Granite Halmar Fast Tracks Complex Port Piling Job

Mon November 15, 2004 - Northeast Edition
James Van Horn

To increase the capacity of the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island, NY, Granite Halmar Construction Co. Inc. is practically writing a book on marine foundation construction — with a couple of brand-new chapters.

Deploying a selective mix of standard and specialized equipment, Granite Halmar, Mount Vernon, NY, a subsidiary of Granite Construction Incorporated, Watsonville, CA, is expanding and rehabilitating the terminal for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and its tenant, New York Container Terminal Inc. (formerly Howland Hook Container Terminal).

Initially, the $35-million project will expand waterside access so the port can increase its capacity from three to four ships at a time.

Next, the Howland Hook job is part of a total initiative by the Port Authority not only to increase present capacity, but also to prepare the ports of Howland Hook, Newark and Elizabeth, NJ, for the new class of commercial vessels — the post-Panamax container ships.

According to Joseph J. Seymour, executive director of the Port Authority, “Our $350-million investment strategy for Howland Hook is a critical part of the Port Authority’s overall $1.5-billion port redevelopment program that is deepening the harbor’s channels, expanding marine terminal capacity and improving landside transportation connections … At Howland Hook, we are making provisions for future berth deepening to accommodate these ships and the cranes and other equipment needed to serve them, to ensure that the terminal continues to compete successfully with ports in other parts of the East Coast.”

Other work at Howland Hook includes rehabilitating an old factory complex next door and rebuilding the Staten Island Railroad, which extends between Arlington Yard on Staten Island and Cranford, NJ. This includes building a new rail terminal to serve the Howland Hook port area. When completed, this line will provide direct intermodal service for Howland Hook and local customers to both CSX and Norfolk Southern railways.

The net result of the massive expansion program to accommodate post-Panamax vessels is expected to not only be increased cargo volume, but also to create more employment opportunities.

Until recently the largest shipping vessels (except certain crude oil tankers) have been Panamax, with the maximum width — 13 containers wide — that can fit through the Panama Canal. (A shipping container measures 8 ft. [2.4 m] wide, 8.6 ft. [2.6 m] high — some are higher — and 20 or 40 ft. [6.1 or 12.2 m] long. Except for bulk cargoes, such as coal, oil or grain, most marine transportation uses containers and container vessels.)

Post-Panamax vessels will be up to 16 containers wide, thus offering 23 percent more capacity per voyage. Because the marine industry works in a very tight cost frame, this represents an enormous productivity advantage, even if post-Panamax vessels must be larger and powered by larger engines. (A post-Panamax vessel currently under construction will have an overall length of 1,154 ft. [352 m], and a breadth of 141 ft. [43 m], and be powered by an 85,000 hp [63,000 kW] diesel engine.)

Because post-Panamax vessels require deeper berths and higher capacity cranes, the Port Authority is planning to dredge the Arthur Kill at Howland Hook, first to a uniform depth of minus 42 ft. (12.8 m) from mean low water level, and then to minus 52 ft. (15.8 m). Granite Halmar is laying foundations for the larger gantry cranes, which can reach 50 percent further than existing units.

The Howland Hook area was originally marshland, filled in more than 100 years ago. It also is known as Port Ivory, after the nearby Procter and Gamble factory that turned out soap. (This is the factory complex now being renovated for industrial use.)

The Howland Hook terminal was built in the 1960s and 1970s by American Export Lines and purchased by the City of New York in 1973. The Port Authority leased Howland Hook from the City in 1985.

In 1995, the terminal was leased on a long-term basis to Howland Hook Container Terminal Inc., which reactivated the terminal for container operations in 1996. Howland Hook currently has an annual capacity of 425,000 containers.

According to Joe McIlhinney, Howland Hook, project manager, of Granite Halmar, “We are extending dock facilities 300 feet to the south, and 200 feet to the north; strengthening and expanding the existing 945-foot-long berth in three stages, and building a new bridge and road for container trucks.” Most of the work involves piling and concrete.

