incident insurance claims and litigation support. Our independent experts have supported all sides of disputes, both as primary experts and non-testifying experts. Whether it’s a weather event, a vessel allision, or a design flaw, our team has seen it.

Waterfront Construction Management & Inspection

Waterfront construction poses unique challenges - tides affect work schedules and tremie-pouring concrete can be tricky to navigate. For these reasons, and many more, we train our inspectors on the water so that they can anticipate and manage the challenges that arise during construction. Our proactive approach identifies project challenges before they can grind the schedule to a crawl. We manage projects in real time and focus on communication. This ensures we can leverage our diverse backgrounds to address field conditions quickly and work through construction complication.

Pre-service Testing

Vessels continue to grow in displacement, outclassing the vessels that docks were designed to serve in decades past. While it’s not always feasible to perform wholesale upgrades on the dock, we can test specific elements to give operating recommendations. We have developed procedures to load test and monitor existing bollards and floating buoys, and can deploy this ahead of upcoming service changes.

Hydrographic and Side Scan Surveys and Dredge Support

Our network of licensed surveyors can quickly mobilize to conduct single-beam, multi-beam, and sidescan wall surveys to aid in navigation. With these services we can calculate dredge volume quantities and identify hazardous obstructions and leaning or damaged bulkhead walls.

State and Federal Permitting of Waterfront Projects

We work closely with our environmental engineers to guide projects through all levels of regulatory oversight.

Upland and Intermodal Engineering Support

As a multidisciplinary engineering company, we can be your single prime consultant, seamlessly integrating dock improvements with other upgrades.

Ports and Waterways Markets

  • Container, bulk, and break bulk marine cargo terminals
  • Marinas, ferries, and recreational boat harbors
  • Public waterfronts and art installations
  • Cruise and ferry terminals
  • Military ports
  • Warehouses and industrial buildings
  • Intermodal facilities