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Turnagain Marine Construction Completes Alaskan Cruise Ship Berth in Record Time

by: Debra Wood
Crews install mooring dolphin batter sleds on the Icy Strait Point Berth 2 project in Hoonah, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Pat Joens)
Crews install mooring dolphin batter sleds on the Icy Strait Point Berth 2 project in Hoonah, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Pat Joens)
Construction of a second cruise ship berth at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, Alaska, finished seven months early with thorough planning, innovation, and technology – earning Turnagain Marine Construction multiple awards, including the Viewpoint Most Challenging Project Award for 2020.

“The influx of tourism and cruise ships has revitalized the economy,” says Chris Nielsen, Project Manager with Turnagain Marine Construction in Anchorage, Alaska, the design-build contractor for the job. “The entire community is grateful for the two berths.”

Turnagain completed the first berth at Icy Strait Point for Huna Totem Corp. of Juneau, Alaska, in 2015. The company decided it needed a larger berth to handle “Oasis Class” cruise ships.

Prior to “COVID-19, there was an uptick in cruises sailing to Alaska and Icy Strait Point,” Nielsen says. “A second berth was needed to manage the extra traffic.”

Additionally, cruise ships have become larger, and with that, the docks and berths must become bigger.

Seatrade Cruise in the United Kingdom voted Icy Strait Point the “Port of the Year”. The port offers travelers an authentic Alaska experience. “We are proud to be a part of it,” Nielsen says.

Construction Challenges
Turnagain Marine received the $25.1 million design-build contract from owner Huna Totem Corp. R&M Consultants of Anchorage, Alaska, served as the design partner on Icy Strait Point Berth 2.

“We’ve set out to push design-build,” Nielsen says. “The advantage is the efficiency of us driving the design.”

Founded in 2014, Turnagain employs about 30 people and recently hired three structural engineers. It operates in Alaska and focuses on marine heavy civil projects.

Huna Totem awarded Turnagain the contract in November 2018 and completed the project in October 2019, seven months early. Nielsen credits collaboration during design key to the early completion, because the construction firm could inform the design process by explaining constructability and what was possible.

“The speed is unheard of in the construction industry,” Nielsen says. “Prior to construction, both superintendents were in the office frequently working on a plan. We knew what we were getting into because we built Berth 1.” That experience helped Turnagain more efficiently build Berth 2, he explains.

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Ships docking at Icy Strait Point pull up to floating berths; a construction style necessitated due to the rough and rocky coastline and the 17- to 20-foot tides. A long trestle provides passengers access to the land. The water does not freeze in the winter. “It’s a way we manage the rugged coastline in Southeast Alaska,” Nielsen says.

The second Icy Strait Point berth features a 500-foot-long by 50-foot-wide floating dock, a 160-foot transfer span from the dock to the 300-foot-long trestle. The ramp is attached to the floating dock and trestle and rises and falls with the tides.

Ten-foot diameter pontoons, with an epoxy coating, support the timber-covered dock. The berth also features four mooring dolphins, a mooring structure for the ships’ tie-up lines, and two reaction dolphins, which hold the float in place. “It’s a giant pontoon float with two reaction dolphins at each end, with four plumb pile and two batter pile,” Nielsen says.

Turnagain brought in two crane barges. The company drove the first pile in July 2019. Crews drilled down to bedrock for the trestles and dolphins. The trestle is socketed 10 feet into the bedrock.

For the dolphins, “we drove to bedrock and drilled out the bottom, placed a rebar cage, and poured concrete 40 feet into the pile,” Nielsen says.

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Saving time, Turnagain prefabricated the pontoons and 50-foot trestle sections in Washington State and shipped them to Alaska. The trestle arrived with the handrail in place. “Rather than having us onsite in an inefficient environment constructing trestle sections and putting float together, we just had to set it in place and attach the pieces,” Nielsen says.

Working off barges in the water required monitoring for marine mammals during construction of piles, but the team did not experience any environmental challenges. The vibratory hammers and drill gears uses biodegradable hydraulic oil. “I have not seen an effect on marine life,” Nielsen says.

Innovation and Technology
Turnagain keeps trying new and bigger bits and hammers. The company has developed a special drilling system for building cruise ship berths. “We like to try new things,” Nielsen says.

Turnagain uses Viewpoint Spectrum, an accounting and construction management software product to track equipment costs, labor costs, time cards, purchase orders, subcontractor contracts, and other factors to keep the project on track.

“It’s nice to have everything in one spot, and it updates in real time,” Nielsen says. “It’s super useful for us. It makes everything so efficient.”

Viewpoint Spectrum, part of Viewpoint’s connected ViewpointOne suite of construction management products, is an enterprise resource management software, enabling contractors to automate critical business workflows and manage contractor personnel and back office communication. The accounting department uses that information with billing, reducing errors and rework.

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“Viewpoint enables real-time communication between the back office and the jobsite,” says Betsie Hoyt, Senior Product Manager for Viewpoint in Portland, Oregon. “There is more visibility on performance and management of the project.”

Viewpoint presents annual awards to companies using its software. Turnagain received the Most Challenging Project award, presented to the contractor able to push past difficult circumstances to complete a project. A panel of prior recipients and Viewpoint employees vote on the winners.

“Viewpoint awards focus on the customer and the great things the software allows our customers to do,” Hoyt says. “We allow people to build. It’s a great partnership.”

In addition to the Viewpoint award, the project received the Associated General Contractor National Build America Merit Award in the Design-Build Civil Category; the AGC Alaska Excellence in Construction Award; and the Design-Build Institute of America National Award - Merit for Transportation.

“We are proud of the time frame we completed this job,” Nielsen concludes. “It’s a culmination of five years working on efficiency and becoming a better company.”

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