The reef has economic implications as it is expected to enhance fish reproduction in that area, and an interesting attraction point for scuba divers.
Many parties contributed to the success of the project. “This project involved a remarkable team effort among various parties from the private and public sectors,” commented Dr. Michel Soto Chalhoub, Chief-Engineer responsible for the engineering and construction operation.
The Lebanese Army donated vehicles; vans, buses, and tanks including a large-posture AMX junked by the Army for its old age. To withstand forces exerted by marine transportation, wave, and current pressures, Chalhoub designed a system that joined vans into wagon-like structures of about 33 feet in length each.
“I wanted the vehicles to provide an interesting landscape on the sea floor in an upright position, so I increased their weights from 1,600 pounds each to over 30,000 pounds per assembly by using steel shapes, natural rocks, and reinforced concrete,” said Chalhoub, “while providing an aesthetic look of old stone walls protruding out of the van doors and a natural rocky bottom in each vehicle.” Artisanal stone workers were brought in for that purpose.
What makes this construction operation different from other artificial reefs in other parts of the world is that vehicles and components were not dumped off the deck of a barge. To ensure a controlled vehicle position Chalhoub E&M designed and installed common chassis and hooks that allowed the lowering of vehicles on the sea floor at depths in the range of eighty feet (80 ft). Finished units were transported offshore and lowered onto the sea floor with the help of a Lebanese Navy barge, and a floating crane of 150,000 pounds capacity and a 100 feet cable down-reach provided by Bakri’s Marine Contracting Company. Tug boats were used to coordinate the floating equipment into docking positions for the lifting and lowering of each unit on sea floor.
Sponsors included Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, and IBL Bank in Lebanon. A potential fish reproduction in this artificial reef was studied by University of Balamand. Various public sector entities collaborated on the project. The Ministry of Environment facilitated procedures, the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation allowed site location, the Ministry of Defense and the Lebanese Army offered vehicles totaling over a hundred metric tons of steel. The Lebanese Navy provided sea transport, navigation, and scuba divers.
“Beyond the unique and interesting features from an engineering and technical perspective, this form of team work is what made this project very special,” commented Chalhoub, hoping that this first-of-a-kind project be replicated in other areas off the coast of Lebanon and perhaps other regions of the world.
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