Currently, Granite Halmar is on track to complete approximately 85 percent of the job — the north and south extensions and two of the three stages of berth strengthening — by December 2004, which fits the Port Authority’s schedule, according to Mike Wallace, engineer, of the Port Authority. Granite Halmar will return after winter shutdown to complete the final stage by August 2005.

The job started in October 2002, and Granite Halmar has worked through two hard winters, when icing became a problem for waterline construction. Except for double-shifting during peak periods, Granite Halmar has been working single daytime shifts.

Lattice-boom crawler cranes are the workhorses on the land side of the job: Liebherr LR 1280, 300-ton (272 t) capacity, LR 1160, 200-ton (181 t) and LR 853, 100-ton (90 t) units, and an American 100-ton machine, all from AmQuip, Carteret, NJ, as well as a Manitowoc 888, 230-ton (209 t) machine from Foggio Equipment Inc., Verona, NJ. Granite Halmar also brought in Grove 35-ton (31.7 t) hydraulic cranes for utility lifting work.

For waterside work, Granite Halmar called in barge-mounted cranes from Weeks Marine, Cranford, NJ, as needed; the largest was the Weeks 526, a 350-ton (317 t) capacity model 40 American crane used to spot precast concrete pier caps.

To drive the steel sheet and pipe piles, Granite Halmar first set them in the soft bottom of the Arthur Kill with a vibratory hammer from PVE Piling Equipment, Jacksonville, FL, then drove them to bedrock with a Mark V 5050 impact diesel hammer from Berminghammer Foundation Equipment, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

The Berminghammer unit, which works from both fixed and hanging leads, develops more than 40,000 ft. lb. torque. For the socketed holes, Granite Halmar ran a Berminghammer BHD 3030 30-in. (76.2 cm) reverse circulation hydraulic drill, developing 30,000 ft. lb. of torque at 40 rpm.

Once the hole is drilled, crews can insert reinforcement and pour concrete for the socket; no cleanout is required. To get through existing riprap, crews switched to a pilot bit with a downhole hammer from Finnish manufacturer Rotex.

According to McIlhinney, the Berminghammer system works well with both fixed and hanging leads, to accommodate the different methods needed for pile construction. The fixed lead can be used not only in a vertical, perpendicular pile driving configuration, but it also can be adapted to batter piles angled side to side, forward or aft, and driven on, above or below grade.

However, on the waterside, for the outermost row of piles, it was easier to use a hanging lead for the pile driver, so Granite Halmar designed, fabricated and used its own templates for the diesel hammer to sit on while driving piles. Cranes moved around the waterside perimeter on temporary trestles fabricated from structural steel I-beams.

Other equipment included Komatsu and Caterpillar hydraulic excavators for grading and filling in the new dock areas behind the bulkheads; dozers, wheel and track loaders and a compactor, mostly from Caterpillar; and Ingersoll-Rand and Sullair air compressors. Granite Halmar moved 8,000 cu. yds. (6,117 cu m) of material in site preparation and laid 12,000 tons (10,880 t) hotmix asphalt in building a new road to the site.

According to McIlhinney, crews have to drive the piles to the underlying bedrock —the overlaying muck and fill material is too unstable — and then set them in rock sockets, drilling holes 10 to 35 ft. (3 to 10.7 m) deep in rock. The deepest holes, on the waterside, go to minus 62 ft. (18.9 m), well below the deepest dredging planned.

McIlhinney said that one of the major factors in the expansion is that it conforms to existing riparian lines in the Arthur Kill. Attempting to change these would have major environmental and legal ramifications, which could set back the project schedule. That’s one of the reasons why, said McIlhenny, “There are two new piling designs, one for the South Extension, the other for the North. Both meet the particular requirements of each location.”

