This paper presents a three-dimensional (3D) and two-dimensional (2D) numerical analysis of a case study of a combined vacuum and surcharge preloading project for a storage yard at Tianjin Port, China. At this site, a vacuum pressure of 80 kPa and a fill surcharge of 50 kPa was applied on top of the 20m thick soft soil layer through prefabricated vertical drains (PVD) to achieve the desired settlements and to avoid embankment instability. In 3D analysis, the actual shape of PVDs and their installation pattern with the in-situ soil parameters were simulated. In contrast, the validity of 2D-plane strain analysis using equivalent permeability and transformed unit cell geometry was examined. In both cases, the vacuum pressure along the drain length was assumed to be constant as substantiated by the field observations. The finite element code, ABAQUS, using the modified Cam-clay model was used in the numerical analysis. The predictions of settlement, pore water pressure and lateral displacement were compared with the available field data, and an acceptable agreement was achieved for both 2D and 3D numerical analyses. It is found that both 3D and equivalent 2D analyses give similar consolidation responses at the vertical cross section where the lateral strain along the longitudinal axis is zero. The influence of vacuum may extend more than 10m from the embankment toe, where the lateral movement should be monitored carefully during the consolidation period to avoid any damage to adjacent structures.