The experimental and theoretical investigations on the behaviour of pontoon-type floating breakwaters are presented. A two-dimensional finite element model is adopted to study the behaviour of pontoon-type floating breakwaters in beam waves. The stiffness coefficients of the slack mooring lines are idealized as the linear stiffness coefficients, which can be derived from the basic catenary equations of the cable. The theoretical model is supported by an experimental programme conducted in a wave flume. The motion responses and mooring forces are measured for three different mooring configurations, and the results are reported and discussed in detail in this paper. The wave attenuation characteristics are presented for the configurations studied. © 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.