International Dredging Review

International Dredging Review

This is an artist’s rendering of the artificial islands being built off the coast of Panama City Panama. Boskalis completed the work for the first islands in 2013 and the company recently received the second contract to begin work later this year.

The dredging company that constructed Latin America’s first modern artificial island has now been contracted to build its second.

Boskalis has secured a contract to build a second manmade island off the coast of Panama City Panama. The first island is already being developed into luxury residences and the second will almost double the number of lots.

The first island was completed by Boskalis and handed over to developers in early 2013; at the time construction was expected to begin on the second island by the start of 2014. However the final contract wasn’t signed until a few weeks ago and reclamation won’t begin until late this year. It is anticipated to take two years to complete.

The second island will be slightly smaller than the first – 21 acres compared to 25 acres. It  will also be somewhat cheaper; the first contract was valued at $80 million and this second contract is currently worth $58 million – a price drop partly related to recent devaluation of the Euro.

The curvy islands are being constructed off of Punta Pacifica which is reigned over by the sail-shaped 70-story Trump Tower – the tallest building in Central America when it opened in 2011. The gated community on the islands aims to capture the same elite status as the tower that shadows them. The first island has been divided into 72 lots each of which will contain a luxury two-story home. The second island when completed will accommodate 66 more homes. In addition to homes the islands will contain parks recreation facilities and a private marina with 220 slips. It will also contain an underground passageway with electric cars to transit workers to and from the marina without disturbing the exclusive community by passing through it above ground according to a 2013 story by the World Property Journal.

Boskalis’ first contract to build the Ocean Reef Island complex was with developer Grupo Los Pueblos. In a press release Boskalis said its second contract is with affiliated company Compañía Insular Americana S.A.

In an email to IDR Boskalis corporate communications manager Arno Schikker said that the company expects to use similar technology and methodology with the second island as it used to complete the engineering feat of the first island.

“Except for any unpredictable weather influences we do not expect new challenges with the construction of the second island compared to the first” Schikker stated.

Both islands’ foundation is a robust rock dike. The strength of the dike is crucial to ensure the safety of the new islands Jose Fierro project manager at Grupo los Pueblos told IDR in 2013.

“The islands are in the Pacific and we have two tides a day that go from zero to 14 or 16 feet so the form of the island and the shape are designed to absorb the energy of these waves” Fierro said.

As IDR reported in 2013 the first island required dredging more than 575000 cubic meters of the muddy bottom of the bay using a 2000-cubic-meter (2600-cubic-yard) hopper dredge Flevo and clamshell rig Alex deepening the area by three meters (10 feet).

Then Boskalis shaped the perimeter of the island with a rock dike. Some 650000 cubic meters (850000 cubic yards) of rocks were staged and loaded onto both split and flattop barges at the Port of Vacamonte. Those barges then transported the rocks the 15 nautical miles to Punta Pacifica for handling by clamshell rig Alex. The split barges carried small and medium-sized rocks weighing between two and 130 lbs. which formed the core of the dike and then flattop barges transformed larger rocks to blanket the outside and top of the dike. The outermost layer consisted of armor stones of up to four tons – the largest were placed on the edge of the island that is most commonly blasted by large waves.

The dike was draped with a geotextile designed to allow for the flow of water but not grains of sand. This was necessary because the next step of creating the new island entailed filling the “bathtub” created by the dyke with 1.45 million cubic meters (1.9 million cubic yards) of sand. That sand was dredged from a site 64 miles away in the Archipelago Las Perlas by Boskalis’ 12000-cubic-meter (15700-cubicyard) hopper dredge Gateway – Boskalis will use the same site to extract sand for the second island Schikker said. For the first island Gateway pumped the sand in from two miles offshore through 10500 feet of submerged and floating line. Schikker said a similarly sized trailing hopper dredge will be used in this second round.

As IDR reported in 2013 the sand collection transportation and pumping was the most time-sensitive piece of the project because the pumping could only take place at high tide twice a day. This required crews to work 24 hours a day for about four months.

Once it had filled the “bathtub” the sand had to be compacted. Boskalis contracted the German company Bauer Group to employ large vibrating pins for that purposes. These pins were inserted some 12000 times into the sand shaking the sand into a nearly solid structure and protecting it from earthquakes up to 6.1 on the Richter scale.

The second island will use this same method. Because it’s slightly smaller than the original island its dike will require 600000 cubic meters (780000 cubic yards) of rock slightly less than the first island. That dike will be filled with 1.3 million cubic meters (1.7 million cubic yards) of sand. The first island is connected to the mainland with a 160-meter (525-foot) bridge; a second bridge of the same size will connect the first island to the second.

“Based on our experience with the first island we further optimized our work method and equipment” said Schikker by email. “On this project we will be deploying tugboats and barges to transport the 600000 cubic meters of rock and the floating grab crane Alex and excavators to install the rock perimeter.”

When the first island was completed Fierro said one change he expected to make for the second island was to construct jetties off the new island to as a temporary repository for rocks which he said would speed up the dikemaking process and make the construction more time-efficient.

That efficiency will likely be especially appreciated now since the project has advanced more slowly than anticipated. Grupo Los Pueblos initially stated that construction would begin on the second island by January 2014 but that work was delayed by 18 months. Boskalis’s Schikker said the pace of development was tied to the presale of lots which slowed down the contract for the second island. That contract was tied to the first contract whose bidding process was competitive and involved most of the major players in the international dredging industry. Boskalis was not required to go through a competitive bidding process for the second contract said Schikker.

Now that the project is contracted and expected to get underway within a few months things should go smoothly Schikker said.

There appears to be no shortage of demand for the new properties. Boskalis’ press release stated that the “land reclamation project is driven by the necessity to create land to accommodate population growth in a densely populated region.”

The new project which is costing hundreds of millions of dollars to develop will bring 138 new homes to a metropolitan area that according to the CIA Factbook is populated by 1.426 million people. In October 2014 publication NuWire Investor reported that homes on the island were going for between $2 million and $4 million although property sales are not made public in Panama. As of last April the New York Times reported 63 lots had been sold 56 to Panamanians