South Extension

The South Extension extends the berth 70 ft. (21.3 m) from an existing landside sheet pile wall into the Arthur Kill to accommodate the 50-ft-wide (15.2 m) gauge rails for the existing 600-ton (540 t) gantry cranes. The area will be used for unloading fruit produce, mainly bananas, as well as general cargo.

To support the landside crane rail Granite Halmar first drove 24-in. (61 cm) diameter steel pipe piles, anchored in 10-ft. (3 m) deep, 18-in. (45.7 cm) diameter rock sockets in bedrock. For supporting the new dock extension, crews also drove 24-in. diameter steel pipe piles.

Next, crews installed pairs of angled, or batter, 36-in. (91.4 cm) diameter steel pipe supporting piles, and finally, to support the waterside crane rail, a pile system going down minus 62 ft. (18.9 m). Below the channel bottom, or mudline, the piles form an interlocking wall system, with the round 36-in. (91.4 cm) diameter pipes connected by jet grout columns to seal and stabilize the wall in the unstable material overlaying bedrock.

Layne GeoConstruction, Bridgewater, MA, specialty contractor, jet-grouted the columns. However, above the channel bottom, the space between the 36-in. round piles is open, to preserve the water access and not change the riparian character of the original bulkhead line.

North Extension

The new North Extension, 300 ft. (91 m) long by 100 ft. (30 m) wide, will accommodate the four new 1,500-ton (1,360 t) capacity, 100-ft. (30 m) gauge Liebherr gantry container cranes to load and unload post-Panamax vessels. The cranes currently are being erected next to Granite Halmar’s job site.

The North Extension piling design calls for a series of straight and angled (batter) 24 and 36-in. diameter steel pipe piles anchored in rock. It’s similar to the South Extension except the outermost waterside support is a barrier of alternating circular pipe and steel sheet sections which form the wall that retains the material dredged to make the berth. The sheet sections are cut off just before the waterline, again to preserve riparian access and maintain the original bulkhead line. A sheet piling wall demarcates the land from the water.

Berth Strengthening

The middle section is being strengthened to accommodate the 100-ft. (30 m) gauge cranes also and is being done in stages so construction makes a minimum impact on port activities.

For this, the longest section, Granite Halmar first installed an additional 50 ft. (15.2 m) of concrete deck and a crane rail supported by 24 in. (61 cm) steel pipe piles, on the land side.

Then crews removed the outermost 15 ft. (4.6 m) of the existing deck on the water side. Next they are installing new supporting piles for the waterside crane rail — 36-in. (91.4 cm) diameter straight steel pipe piles, drilled to minus 62 ft. (18.9 m), and tied to an existing sheet pile wall sunk to bedrock, and 24-in. diameter angled steel pipe piles.

The waterside crane rail construction in the Berth Strengthening section consists of a two-part pour, with Wagner Concrete Pumping of Paterson, NJ, doing the pumping.

Pour one includes pile caps, crane girder and fascia beam, while pour two includes the slab with many embedded items. Granite Halmar is using EFCO forms equipment for soffit support system while Ulma is supplying wall forms. Despite the use of two different manufacturers, “The system is working out like a charm,” according to Project Engineer Anthony D’Ippolito.

For the other concrete work, Granite Halmar installed precast pile caps and decking sections, calling in the Weeks Marine behemoth for the biggest lifts, or poured the deck in place. Pile caps and most of the new decking for the berths were supplied by Jersey Precast Corp., New Brunswick, NJ.

Founded in 1922, Granite Construction Inc., is one of the largest contractors in the country and one of the largest material suppliers in the West. A publicly traded company, with sales of $1.8 billion in 2003, was named by FORTUNE magazine in 2004 as one of the 100 best companies to work for.

In July 2001, Halmar Builders of New York Inc. officially became Granite Halmar Construction Company Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Granite Construction Incorporated. Granite Halmar combines Halmar’s local experience and expertise with that of nationwide infrastructure developer. Granite’s acquisition of Halmar establishes a permanent presence in the New York region.