The Centerm Expansion Project at the Port of Vancouver recently clinched the 2023 General Contractor Award in the Over $70 Million category from the Vancouver Regional Construction Association.
And while the accolade acknowledges the hard work of the joint-venture involved in the expansion, the impact at the port will leave a lasting impression.
A joint effort by Centennial Expansion Partners, a team made up of Dragados Canada, Fraser River Pile & Dredge (FRPD) and Jacob Bros Construction, the work carried out expanded the Port of Vancouver’s operational capacity by 50 per cent.
One of the key figures was Sarah Clark, president and CEO of FRPD. Clark, who joined FRPD in 2014, brought a wealth of experience from her previous roles, including at Bombardier Transportation and Partnerships British Columbia Inc. Under her leadership, FRPD played a critical role in the marine construction and dredging aspects of the project.
The project’s complexity was not just in its scale but also in its execution. Working within an active terminal presented unique challenges.
“There was everything from an elevated road to improve the entrance into Centerm, to the operations building, which had a heritage façade that needed to be saved, to expanding and reorganizing the terminal itself,” Clark describes.
One of the most notable aspects of the project was the collaborative effort between the joint venture partners.
“Having the right partners from the beginning and working together was crucial,” Clark states, as they worked together to combat challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme inflation.
“The partners all really banded together to have a successful project.”
The Centerm Expansion Project was more than just a construction endeavour; it was an exercise in environmental stewardship and innovation.
Dealing with brownfield conditions and unexpected utilities unearthed challenges, FRPD’s expertise in marine construction was put to task.
“We’re very used to working in the water, dealing with contaminated soil and implementing construction practices that aren’t harmful to fish,” Clark mentions.
FRPD’s role in the dredging aspect was particularly significant, utilizing their hopper dredge, usually employed in clearing shipping lanes on the Fraser River.
“Once the contaminated soil was removed, we were able to use the hopper to speed up the dredging process,” Clark explains.
The journey to completion was a marathon of meticulous planning and execution, often requiring round-the-clock work.
“We did a lot of dredging and placing 24 hours a day to meet the timelines of the environmental permits,” Clark recalls.
The Centerm Expansion Project’s scope was vast and multifaceted.
It involved expanding the terminal footprint by 15 per cent, reconfiguring and expanding the container yard, and building new state-of-the-art truck gates and an operations building that integrated the historical facade of the original structure.
Moreover, the project saw the creation of a new overpass on Centennial Road and modifications to Waterfront Road, enhancing the continuous port road from Canada Place to Highway 1.
The removal of the Heatley Road overpass was a key aspect of these changes.
By raising the terminal’s container handling capacity from 900,000 to 1.5 million 20-foot equivalent unit containers (TEUs), the expansion directly addresses the rising demands in container trade.
This enhancement is seen as crucial in meeting the short-term needs and plays a vital role in accommodating the long-term growth trajectory of Canada’s container trade, ensuring the Port of Vancouver continues to efficiently connect Canadian businesses with global markets, explains the port.
As the project reached substantial completion in 2022, Clark reflects on the journey and the collaboration that made it possible.
“It’s going to sound canned, but projects only happen because people work hard, and every stakeholder has an interest in the success,” she says.