Swedish marina builder SF Pontona has developed an entirely new method of constructing concrete pontoons. The resulting product, Prodock, offers a lightweight, long-life, corrosion-free alternative to heavy-duty concrete pontoons – making it cheaper to ship and cheaper to buy
The development journey for Prodock took several years and was initiated in a bid to find an alternative to timber systems. “We’re not allowed to use the same pressure treated wood as before for standard pontoons,” explained SF Pontona CEO, Fredrik Odhe, during a presentation in the Marina & Yard Pavilion at METS 2013. “This has reduced the life expectancy of timber products.”
A concrete product was the ideal solution for a company that has specialised in concrete pontoons and breakwaters since the 1920s. But reinforcing a lighter weight pontoon with traditional steel presented corrosion problems.
A new product required a new material and, in cooperation with basalt specialist ReforceTech, SF Pontona developed an innovative basalt fibre based solution. “This allows us to cast very thin walled structures using light concrete decking,” Odhe confirmed. “This is necessary in order for the finished product to remain stable once it is afloat.”
“Normally we protect the steel with a thick protective layer of concrete. The thicker the topcoat, the longer the product holds up,” he continued. “By utilising basalt instead of steel, we avoid the unfortunate problems caused by corrosion. The service life of the pontoons is not as yet known but all of the materials used in our Prodock series are corrosion-resistant steel, concrete and rock.” The floating stability of Prodock is retained despite having 3cm thick walls instead of the traditional 8cm.
There were hurdles. “Basalt is very awkward to work with and it took us three years to develop the right technology,” Odhe admitted, but the benefits are numerous. Basalt is a natural volcanic igneous rock that is in plentiful supply. The basalt-based material used for Prodock is easily transported, making it ideal when installing pontoons on location. “It’s a tremendously exciting product. We get a completely different service life and many other advantages such as improved transport economy. And the quest for a better environment has, in this case, resulted in a technology that leads to even less waste of resources as the pontoons are so durable.”
SF Pontona, part of a global business concern, has initially launched the product in Europe and is manufacturing Prodock at the company factory in Wallhamn, Sweden. After its trade launch at METS, Amsterdam, further launches took place at the Gothenburg Boat Show (February 2014) and Stockholm Boat Show (March 2014) as the Nordic market is seen as key to early success.
“We see a huge market in Scandinavia, where many pontoons from the ‘70s and ‘80s need to be replaced,” Odhe explained. Cost is a major factor. Prodock pontoons are slightly cheaper than timber and concrete pontoons but considerably cheaper than solid concrete pontoons. Entire life cycle cost, however, could well make them significantly more cost effective. “If a yacht club could accept a higher initial expenditure, for example, it would gain in lower operating costs,” he added. “In the future, greater requirements will be placed on local authorities when they need to purchase new pontoons. Requirement specifications are often so poorly planned that they become overwhelmingly price-oriented and price becomes the dominant evaluation factor but we hope that this trend is changing.”
Standard Prodock units measure 10m long x 2.4m wide and have a freeboard of 0.5m.
Contact SF Pontona in Sweden by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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