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Advanced Aquarium Technologies details achievements at Vietnam’s new Sea Shell Aquarium

Advanced Aquarium Technologies details achievements at Vietnam’s new Sea Shell Aquarium
June 5, 2022

Sunshine Coast-based Advanced Aquarium Technologies (AAT) has advised of its work at the newly opened Sea Shell Aquarium in Phú Quốc, Vietnam, the site of the world's largest PLEXIGLAS® window.

Releasing photographs of its work at Asia's newest aquarium, the Australian-owned specialist in public aquarium design, construction and operation explained how it co-designed the iconic 27,500 metre² aquarium, manufacturing over 520 tonnes of PLEXIGLAS® panels, tunnels, domes, cylinders, and other innovative structures and then installing them into the unique, turtle-shaped building, providing astounding views of the animals.

A 9 metre-tall and 790mm thick PLEXIGLAS® window weighing 220 tonnes, 58 metres of interconnected underwater viewing tunnels and two colossal underwater viewing rooms are just some of the thrilling experiences created for visitors by AAT.

The Sea Shell Aquarium is owned by Vinpearl, Vietnam’s largest international five-star hotel, resort, spa, conference centre, F&B service, golf course, and amusement park chain owner.

PLEXIGLAS® is a registered trademark of Röhm GmbH of Darmstadt in Germany, and one of the world’s highest quality acrylic materials. AAT manufactures the world’s largest cast PLEXIGLAS® blocks under license from Röhm for use in the construction of spectacular public aquariums.

Deeper Tanks, Taller Windows
At 12 metres-deep, the aquarium's colossal 16.2 million-litre main tank commands one of the tallest wide-format acrylic viewing panels ever built. At 26 metres wide and 9 metres tall, the World of Giants ‘mega-window’ is larger than a grand slam singles tennis court.

A window this size cannot be transported by road and sea freight in one piece. Instead, AAT made nine 24.6 tonne sections - each 9 metres tall by 3 metres wide - at the company's wholly-owned PLEXIGLAS® manufacturing plant using certified German production methods. Each section was transported over 2,000 kilometres from the factory in China to the construction site on Phú Quốc Island, South West Vietnam, where they were bonded 'shoulder-to-shoulder' to form the largest PLEXIGLAS® window ever made.

Commenting on the project, AAT Chief Executive, John Langmead stated “the Sea Shell's main tank has tremendous depth and volume, more than six Olympic swimming pools. Our PLEXIGLAS® window is over three-quarters of a meter thick to withstand the water pressure. As far as we know, this thickness is unprecedented.

The World of Giants tank is adjacent to a 3.8 million litre, 7 metre-deep World of Sharks tank, and running along the bottom of the two, connecting them, is a 58-metre viewing tunnel. 
Sometimes called shark tunnels, these transparent underwater walkways are a much-loved feature of modern aquariums. What makes this tunnel different - aside from its length and the volume of water overhead - is that it passes through two dramatic underwater viewing rooms featuring PLEXIGLAS® walls and transparent ceilings made and installed by AAT.

Each 7-metre-wide domed ceiling comprises three sections of PLEXIGLAS® bonded together and then shaped over a mould in a purpose-built, 100 square-metre oven. AAT is a world leader at thermoforming giant, flat acrylic panels into prodigious structures for zoos and aquariums.

AAT invested over US $1 million in additional capital expenditure at its 18,000 square metre factory to deliver the Sea Shell. 

Luciano Antonini, AATA Factory General Manager, is proud of his team's accomplishments, noting “our expanded workforce ran the factory 24x7 for eighteen months straight. We improved our energy resilience by converting our ovens to steam-heating, completed over 100 thermoforming works and over 115 panel-bonds.”

Viewed from every Angle
22 cylindrical PLEXIGLAS®  tanks and barriers - two nearly 20 metres in diameter - provide visitors with intimate, 360-degree views of a wide range of species from beautiful jellyfish to exotic fish and ever-popular penguins. 

The World of Jellyfish hosts two beautiful transparent spheres serving as both a animal exhibit and an artistic waterfall feature. 1.54 metres in diameter, the spheres are made from 40 mm thick PLEXIGLAS® and weigh over 200 kgs each, empty.

Martin van Dijk, AAT Engineering Manager - Acrylics, added “PLEXIGLAS® is brilliantly clear, able to withstand tremendous pressure and versatile to work with. We operate at the intersection of construction and art, creating structures that are both functional and aesthetic. 

“That said, our primary goal is for visitors to fall in love with the marine world behind our windows.”

Interactive ‘Edu-tainment’ Experiences 
The design of the Sea Sell aquarium was an international team effort involving AAT, its long-standing Australia-based associate James Hampton Design Partners and Los Angeles-based Legacy Entertainment, a specialist in theme parks and entertainment attractions.

As well as shaping the visitor-journey layout and aquarium facilities, AAT co-designed some 60 marine-life exhibits arranged on a journey through themed zones including a World of Jellyfish, a World of Fishes, a World of Penguins, a World of Sharks, a World of Giants, touch-tanks and a coral reef. 

Collectively these marine-life exhibits rely on over 22 million litres of water.

As James Hampton, Director, James Hampton Design Partners, explains “the edutainment experience for visitors has been enhanced with next-level experiences - such as a miniature underwater viewing tunnel for kids - making it one of the largest interactive public aquariums in the world.” 

Unique dining experience
Aquarium visitors can eat at a restaurant in front of a 5.2 metre-tall and 20.7 metre-wide window into the 3.8 million-litre World of Sharks tank, taking those all-important Instagram moments to an entirely new level. Unique dining experiences play an ever more critical role in helping aquarium innovate their service offerings to generate additional revenue streams

Global Logistics during a Pandemic
While AAT’s global logistics capabilities are second to none, the Sea Shell Aquarium was constructed during the COVID pandemic, which created formidable challenges. While somewhat isolated working on a small island, work was still interrupted several times by COVID-related shutdown periods. AAT’s onsite crew included aquarium construction experts from Australia, China, India, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Singapore plus workers hired in Vietnam.

Langmead concludes “I am deeply grateful to our staff for their commitment to delivering this project under unimaginably difficult circumstances, and especially to those employees who endured multiple 14-day and in some cases 21-day quarantine periods for international travel.”

PLEXIGLAS® is a registered trademark of Röhm GmbH of Darmstadt in Germany, and one of the world’s highest quality acrylic materials. AAT manufactures the world’s largest cast PLEXIGLAS® blocks under license from Röhm for use in the construction of spectacular public aquariums.

Click here to contact Advanced Aquarium Technologies via their entry in the Australasian Leisure Management Supplier Directory.

Images (from top).
At 9-metres high, 26-metres wide and 790 mm thick, the Sea Shell Aquarium main tank window weighs 220 tonnes and is the largest PLEXIGLAS® structure ever made.
An AAT scuba diver glides over the domed PLEXIGLAS® roof of an underwater viewing room beneath the main tank.
One of two underwater viewing rooms at the bottom of a 12 m deep, 16.2 million litre tank.
The Sea Shell Aquarium building has been built in the shape of a giant turtle, here photographed during construction.
John Langmead founder and Chief Executive of Advanced Aquarium Technologies.
Images: Courtesy of Advanced Aquarium Technologies.

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