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Greater Victoria Harbour upgrades allow for Quantum-class cruise ships

Peter Kenter
Greater Victoria Harbour upgrades allow for Quantum-class cruise ships
KEES TORN, FLICKR — Pictured here is the Ovation of the Seas, a Quantum-class cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean International, which is expected to visit GVHA regularly beginning in May.

Expanding the docking infrastructure of Greater Victoria Harbour is a critical step that will allow the facility to dock larger Quantum-class cruise ships that now commonly ply the oceans nearby. It’s a project that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) intends to complete by May 2019 — even considering the loss of purpose-built giant steel monopiles that were lost at sea on the way to the project site.

The marine structures used to berth and moor vessels are known as “dolphins.” This $6.8 million expansion project involves extending the existing dolphin structure of Pier B at Ogden Point port in Victoria by more than 55 metres, then adding a breasting dolphin, an additional structure that restricts the longitudinal movement of the ship when it’s moored near the pier. The infrastructure improvements will allow the harbour to serve cruise ships of up to 200,000 gross tons. The project is being jointly funded by the GVHA and the federal Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities, which contributed $1.9 million.

The construction project was awarded to Ruskin Construction Ltd. through a competitive bid process. Work began in October 2018 with the installation of falsework to temporarily support pouring of the concrete bollard platforms to which the ships will be moored.

“The project was initiated as a lump sum, stipulated price contract,” says Mark Crisp, director of infrastructure with the GVHA. “However, our best laid plans were cast aside when we heard a few days ago that the giant custom-built monopiles and some of the steelwork that was being shipped here by transport ship from Hong Kong fell overboard only 250 kilometres from the delivery point. With the impact of the lost steel, our consulting engineers and the contractors at Ruskin Construction are refocusing on some key parts of the project with a design-build approach to attempt to catch up on the schedule.”

All told, the shipping company lost two monopiles of 10 feet in diameter, two walkway support piles of 36 inches in diameter and another four protection piles of 36 inches in diameter.

The existing dolphin is located approximately 74 metres from the end of the original pier structure and was built around 1913 using concrete caissons and fill. The first design for the new extension involved extending that dolphin by 55 metres and then supporting the new breasting dolphin using a single monopile, three metres in diameter.

“We preferred the monopile design because it was cost effective, had a minimal footprint and provides good stability characteristics against ocean currents,” says Crisp. “But you can’t pull a monopile like that off the shelf at Home Depot, so we’re looking at an altered design using multiple steel piles while still meeting the requirements of larger vessels.”

The replacement design will involve multiple piles of approximately 60 metres in length with about 14 metres exposed above the sea bed, depending on the depth of the bedrock. Either design involves considerable construction challenges.

“This is a very busy port with several other major projects underway this year,” says Crisp. “This project is also adjacent to a Helijet aerodrome and a float plane terminal for Harbour Air, so air safety is a priority as well. The team is also working closely with federal authorities to ensure communication and management of construction and navigational movements. An environmental consultant is also engaged in monitoring construction activities and its impacts on habitat.”

The Ovation of the Seas, owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International, is one of the ships that has committed to a regular Victoria Harbour stop, beginning in May. The ship measure 348 metres in length, features 18 decks and can accommodate as many as 4,900 passengers — about 1,000 more passengers than the Royal Caribbean vessel that moored at the harbour previously.

“If the ship arrives before work is completed, the harbour authority is currently working with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and with the Pacific Pilotage Authority to accommodate the vessel on a temporary basis,” says Crisp. “This is a very active and evolving project as we work to lock down the right solution.”

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