In Africa, several new seaport developments are being considered. In sedimentary environments, such port developments can have adverse impacts on the evolution of adjacent coastlines. To learn from past port engineering practice, we created a unique database containing the coastline evolution and characteristics of 130 existing African seaports. Whereas the systematic mapping of coastal impacts was previously hampered by data availability, innovative automated satellite image processing techniques have enabled us to intercompare ports at an unprecedented continental scale. We found large geographical differences with respect to the beach evolution. The total detected changes in the beach area between 1984 and 2018 totaled 44 km2, of which ca. 23 km2 is accretion and ca. 21 km2 is erosion. The top 10% “hotspot” ports account for more than 65% of these changes. These hotspots exhibit common characteristics, namely: they are located on open coastlines, have large alongshore sediment transport potential, and have large cross-shore breakwaters. Although these driving characteristics are well established in coastal engineering theory, our results indicate that the beaches adjacent to the existing seaports have been and remain seriously affected by these drivers. Our results can be used to inform beach maintenance strategies for existing seaports and to support planners and engineers to minimize long-term coastal impacts of port expansions and new port developments in Africa in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number151
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Coastal erosion, Coastline dynamics, Port design, Satellite imagery, Sediment transport, Sustainable ports

ID: 53906031