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FiberPILE Shores Up United States Ferry System

  • Thursday, 27th June 2019
  • Reading time: about 2 minutes

Growing traffic, larger ships and environmental regulations have prompted ferry owners to consider alternatives to timber pile dolphins. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) invested in Composite Advantage’s fibre reinforced polymer FiberPILE system for its Jamestown-Scotland Terminal facility. The agency cited greater cost efficiencies due to FRP’s longer life cycle, reduced service interruptions and safer operation. In 2018 VDOT replaced 296 timber piles with eight large-diameter FRP monopile dolphins at one-third the lifecycle cost of wood. 

The state’s only toll-free ferry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year including all major holidays. It acts as a movable bridge for Virginia State Route 31 travelers that need to cross the James River. FiberPILE products are fabricated to high strength-to-weight ratios capable of handling overall ferry crushing loads and adverse wind conditions. 

“We fabricated the 100-foot-long FRP monopiles with multiaxial E-glass reinforcement,” explains Composite Advantage President Scott Reeve. “Fifty-nine percent of the glass fibres used in the lower 80 percent of the pile were orientated at 0 degrees (parallel to the longitudinal axis of the pile). Eight percent of the glass fibres were given a 90-degree orientation with the remaining fibres oriented at ±45 degrees. Glass fibres for the top 15 feet of the pile [focused on the hoop direction] were manufactured with eight percent at an orientation of 0-degree, [parallel to the longitudinal axis of the pile], 59 percent at an orientation of 90 degrees and the rest of the fibres were given an orientation of ±45 degrees. Wood has a 42 ft-kip energy absorption. This combination gives our monopiles an energy absorption of 585 ft-kip energy absorption.” 

Hollow construction, light weight and low driving friction also make FiberPILE attractive to contractors. Following setup which took a day, contractors were able to drive a 100-foot monopile 25 feet into the river bottom in approximately 20 minutes with minimal disruption. Eight FRP monopiles replaced 37 wood piles. 

Image provided by Composite Advantage

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