During the past decade, the application of vacuum preloading for stabilising soft coastal clay and other low-lying estuarine soils has become popular in Australia. The cost-effectiveness is a major factor in most projects in view of the significantly reduced time for achieving a relatively high degree of consolidation. Due to an increase in trade activities at the Port of Brisbane, new facilities on Fisherman Islands at the mouth of the Brisbane River will be constructed on the new outer area (235 ha) adjacent to the existing port facilities via land reclamation. A vacuum assisted surcharge load and conventional surcharge scheme in conjunction with prefabricated vertical drains was selected to reduce the required consolidation time through the deeper subsoil layers. The design of the combined vacuum and surcharge fill system and the construction of the embankment are described in this paper. A comparison of the performance of the vacuum combined surcharge loading system with a standard surcharge fill highlights the clear benefits of vacuum consolidation. Field monitoring data are presented to demonstrate how the embankment performed during construction. The paper also evaluates the relative performance of the two contrasting vacuum preloading systems (i.e. membrane and membraneless systems. An analytical solution for radial consolidation considering both time-dependent surcharge loading and vacuum pressure is proposed to predict the settlements and associated excess pore pressures of the soft Holocene clay deposits.