Finite element-based reliability assessment of quay walls

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While reliability methods have already been widely adopted in civil engineering, the efficiency and robustness of finite element-based reliability assessments of quay walls are still fairly low. In this paper, the reliability indices of structural and geotechnical failure modes of two real-life quay walls are determined by coupling probabilistic methods with finite element models, taking into account a large number of stochastic variables. The reliability indices found are within the range of the targets suggested in the design codes presently in use. Nevertheless, neglecting model uncertainty and correlations between stochastic variables leads to an underestimation of the probability of failure. In addition, low sensitivity factors are found for time-independent variables, such as material properties and model uncertainty. Furthermore, the results are used to reflect on the partial factors used in the original design. Important variables, such as the angle of internal friction, are subjected to a sensitivity analysis in order to illuminate their influence on the reliability index. Port authorities and terminal operators might be able to use the findings of this paper to derive more insight into the reliability of their structures and to optimise their service life and functionality, for example by deepening berths or increasing operational loads.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-181
Number of pages17
JournalGeorisk: assessment and management of risk for engineered systems and geohazards
Volume15 (2021)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Quay walls
  • partial factors
  • reliability
  • finite elements
  • Quay wall


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