- Company: Nicholson Construction Company
- Industry: Transportation
- Location: Miami, Florida
- Expected Completion Date: July 1, 2012
- Project Website
Miami has long retained the title of “Cruise Ship Capital of the World”. With millions of cruise-goers passing through the port on an annual basis, the Port of Miami is home to five major cruise lines. It is also one of the world’s largest hubs for cargo-related commerce. A specially designed, 43-foot Herrenknecht EPB TBM was created for the project to create what would be, at the time, the largest bored tunnel in North America. After further investigation of the tunnel alignment and the local ground conditions, it was determined that grouting was needed in the Key Largo formation through which the TBM would mine. The Key Largo formation is a notoriously unstable and porous coralline limestone. Nicholson was awarded the specialty grouting contract for both onshore and offshore operation, which included filling voids ahead of Harriet, the project’s massive TBM.
Part of the work was performed at Watson Island, while the other portion was performed offshore in the channel between Watson Island and Port Miami. This offshore work, which was performed on barges on 24 hours shifts, had to be carefully coordinated with the Port’s busy schedule.
What impact does this project have on America?
The Port of Miami project, later renamed PortMiami, was designed to help alleviate the staggering amount of both traveler and cargo-related traffic going into the port. An estimated four million people pass through the port on an annual basis. A project three decades in the making, a new, underwater twin tunnel would provide direct access between the seaport and Interstates 395 and 95 and also reduce the amount of cargo-related traffic. PortMiami is Miami-Dade County’s second most important economic engine, contributing $28 billion annually to the local economy and supporting more than 207,000 jobs in South Florida. It is recognized as the Cargo Gateway of the Americas.
What interesting obstacles or unusual circumstances did you overcome to complete the project?
PortMiami is located in the Biscayne Bay, which is home to a number of endangered or protected species, including the Florida manatee, various seat turtles, bottlenose dolphins and many varieties of fish. In addition, there are many protected seabeds, beaches, mangroves and reef communities. All crews had to be mindful of all sea life and environmental concerns. The environmental protections created an interesting challenge for the off-shore drilling operation. A 70-foot buffer had to be maintained from the operation to the shoreline. This buffer required the innovative use of a pipeline bridge used to bring grout from the onshore batching plant to the offshore equipment.
What dangers and risks did you encounter, and describe any extraordinary methods used to keep workers safe?
Technical challenges aside, the biggest hurdle to overcome on the project was working around the active cruise ship schedule. When ships came in, all of Nicholson’s barges, which could include up to ten a week, had to be demobilized. Nicholson had to maintain excellent communication with all parts of our team.
How did you leverage new technologies to work faster and reduce waste?
Collaboration with sister company Bermingham Foundation Solutions yielded a unique, custom drilling and grouting system that used the same drill string to drill and grout in a single stroke. This saved drill changing and tooling times that would normally be required.The implementation of the single-pass system allowed for a streamlined operation with less than 12 steps. Nicholson was able to complete the work within the original schedule despite the drill quantities increasing 50% from 65,000lf to 95,000lf. Due to the complex nature of the project, the drilling operation was closely monitored using Grout I.T., a proprietary, real-time control and data collection system created by Nicholson’s parent company, Soletanche Bachy.