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A Highly Complex Port Terminal Expansion

Posted on November 15, 2023

Working on a complex expansion to a fully operating container terminal at the Port of Vancouver required detailed planning, strong collaboration and a small army of people and equipment.

The Centerm Expansion Project and South Shore Access was a highly challenging project and huge in scope, making it one of the port’s largest projects undertaken to date.

Completed in early 2023, the $350 million newly expanded terminal will increase capacity and efficiency at the port to meet the increasing demand and future growth for container trade. The improvements increase the maximum container-handling capacity at Centerm by two-thirds, to 1.5-million TEUs ((20-foot equivalent units) from 900,000. This was accomplished by adding 15 per cent to the terminal’s overall footprint.

“We’re incredibly proud of our work leading to this award-winning terminal expansion,” says Cliff Stewart, vice president of infrastructure at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “The expanded Centerm terminal is an important addition to the Port of Vancouver as we continue to work to deliver the container capacity Canadians and Canadian businesses need to thrive now and into the future.”

Work on the project took place on various sites and included expanding the terminal’s footprint to the west and east; reconfiguration of the container yard; a new operations building that preserved the historical façade; changes to Waterfront Road to create a continuous port road from Canada Place to Highway 1; creation of a new 500m long Centennial Road overpass and removal of the Heatley Road overpass.

The challenging project was delivered by Centennial Expansion Partners, a joint venture between Dragados Canada, Jacob Bros. Construction and Fraser River Pile & Dredge. The project is a first in the country – the expansion of an operating port facility completed through a design-build.

The success of this demanding and multi-faceted project earned the team a VRCA Gold of Excellence in the general contractor category.

“We’re thrilled to win gold and we are very proud of the project,” says Sarah Clark, president and CEO of Fraser River Pile and Dredge. “This was a very complex project to design and build.”

The project required many types of construction including road and bridge construction, marine dredging, filling and construction, port amenity construction, demolition as well as building construction. The majority of the work had to be staged and sequenced to allow for the ongoing operation of the terminal and access road throughout the construction period.

“We had to work really close with DP World (terminal operator) on the upland work. We could only get access to different areas of the terminal in very small pieces to allow them to keep working so that was a big challenge,” notes Clark.

Expansion work at the terminal began in 2019 and was completed over a four-year construction period. The facility was able to achieve record through put in 2021 during the height of the construction activity.

The team had to overcome many technical and logistical challenges. On top of the complexity of the project and normal stringent safety measures, COVID protocols had to be implemented as well for almost two years.

“We had a really good team and lots of expertise from our main partners. We also had excellent subcontractors and suppliers,” says Clark.

Environmental considerations were a key driver on this project with a focus on lowering greenhouse gas emissions by reducing vehicle wait times, improving port roads, adding capacity for container ships to connect to electrical shore power, and upgrading some yard cranes from diesel to electric. The project successfully achieved Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s goals of Envision Platinum certification and the operations building is seeking LEED Gold.

In 2022, the project was awarded the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure Envision Platinum award, their highest rated award.



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