A model of oblique wave diffraction by multiple arbitrary porous barriers in infinitely deep water is proposed to study the role of the porous breakwater in mitigating wave effects and dissipating wave energy. The Havelock's expansion of water wave potential along with suitable matching conditions and the single term Galerkin approximation method are used to handle the mathematical boundary value problem. The role of the arbitrary porous barrier is studied by analyzing the reflection coefficient, dissipated energy, and wave forces on the barriers. Significant changes are found in wave reflection and forces due to the consideration of porous barriers as compared to rigid barriers in the fluid region. As the separation length between the vertical barriers increases, the reflection coefficient becomes oscillatory as a function of the wavenumber, which is due to multiple reflections by the barriers. It is seen that the wave load reduces significantly with an increase in the number of barriers. It is also found that more energy is dissipated if the permeability of the barriers is increased. The correctness of the present method is confirmed by comparing the results available in the literature. © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.