Modeling shallow-water waves in a basin with a finite length and width introduces challenges related to low-frequency (LF) waves, especially for testing of moored vessels with long natural periods. Waves in this frequency range are also present in reality, as for instance bound set-down waves and unbound free waves formed by the geometry bathymetry. In model basins, additional unwanted LF wave components will be formed as a side-product of the wave generation and due to the basin geometry though. Standing waves over the basin length and width (basin modes) can generally be identified, which are difficult to dampen using beaches. This is the case for every wave basin, as they all have finite dimensions.
Moored structures generally have natural frequencies in the LF range, which may be excited by basin modes with similar frequencies. It is therefore important to understand the natural modes of a basin before tests with moored structures in shallow water are done. The energy of these basin modes increases and their natural frequency decreases with decreasing water depth (waves travel slower in shallow water). Generally, it can be said that the issues with basin modes are present on very shallow water (typically ∼15–30 m water depth full-scale for structures with a length around 200 m at a scale around 1 to 40). The smaller the basin for the same water depth, the higher the basin mode frequencies and the higher the likelihood of resonance problems. The energy and frequencies of the basin modes and their relevance for specific tests depend on the effective length and width of the basin, the water depth, wave conditions and the (mooring stiffness of) the structure under consideration. The influence of these variables is evaluated in the current study. Tests were done in MARIN’s Offshore Basin (OB), but most of the results are also expected to be applicable to other basins. The observed basin mode frequencies during these tests were compared to the theoretical values, and an overview of the unwanted LF wave content as a function of water depth, wave height and period is presented. The energy and shape of individual basin modes is also discussed. Considering these results, a practical approach for future basin projects on shallow water is described.