This study encompasses geotechnical investigations, stability assessments and design of the preliminary support systems for the Gecilmez tunnel which is constructed in Giresun for the improvement of the highway along the Black Sea coast. During the study, a detailed geological map of the study area was prepared and the geotechnical characteristics of the rock masses were determined. The rock mass classification of the tunnel grounds was performed by utilizing the RMR method, Q system, NATM and the Geological Strength Index (GSI) classification which was followed by performing a geotechnical investigation along the tunnel grounds in order to obtain the geotechnical parameters for the stability analyses of the portals and of the tunnel. Lugeon (water pressure) tests were performed in order to determine the permeability of the rock mass along the tunnel. The appropriate geotechnical parameters were utilized in order to perform rock slope stability kinematic and limit equilibrium analyses at the portals of the tunnel. Empirical preliminary tunnel support systems according to the RMR method, Q-system and NATM were determined. The structurally controlled instabilities within the tunnel sections were identified and the required preliminary tunnel support systems were determined to overcome these instabilities. Regarding the structurally controlled rock failures along the probable weak zones and lineaments (i.e., inactive probable faults or shear zones) during tunneling, wedge stability analysis was utilized to determine the potential wedge failures that could possibly occur during tunneling and to apply the necessary support systems for stabilizing any wedge failure in the tunnel. The induced stress distributions and deformations in the rock mass surrounding the tunnel grounds was investigated and the interaction of the support systems with the rock mass was analyzed by using numerical (finite element) modeling. In the finite element analyses it was assumed that the rock mass behaved as a fractured rock mass since the tunnel grounds were moderate to highly jointed. The objective of the numerical modeling was to check the validity of the empirical preliminary tunnel support requirements and also to compare the results with those obtained through assuming structurally controlled failures during tunneling. The performance of the preliminary tunnel support was also validated on the basis of thrust-moment interaction analyses. The results of the structurally controlled failure analyses, numerical analyses and thrust-moment analyses were compared in an attempt to determine the preliminary tunnel support systems to stabilize the Gecilmez tunnel. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.