Physical and numerical modeling tools are helpful in developing and optimizing harbor designs. They help the designer locate the project to ensure maximum wave protection; locate and design breakwaters and/or jetties to provide adequate protection and maintain entrance navigation channels; locate, orient, and dimension navigation openings to provide vessels with safe passage while not sacrificing wave protection; and position spending beaches and other forms of wave absorbers inside the project area.
Physical models are commonly used to plan harbors and to design and lay out breakwaters, jetties, groins, wave absorbers, etc., to obtain optimum harbor protection and verify suitable project performance. Physical hydraulic model studies may be used to study factors such as structural configurations, undesirable wave and current conditions at a harbor, shoaling conditions, and long-period oscillations.
Numerical modeling requires computerized solution of equations that approximate harbor responses to imposed natural forces. Numerical modeling related to harbors is best discussed in terms of the natural phenomenon to be modeled, such as waves, circulation, and shore response. Each model's equations and input/output forms are developed for application to particular phenomena.
A combination of physical and numerical modeling is usually preferred for investigating the full range of conditions in a harbor.