Handbook Flexible Dolphins


This handbook is intended to prevent extensive discussions during the design and construction stages of projects involving flexible dolphins. It is part of a series of Dutch port infrastructure design recommendations that include the Quay Walls handbook and Jetties and Wharfs handbook.


Millions of breasting and mooring dolphins have been installed in inland waterways adjacent to jetties and waiting facilities for ship-to-ship transhipment or as crash barriers in commercial port areas throughout the world. A dolphin is a marine structure that is frequently installed in ports, waterways and other places related to marine traffic. Dolphins are typically located adjacent to waterfront structures such as quay walls, jetties, locks and bridge piers. The purpose of a dolphin is threefold:

1. Allow ships to berth and moor safely and efficiently by:

  • Transferring berthing energy to the soil
  • Protecting the hull of vessels
  • Accommodating line pull forces
  • Accommodating loads due to passing vessels
  • Accommodating wind- and current-induced loads

2. Protect waterfront structures by acting as a crash barrier and sacrificial structure
3. Direct and guide marine traffic by acting as a lead-in dolphin and navigation aid

There are no clear design guidelines for flexible dolphins. The main objective of this handbook is to provide engineers, asset managers, suppliers, tender teams, contractors and principals with such guidance on the design and construction of flexible dolphins by collecting and describing knowledge of and experience with these flexible marine structures.