Friday, March 7, 2014

MARAD Sued Over Anchorage Port Project

By Mark Edward Nero

The city of Anchorage, Alaska announced March 3 that it has filed a lawsuit in US Federal Claims Court against the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) regarding MARAD’s alleged mishandling of a project to expand the Port of Anchorage.

In the lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 28, the city seeks monetary relief as a result of what it calls MARADs breach of its contract regarding the expansion.

“We won’t throw a (specific monetary) number out just yet,” Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said during a March 3 press conference.

The port expansion project, which has been in the works for more than a decade, was overseen by MARAD until the US Army Corps of Engineers took control in May 2012. The expansion was originally estimated to cost $360 million and was supposed to be complete by 2011. Instead, cost estimates have jumped to about $1 billion and climbing and completion isn’t expected for another decade.

“It is extremely important that all those responsible for the project not being completed in a timely and cost effective manner be held responsible,” Sullivan said. “The Port of Anchorage is too important for the economy of this entire state to accept the level of mismanagement that occurred.”

Three of four new sections built at the Port of Anchorage were not constructed correctly, and due to shifting land, could fail during an earthquake, according to a $2.2 million sustainability study that was conducted by engineering firm CH2M Hill on behalf of the US Maritime Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The study, which was released in November 2012, was requested by the Corps after it assumed control of the Port of Anchorage expansion project from MARAD in 2012.

According to the study, the danger from the construction 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.

The suitability study determined that the OCSP system is not adequately designed to meet global stability and seismic displacements based on the design criteria.

“The management of the project was not handled competently,” Sullivan said. “With a project as important as this, any of those involved with the project need to be held accountable for what their actions were.”

Engineering firm CH2M Hill, which conducted the sustainability study, has since been named project manager for the expansion and Sullivan said that the company is expected to begin work by the end of March on the development of a new project management plan.

The management plan is expected to take about 12 weeks to complete, according to the city.
The archived video of Sullivan’s press conference on the lawsuit can be watched in full at