An impromptu Vancouver landmark is no more…almost.
A massive barge washed up on Sunset Beach next to downtown Vancouver on Nov. 15, 2021 after strong winds and rough seas during a storm pushed it onto shore.
In late June 2022 Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd. began deconstructing and removing the structure, a task that is now close to complete.
Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd. operations manager Ian Purvis led the effort to cut the barge down from a multi-storey box on the beach to pieces ready for disposal and recycling.
“Initially we had Transport Canada involved, the coast guard, the department of fisheries, a little bit of everyone just to see whose jurisdiction would take over. The assessment was completed by the marine surveyor and naval architects and they ultimately determined, in conjunction with regulators, that the barge would need to be demolished in place for the safety of the people doing the work but also the environment and other factors,” Purvis said.
The barge is treated like similar grounded vessels, though with some caveats.
“The first thing is just to see what’s in it and what’s on it. Do we need to bring in things to pump out oil? That’s always the case. This was a chip barge so it was empty and had one small amount of wood chips from the last unloading,” Purvis said.
“The issue with a barge or anything of this nature that grounds out is the damage you can’t see. It looks like a barge, but it got thrown in the ocean.”
Purvis said while the barge was for the most structurally sound, the bow rake which is the curved bow on the head of the barge was a concern.
“It’s a large, cantilevered piece of steel. As we started to remove the deck, we started to take away strength from what was ultimately holding up the bottom plate. It was one of our biggest challenges from the get-go, how we remove this thing in such a way that, as we deconstruct it, it’s becoming lighter and remains stable and stays where it’s supposed to be,” he said.
Purvis said due to the fact the barge washed up on a public beach and the demolition team wanted to minimize disruption, the structure was dismantled without heavy machinery and a fence was installed with the intent to minimize disruption to the nearby seawall area.
“I think we went to first principles. Let’s minimize interactions with the general public how ever possible but allow them to use the beach and surrounding facilities. I think we did a good job of that throughout the project,” he said. “There’s been events that happened at the beach and it’s all been fairly seamless with our operations.”
Other challenges included the location of the barge and manmade rock formations the demolition crew had to work around along with the risk of tides pulling the structure back out to sea.
“Once we got onsite people may remember there were buoys placed right off the bat and those were identifying rocks that were really prominent and high. We had to just work through that, so it took us a little while and took us being onsite to get to a level of comfort where we could position our equipment and what the tides meant for what we could do,” he said.
He added one of the key advantages his team had while demolishing the barge was an unprecedented run of warm stable weather.
“We could have been in a position where the weather could just blow up for a number of days and really hinder the project, so there was a lot of planning into what we do if there’s weather and how do we stage the work appropriately,” Purvis said.
Follow the author on Twitter @JOCFrey.