Canadian Consulting Engineer

2023 #CCEAwards Showcase: Centerm Expansion

October 30, 2023

“The team took a comprehensive, overarching approach to the owner’s environmental sustainability goals.” – Jury

Centerm Expansion

Photo courtesy Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Category: Transportation

Award of Excellence Winner: Hatch

Centerm is an inner-harbour container terminal that handles one-fifth of the goods shipped through the Port of Vancouver. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) awarded a design-build contract to increase the terminal’s capacity. Hatch was engaged to lead a skilled design team to expand, reconfigure and add infrastructure to Centerm, in a complex operating environment.

The project has provided an increase of more than 67% in throughput, from 900,000 to 1.5 million 20-foot equivalent containers (TEUs), while only increasing the terminal’s footprint by approximately 15%.


A mandate to expand

The Port of Vancouver is an economic engine, providing access for more than 170 trading partners around the world. The expansion of its containerized services is key to VFPA’s mandate.

The Centerm expansion involved upgrades to the existing 24-7 operating facility, including:

  • Minor expansion of the terminal footprint by 15% through dredging and infill.
  • Provision of shore power at the expanded berthing facility, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution.
  • Reconfiguration of the yard for more efficient operations.
  • Expansion and modernization of the intermodal railyard.
  • Relocation, expansion and modernization of the truck gate facilities.
  • Provision of new electric-driven gantry cranes.
  • Reconfiguration and relocation of 11 existing refrigerated container receptacles (reefer towers) for perishable cargo.
  • Complete refurbishment of the historic Ballantyne Pier shed as a new, centralized operations facility, to improve efficiency of container logistics.

Upgraded berthing facilities reduce in-harbour waiting times, to the betterment of supply-chain logistics. Rail and trucking services are improved through the expansion and modernization of associated infrastructure.  And port-related traffic has been removed from city roads, reducing congestion and improving emergency access.

Solving challenges through innovation

Hatch was engaged on the design-build project from the pursuit phase, with its bid design deemed innovative and technically well-developed. The team overcame many technical challenges in the execution of this brownfield development.

Foremost among these challenges, the terminal remained in operation throughout the construction, requiring complex staging and planning (such that compartmentalized areas of the terminal could be worked on sequentially), multi-party stakeholder engagement and co-ordination of phased deliverables.

Hatch assembled a highly qualified design team for the demanding project. Beyond the owner and terminal operator, there were also many external stakeholders—including other port tenants, public entities (such as FortisBC, BC Hydro and Metro Vancouver), railways, community businesses and residents—to be engaged and accommodated within the design.

Many other challenges were solved through innovation:

  • The western berthface was extended by 78 m without the use of intrusive piledriving, by floating prefabricated concrete caissons to the site and then sinking them into place on an improved seafloor foundation.
  • Micropiles were used extensively within the confines of the heritage building as it was repurposed as the new operations centre.
  • The reefer towers underwent extensive structural and electrical upgrades to meet current codes and standards.
  • Construction waste was reused, as per Envision sustainability guidelines, to minimize impacts to the facilities. Demolished concrete and clean dredgeate were used as fill material.
Centerm heritage building

A heritage building was refurbished to serve as a new, centralized operations centre. Photo courtesy Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Safety was of paramount importance. This project was completed with zero lost-time incidents, a notable achievement. The design team contributed to this success through safety in design, constructability reviews, construction support, field attendance and assistance in the testing and commissioning of the facilities.

The project was completed on time, despite the many challenges that had to be overcome.

A focus on sustainability

VFPA’s vision is to increase Canada’s economic prosperity through trade while making the Port of Vancouver the world’s greenest port. The Centerm expansion achieves these goals, providing significantly increased throughput with an only marginally expanded footprint and reducing the GHG emissions associated with the terminal’s operations.

During land expansion of the terminal, a marine works program was implemented to remediate and protect the environment:

  • Fish salvage and relocation occurred prior to dredging and infilling works.
  • Water quality was monitored to meet the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s (CCME’s) Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life.
  • A silt curtain ‘moon pool’ apparatus isolated work areas for sediment control.

VFPA has pursued the Canadian Green Building Council’s (CaGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for the new operations centre, to be confirmed via ongoing verification following a rigorous application process. This will be a significant accomplishment in repurposing of an approximately 100-year-old heritage building into a state-of the-art facility.

Across the project, the use of locally sourced materials reduced emissions associated with supply chain logistics. The culmination of the project’s environmental goals has been recognized by the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), which awarded its highest level of certification, Envision Platinum.

“We are very pleased to have achieved such remarkable recognition for our sustainability efforts during planning, design and construction of this critical project,” said Gilles Assier, project director with VFPA. “It was made possible thanks to a concerted team effort and leadership towards our vision.”


Centerm Expansion, Vancouver, B.C.

Award-winning firm (prime design consultant): Hatch, Vancouver, B.C. (Adam Neale, P.Eng.; Matthias Yu, P.Eng., C.Eng., MIStructE; Byron Cline, P.Eng.; Jackson Bryla, EIT; Chadd Novich, P.Eng.; Gharandip Bawa, P.Eng.; Sara Fumagalli-Hui, P.Eng.).

Owner: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

Other key players: Moffatt & Nichol (on terminal engineering), VIA – A Perkins Eastman Studio (buildings design), EXP (geotechnical consultant), Ausenco (environmental consultant), Centennial Expansion Partners joint venture between Dragados Canada, Jacob Brothers Construction and Fraser River Pile & Dredge (FRPD) (client), AECOM (owner’s engineer), WSP (owner’s project management services), Trelleborg (marine fendering), Musco (high-mast light towers), Valmont (poles), Gantrex (gantry cranes), Trane (building air-handling units), Con-Force (precast bridge girders), Langley Concrete (precast concrete products), Schneider Electric (shore power), Camco (gate equipment).


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