Pier 2 central to modernization plan

Two years ago, the $50 million bond measure for infrastructure projects at the Port of Davisville was approved by Rhode Island voters. With the approval in hand the implementation of the $90 million modernization plan, particularly the critical rehabilitation and modernization of Pier 2, has moved forward.

The Port of Davisville is part of the Quonset Development Corp’s (QDC) Quonset Business Park development. The QDC is a quasi-state agency – a “Special Purpose” subsidiary of the Rhode Island Department of Commerce. The arrangement with QDC has been uncommonly successful as the Port of Davisville has shaped itself into the biggest, small port in America. Although the Port is not generally mentioned alongside mega-ports like New York/New Jersey, Long Beach or Los Angeles, nonetheless the Port of Davisville ranks in the top ten auto import ports in North America…and is growing.

In 2017 the Port handled over 222,521 new vehicle imports by ship, 41,754 units by rail and another 1,305 units by truck. The total of 265,580 vehicles handled by vehicle processor NORAD represented another record-breaking year for the Port. The port also notched 202-ship calls. And in November 2017 the Port handled a record-breaking 21-vessels discharging over 26,800 vehicles.

The Port of Davisville is a unique success story. To put the success in perspective, when the port began importing auto in 1996, it handled just over 35,000 and really didn’t crack the 40,000-unit barrier until 2003. However, growth has been spectacular since the recession in 2009. But to keep growing the Port’s had to address a number of infrastructure issues beginning with Pier 2.

Pier 2 Rehabilitation and Modernization

Pier 2 is central to the modernization plan for the Port of Davisville. The Pier has been described as the “workhorse” for the Port and the challenge is to rehab the pier while it is still active.

Pier 2 is an earth filled cofferdam cell structure built by the US Navy in 1956. It was designed to last 50 years, a period that has come and gone. The pier is the primary facility in the Port of Davisville and due to its style of construction [earth filled rather than timber supported], it is the pier best suited to handling heavy “deck” project cargo. In addition, the pier is the easiest to expand into another berth allowing multiple vessels to berth simultaneously. The proposed redevelopment would add another 50 years of life to the pier, as well as adding another berth. Additionally, the other berth would enable Davisville to handle the larger Pure Car Carriers (PCC).

Work completed in 2017 included:

  • Program manager engaged
  • Geotechnical investigation and test piles
  • Bottom survey of proposed dredge area
  • Design and permitting of east face encapsulation

The work scheduled for 2018 includes:

  • Construction of east and north faces
  • Trestle demolition
  • Utility relocation
  • Design and permitting of south face encapsulation
  • Design and permitting of east face pier extension. This will create a new berth for car carriers and allow this shipping activity to continue uninterrupted during subsequent construction of the south face.

There is substantial engineering required to bring the pier in line with the anticipated demands – particularly with the wind turbine business.

The proposed solution for Pier 2 is to “install a new HZ style wall with grouted earth anchors drilled into the existing pier backfill. This will create “dead man” tie backs to anchor the wall, supporting the exposed height and earth pressure,” according to the published plan for modernization.

New Opportunities

The rehabilitation and modernization of Pier 2 and other projects is designed to enable the Port to diversify. Most prominent among the new business opportunities is offshore wind power. Davisville has already played an important role in the development of Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Project. Various pieces of the project arrived via Quonset, including the steel jackets and more than 28-miles of cable. In addition, Quonset served as the principal port for the project’s heavy installation vessels over a two-year period. The QDC feels that the Port and business park could well become a wind power “cluster” for the region’s offshore wind farm business in the future.

In 2017 the QDC applied to the USDOT for a $24 million TIGER Grant for improvements in ramps and railyards at Pier 2 – the awards are expected to be announced in mid-2018. The grant would enable infrastructure improvements to the Port to smooth the flow of people and freight.

In another development, the QDC applied to the Maritime Administration for designation of the Port of Davisville as a “Marine Highway Project” in conjunction with the Red Hook Terminal within the Port of NY/NJ.

Approval would make the port eligible to receive funding for certain equipment to enhance the ability to handle containers. The Port along with others in the region have long sought a container barge or short sea option for container service to New York/New Jersey and/or Boston.