Hitachi Construction Machinery - North America
Bringing Resurrection Bay Back to Life
March 27, 2017

A Hitachi EX1200-6 and ZX470LC-5 operated by Hamilton Construction works on a project in Seward, Alaska.

After 18 long years, Seward, Alaska, is finally getting the breakwater it needs to be a competitive ice-free marine industrial port. And Hamilton Construction LLC, armed with Hitachi excavators, has accepted the challenging project.

When it comes to extreme jobs, Jeff Hamilton is in his element. Originally from Skagway, Alaska, Hamilton understands what it takes to successfully complete projects in the region’s tough environment. And he uses Hitachi equipment to get the work done.

Hamilton owns several businesses providing services to the oilfield, manufacturing, marine, mining, quarry development, and railroad industries. However, marine work has been a major focus for him lately. One of his companies, Hamilton Construction LLC, is currently working on the City of Seward’s $20+ million expansion project for the Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC). The SMIC is located on the eastern side of Resurrection Bay and encompasses 15 square miles (38.8 km2) along the coast with direct access to the Gulf of Alaska and the ice-free Port of Seward.

Hamilton Construction LLC put its Hitachi excavators to work on Phase One of the high-profile project in fall 2015; the estimated completion is spring 2017. The company dredged 113,000 cubic yards (86,395 m3) of material to create a new channel into the SMIC basin from the north, and is placing 260,000 tons (235,868 tonnes) of rock to create a 980-foot (298.7 m) rubblemound breakwater extending from the existing sheetpile breakwater. The breakwaters together will enclose roughly 35 acres of water once the rubblemound breakwater is complete. Work yet to be completed includes development of the basin, further repairs to the North Dock and added infrastructure.

One rock at a time

Machine reliability and efficiency is critical, and Hamilton Construction LLC had the iron necessary for the SMIC project’s success.

“If a machine’s not running, it’s not making money,” Hamilton said. “I’ve gone through a lot of different equipment. I look at potential downtime, repairs and operating costs per hour, and I get the biggest bang for my buck out of Hitachi.”

So in fall 2015, the company put its 250,000-lb. (112,000 kg) Hitachi EX1200-6 on the job. The excavator, equipped with a stick extension and 5-cubic-yard (3.8 m3) clamshell, worked relentlessly dredging down 21 feet below the Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) elevation in the harbor to remove approximately 113,000 cubic yards (86,395 m3) of material.

“The 1200 was really productive, and we were getting two barge loads a day of material,” Hamilton said.

With the dredging complete, the EX1200-6 then began building the breakwater. While the breakwater’s core is made of assorted rock and gravel, the outer layer is constructed of armor rock – massive, interlocked 9,000 to 11,000-lb. (4082 to 4990 kg) granite boulders – designed to dissipate the ocean’s waves outside the basin.

Another one of Hamilton’s companies, Hamilton Marine Construction LLC, is barging the armor rock in from Granite Cove Quarry on Kodiak Island, where the company’s ZX870LC-6 is relentlessly producing the massive boulders.

Hamilton Construction LLC switched attachments on the EX1200-6 to a 9-cubic-yard (6.8 m3) bucket with a 13,000-lb. (5897 kg) thumb to do the heavy lifting for the breakwater construction. The machine is placing 2,000 tons (1814 tonnes) of the armor rock per day, with each rock being tediously placed one at a time to ensure that each stone is interlocked to create a solid structure. A ZX470LC-5 stays busy in the background feeding material to the EX1200-6.

Up for the challenge

The SMIC expansion project has required extensive logistics and comes with its share of challenges. Fortunately, this type of work is Hamilton Construction LLC’s specialty.

One of the challenges is simply the location of the project. The EX1200-6 and ZX470LC-5 are working on barges, which don’t exactly sit still.

“We’re dealing with ocean swells,” Hamilton said. “At any second you can move up to 8 feet. You have to overcompensate for the swells as you’re dredging and placing rocks. You can never sit still; you’re always moving.”

To help combat the movement, the company connected four, 15,000-lb. (6804 kg) anchors via cables to help stabilize the barges. Additionally, the anchor cables help soften the blows from the swells.

Hamilton Construction LLC is also using technology to its advantage. An excavator positioning system – using real-time GPS, heading sensors and inclinometers – is installed on the EX1200-6 to gain visibility on the basin floor. A computer monitor in the cab displays a design model for both the dredging and rock placement activities. The display updates when material is removed and shows the operator where rocks should be placed for the breakwater.

“Using the GPS for underwater visibility has helped us be even more productive and efficient on this project,” Hamilton said.

Although it’s a challenging project, the SMIC expansion will bring Resurrection Bay back to life by providing major benefits for not only the City of Seward, but also for the state. According to the City of Seward, the expansion of the harbor area will allow 300-ton (272 tonne) boats to enter the harbor safely, and will bring a boost to the economy and workforce.

Rugged reliability

For his wide range of work, Hamilton is a big believer in Hitachi equipment. His companies have a lineup of 17 Hitachi excavators and counting, ranging from an EX120 (with about 10,000 hours) up to an EX1800 (with about 16,000 hours). And this fleet has the durability needed for his aggressive work.

“I do a lot of rock work, and I’m hard on equipment,” Hamilton said. “I don’t deal with little rocks! I love challenging and aggressive work, and Hitachi is the only one that can handle it. They’re tough machines.”

Hamilton has worked with his Hitachi dealer CMI Equipment for more than 25 years, and said he looks forward to continuing the longstanding partnership.

“CMI is great to work with, and they’re supporting and keeping up with my business expansion,” he said. “All of my Hitachi machines have come from CMI. When it comes to excavators, Hitachi is the only one I’ll buy. I don’t have to think twice – I always go with Hitachi.”

Hamilton Construction LLC is serviced by Construction Machinery Industrial LLC, Anchorage, Alaska.

At a Glance: Seward Marine Industrial Center Expansion

  • $20+ million project (Phase One)
  • 113,000 cu. yds. (86,395 m3) of dredged material
  • 980-ft. (298.7 m) rubblemound breakwater
  • 260,000 tons (235 868 tonnes)of rock for breakwater
  • Enclosing 35 acres of water