Island port facilities get a crucial makeover

A Caribbean island heavily dependent on tourism suffered a major blow in October 2008 when a category-three hurricane destroyed key parts of its main port. But just over a year later, Saint Barthélemy’s marina in Gustavia was back in business – thanks to the rebuilding and strengthening of its boardwalk.

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“Since cyclone Omar swept through in October 2008, Gustavia's port has returned to its former glory, to the delight of its inhabitants and the thousands of tourists who regularly come here for a stroll.”
Yanick Beaud, Head of the Service des territories, de la mer et du développement durable de la Préfecture de Saint-Barthélemy et Saint-Martin

Partly funded by the EU, the port’s reconstruction and other related work lasted six months. The result is an attractive 170-metre long boardwalk, serving the port’s many boats and people who just want to relax in the area.

New concrete boardwalk

The small island of Saint Barthélemy lies several hundred kilometres north-west of Guadeloupe. It is designated an ‘overseas collectivity’ of France, and is therefore also part of the EU.

Like all Caribbean islands, Saint Barthélemy is well accustomed to hurricanes striking in the latter half of each year. In late 2008 however, most islanders thought they had escaped the worst hurricanes – until Hurricane Omar swept by in the early hours of 16 October. For a while, the port of Gustavia experienced gusts of wind as high as 140 km/h. Waves of seven metres in height were also recorded.

Together these rough conditions resulted in extensive damage in and around the port, including flooding of buildings, the sinking of several boats and the complete destruction of the wooden boardwalk. In light of this damage, a project was quickly put together to accelerate existing plans to replace the boardwalk because of its vital importance for the port and the island in general.

Work started in June 2009 and ended in December of the same year. It focused on the complete rebuilding of Gustavia’s boardwalk, using reinforced concrete on top of thick piles driven into the seabed.

A wave-attenuating device made of blocks of rock was installed to help protect the boardwalk against future storms. Sheet piling was also added to strengthen the whole structure and prevent any undermining of the nearby road.

Functional and attractive

Today Gustavia is proud of its new and improved marina boardwalk. Measuring 170 m in length and three metres wide, it is a key part of the port’s overall facilities and today offers berths for up to 40 pleasure or fishing boats.

The boardwalk has also been carefully landscaped and is lined with palm trees, flowers and benches. It features crazy paving as well as neat stone and wooden boxes with water and electricity access points for moored boats. The boardwalk is clearly not just a functional facility, as tourists and islanders can be seen happily strolling along it both by day and night.

Draft date