When The Coast Mountain Bus Company Ltd. (owned by TransLink) needed to retrofit its aging SeaBus berthing structures and maintenance facility, it settled on the company with the lowest bid. Fortunately, it was also the company that had done several minor retrofits over the past three decades.
“This was the biggest renovation project since the construction of the facility in the late 1970s,” states Clancy Lannon, project manager, Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd, who adds that work included repairs to multiple major components at the SeaBus maintenance docks and at the north and south SeaBus terminals. “The engineers are hopeful that the retrofit will provide another 25 years of service life.”
The renovation project was expansive and involved not only the SeaBus berthing structures but also the maintenance dock. Major component upgrading was required to the SeaBus maintenance dock (fenders, concrete floats, platforms, service piping, and fuelling system). Berth fenders also needed to be replaced, as did corroded structural steel supports at the north and south SeaBus terminals.
“One of the biggest challenges was the procurement of replacement parts,” explains Lannon. “The client wanted to replace like parts for like. But several of the components were very difficult to source or were no longer available. We had to get the original manufacturers to go back to the drawing board and re-create some components.”
The rehabilitation work took close to a year to complete. But the results stand for themselves – so much so that the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) recognized the project as a 2014 silver award winner (in the up to $15 million category) in its 26th Annual Awards of Excellence.
“The caliber of this year’s entries was excellent and competition amongst the nominees was tough,” states Fiona Famulak, president, VRCA. “In order for a silver or gold award to be declared, the nominee must need and/or exceed specific criteria. For example, did the project complete on time and in budget; did the contractor employee innovative techniques to save time, improve productivity, ensure collaboration across the project team; did the contractor make use of new construction techniques or sustainable materials; did the contractor face challenges and, if so, how did they overcome those challenges? Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd. demonstrated that they met or exceeded many of the specific criteria and is a deserving silver award winner.”
The West Coast Mountain Bus Company operates three SeaBus ferries that cross the Burrard Inlet between Vancouver and North Vancouver, transporting more than 45,000 passengers annually. The original berthing structure was designed to accommodate two SeaBuses. A third ferry was added in December 2009.
The SeaBus berthing structures themselves were in need of several repairs.
“All of the mooring dolphins on the berthing structures needed to be changed,” explains Lannon. “There are three mooring dolphins on each of the corners so there were 12 in total. We had to purchase one set of ‘Seibu’ rubbers or fenders for one corner. We took the old set off, replaced it with the new one and then cleaned and repaired the old one before repeating the same thing with the other set of rubber fenders until they were all like new again.”
Lannon adds that Vancouver Pile Driving had to get the original manufacturer of the Seibu rubbers to make a new mold in order to get the exact same component re-made. And the work didn’t end there.
“The steel frames that encase rubber fenders had deteriorated over time so we had to build 12 new sets of steel frames,” he says.
Vancouver Pile Diving had to engage a crew of divers to drill and epoxy under water in order to remove the old dolphins, install the new holes and then re-anchor the rods to hold the dolphins in place.
Another key element in the repair work involved the inner and outer fender structures. The mounting brackets on the fenders had to be replaced, as did the outer fenders on the main structure.
“The outer fenders were comprised of steel frames with timber facing,” explains Lannon. “The timber facings were made from exotic African Ekki marine timber and matched the timber used throughout the structure so we had to source the same timber for these components. That required a bit of lead time.”
Fixes for the floating maintenance facility
The second part of the SeaBus rehabilitation project involved the floating maintenance and fuelling dock, which features two berths. It consisted of eight concrete floats, kept in place with concrete-filled steel mooring piles.
“We had to jiggle the floats a bit in order to remove each section, one at a time,” explains Lannon, who adds that the largest sections were the maintenance and mechanical ones that were affixed to two concrete floats. “Before we could remove them, we had to build a temporary maintenance facility with floats in order to provide fuel, oil, bilge, water, and sewer services to the SeaBuses.”
The old surface material on the original concrete-filled floats was stripped away and the concrete repaired.
Some of the timber frames that were in place to prevent the floats from being damaged by the SeaBuses were also in need of repair.
“We actually had to replace some of the timber frames that had been damaged by decay,” says Lannon. “They were difficult to deal with because some were as long as 12 x 12 x 24 feet in size.”
All in a day’s work
Although the SeaBus berthing structure and maintenance repair facility appeared to be a simple project involving the repair and replacement of different components, it was made more difficult by the working environment and the age of the components, which made them hard to source. Plus, the project was further complicated by the need to keep the facility fully operational during the entire renovation project.
“Keeping the facility open during the repair work was a bit of a challenge,” admits Lannon. “It was essential that the ferry service continue without interruption. Plus, we were focused on keeping safety a priority throughout the entire project. We would restrict our work to one side of the structure at a time, knowing that the SeaBus had the right of way at all times.”
The tight working conditions also posed some challenges.
“There were some really close tolerances on the mooring fenders, in particular,” says Lannon. “We had to get a big crane in for that part of the work because of the weight of the components.”
The $7.5-million project with all its unique challenges certainly deserved its industry accolades.
“I was really surprised to hear about the award,” concludes Lannon. “I never think about awards when I am on a job. I’ve been doing this type of work for over 30 years now and it’s great to be recognized by industry. At the same time, this project owes its success to everyone who worked on it. All of the people worked really hard to get it done. There was some great teamwork and co-ordination by everyone – the subtrades, the suppliers, the mechanical and electrical guys, and the divers. Everyone pulled together and worked as a team.”