Q&A: McCarthy on Texas port expansionsWritten by Heather Ervin
In this Marine Log exclusive, we sit down with Sarah Johnson, senior field engineer with McCarthy Building Companies Marine Business Unit, to discuss the company’s work at several Texas ports and terminals using an unmanned survey vessel (USV).
Marine Log (ML): McCarthy Building Companies has been busy for some time working on the construction and expansion of ports along the Texas Gulf Coast. Let’s start with Port Freeport. Can you tell us what you’re doing there and how will this benefit waterborne shipping?
Sarah Johnson (SJ): Port Freeport Velasco Berth 8 is an extension to the Berth 7 project that McCarthy built over 10 years ago. This extension is critical to the expansion of the Velasco Terminal. Berth 8 will eventually house four additional cranes and be able to accommodate larger container vessels.
McCarthy started construction of Berth 8 in February of 2020 and is scheduled to be completed in the next few months. The scope of work includes demolition of the existing bulkhead and tieback system, mechanical and hydraulic dredging, combi-wall bulkhead, wharf piles, precast beams and deck panels, revetment mattresses, new fender systems, electrical, and crane rail installation. McCarthy has self-performed over 80% of the work scope.
ML: You’re also working at the Port of Beaumont. What’s happening there?
SJ: The Port of Beaumont Main Street Terminal project is a rehab project of the original dock that collapsed in 2012. The original dock collapse was due to the corrosion of the steel pile foundation. The new dock will consist of concrete piles and a concrete dock so there isn’t any risk for corrosion failure. The scope for this project includes demolishing the remnants of the existing dock and materials and constructing a new dock with concrete piles, cast-in-place concrete beams, precast deck panels and a concrete topping slab, new fender systems and marine furnishings.
ML: Is this the first time McCarthy has worked with an unmanned vessel for port projects? Who provided the unmanned vessel and how has that worked out so far?
SJ: Yes, this is a first for McCarthy. The acquisition of the unmanned survey vessel has given McCarthy the opportunity to add hydrographic surveying to its self-perform capabilities. The unmanned survey vessel was purchased through McCarthy’s mapping division, which specializes in accurately locating and graphically representing underground infrastructure. We’ve had the vessel for just over six months now and it has proven to be a huge asset for our marine jobs.
At Port Freeport, the data collected by the survey vessel has been used to verify dredge slopes prior to installing revetment and insuring accuracy in depths.
At the Port of Beaumont, the hydrographic data has been able to show the project team the underwater remnants of the existing wharf that need to be removed. We’ve also been using this information to modify pile locations based on existing wharf piles and to accurately demo existing wharf beams.
ML: Are there other port or waterway projects you’re working on or plan to work on soon that the maritime industry may want to be made aware of?
SJ: McCarthy has been continuously working with Port Houston for more than 30 years. Currently, we are working on Bayport Wharf 6, which includes construction of a new 1,000 foot long wharf that will allow for the latest generation of container cranes to unload shipping containers from neo-Panamax vessels. The project scope includes the installation of drilled shaft foundations, both pre-cast and cast-in-place concrete, crane rail installation, ship fender and mooring system, substantial dirt work and dredging activities.
We are also undertaking work on two consecutive container yards for Port Houston–Barbours Cut 4 and 5. The work includes jointed concrete paving—which McCarthy is self-performing—sewer installation, storm drain installation, subbase, base, and miscellaneous demo. In addition to these active projects, McCarthy has been tracking and positioning ourselves for opportunities on Federal jobs – for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—and the Petrochemical and LNG industries which predominantly reside in the Gulf Coast. Our proven capabilities to execute challenging projects on and around water, combined with our valuable relationships with design partners nationwide, put McCarthy in an excellent position to undertake these scopes of work.