Thursday, December 20, 2012

Port of Anchorage Dock Construction Could Be Undone

Most of the work to build new dock areas at the Port of Anchorage as part of an expansion project could be undone because of improper construction, the city and port officials say.

The deconstruction option was one of three possibilities discussed by officials during a three-day session regarding the project.

The mid-December work session came weeks after a report found that three of four new sections built at the port were not constructed correctly, and due to shifting land, could fail during an earthquake.

The $2.2 million, 2,200-page sustainability study was conducted by engineering firm CH2M Hill on behalf of the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the US Army Corps of Engineers. It says the danger comes mainly from a foundation system called Open Cell Sheet Pile, or OCSP, where instead of building a traditional dock on piling, interlocking sheets of steel are hammered into the sea floor to form U-shaped cells, which are then backfilled with dirt and gravel.

Due to the problems, most construction of the project was halted in 2010.

The Corps requested the study be conducted after it assumed control of the Port of Anchorage expansion project from MARAD on May 31.

Officials from the port, Corps of Engineers and MARAD were present during the study session. One option discussed over the course of the three days was that two major port tenants, Horizon Lines and Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), would remain at their current berths and that a new deep water berth and a barge berth would be built after the damaged material now there is removed.

Another option was the temporary movement of TOTE and Horizon from their existing terminals while the old terminals are demolished and rebuilt. A third, so-called hybrid option would be to replace two of the existing terminals on the old dock and build a new deep-water berth.

The expansion, which has been in the works for more than a decade, was originally estimated to cost $360 million, and was supposed to be complete by 2011. Instead, cost estimates have jumped to more than $1 billion and continue to climb. A completion date is at least a decade away, according to port estimates.