West Side Modernization Update: Pile Driving

As you look across the harbour to the West Saint John skyline, you’ll likely notice the flurry of activity underway. As we forge ahead on the West Side Modernization Project, we’re hitting new milestones and embarking on new project tasks on a regular basis.

Like any marine project, the construction of a new wharf is like a puzzle with many complex pieces to be undertaken simultaneously. There’s no better example of this than the current pile driving to support dredging efforts, happening while caissons are being poured and electrical infrastructure is being built.

In order to construct the new pier extension, we must adequately dredge. To adequately dredge, we must have a retaining wall. To have a retaining wall, we must pile drive. As we gear up to ensure our area is deep enough for final pier installation, the pile driving has begun. The retaining wall will encapsulate the existing pier and will allow dredging at this location in future years to occur without undermining the pier structure.

Dredging is an important component of this part of the overall Project, and there are two primary activities occurring: 1) dredging silt at the pier location; and 2) blasting and removal of rock by dredging in the same area. We are now moving into the rock removal phase of pier construction. As blasting of the rock occurs towards the end of each workday, you may momentarily hear a series of short safety sirens that ensure workers are far enough away from the underwater blasting, and then the final siren a few minutes later when the area is ‘all clear’.

It’s easiest to think of pile driving like hammering nails into a wall, except the nails are 120 foot long pipes and the wall is bedrock, approximately 60 feet below the current pier structure. These pipes are being pushed through clay and socketed into rock using vibrations and precise guides. Once placed, clay and rock must be removed with the help of a rounded clam bucket, underwater cameras and a variety of water and air hoses.

Once the piles themselves are in place and cleared out, sheet piles will be drop hammered in between them, and connected by slots to the piles, to create a retaining wall strong enough to retain several meters of soft soils. After the wall’s completion, dredging will be able to take place safely.

The piles themselves arrived by ship in June from Iskenderun, Turkey. Coincidentally, this Turkish community is a sizeable importer of recycled metal from American Iron & Metal Saint John. Is it possible to consider that these piles, being made of recycled metal themselves, are actually coming full-circle back to Port Saint John?

As pile driving continues, we’re excited for the opportunities our new pier will bring and the engineering excellence abound at our West side terminal.

The West Side Modernization Project is a $205-million infrastructure project that will see the creation of a longer, stronger pier, deeper channel and increased cargo capacity by 2023. The project is being funded through a three-way partnership between the Government of Canada, Government of New Brunswick and Port Saint John.

This post is also available in: French