The coastal village of Soufrière is in a precarious location prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Frequent heavy rains often cause landslides that block the only route into and out of the community. Additionally, local fishermen are limited in their production capacity by a lack of structures to dock boats, unload catch, and store large amounts of fish. Instead they must currently beach their boats and sell their fish immediately. The mission of the Soufrière Pier team is to design a pier that will serve primarily as an emergency evacuation route for the communities, but also as a transportation hub for tourists activities, a fishing dock with a fishermen’s co-op and a community center with shops.
Research has been conducted on water depths of Soufrière bay, drafts of ships that could visit the town if a pier was in place, and design problems with piers that have existed in the past. The Soufrière community has had multiple piers of varying types, but each has been destroyed and washed away as a result of the interaction between underwater topography and frequent tropical storm swells which cause intense wave activity. Along with the initial research completed during Spring Break, the team met with local community leaders. One of these leaders was Simon Walsh, the owner of a dive shop in Soufrière and coordinator of the yearly Dive Fest. The Dive Fest is Soufrière’s largest tourist attraction and the idea of a sustainable pier has excited members of the community for its potential to bring more tourists to the area. The team will be working closely with Simon in the future as he has vast knowledge of the Soufrière bay and problems with previous piers which only lasted short periods of time.
During the initial discussion with Simon, the Soufrière Pier team developed a set of design parameters for the pier. These include a removable top section so that harsh waves and swells do not cause permanent structural damage, the inclusion of a floating portion extending from the end of the pier, and a width of six to eight feet. With these parameters in mind the team has created several sketches and 3D models of potential pier designs using SolidWorks, AutoCAD, and SketchUp. In addition to visiting Soufrière, the team was also able to examine a fishery in the town of Marigot. They plan to use this facility as a model for a potential fishery near the pier. Currently, Soufrière fishermen have no way to keep their fish fresh for more than a few hours, so a co-op facility with coolers and ice storage would enable them to increase productivity and sell to a wider range of customers.
In coming semesters, the Soufrière Pier team will focus on a variety of tasks. First, they plan to find academic faculty and industry partners with expertise in marine engineering and other areas involved with the project. Secondly, they will be maintaining contact with Simon and other community members to determine an appropriate location for the pier, where it will not come near any marine reserves. With the location and a construction method established, they will begin producing design plans and cost estimates for the pier, while seeking funding for construction.