Port of Alaska Wins Lawsuit Against MARAD

Cook Inlet Tug & Barge
Cook Inlet Tug & Barge
The Cook Inlet Tug & Barge-operated boat Glacier Wind at the Port of Alaska. Photo by Casey Conley.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims in December ruled in favor of Anchorage in its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration (MARAD) concerning the Port of Alaska, which the city operates.

In a legal matter that had been pending before the court for seven years, the federal claims court found that MARAD breached its contract with Anchorage by failing to provide design, construction and project management services free of defects for the port’s intermodal expansion project.

The project was in the works for more than a decade and originally expected to be completed by 2011. It first overseen by MARAD until the US Army Corps of Engineers took control in May 2012. The expansion was originally expected to cost $360 million, but cost estimates later jumped to about $1 billion.

Three of four new sections built under the Maritime Administration’s watch were not constructed correctly, and due to shifting land, could fail during an earthquake, according to a $2.2 million, 2,200-page sustainability study that was conducted by engineering firm CH2M Hill on behalf of MARAD and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The study, which was released in November 2012, was requested by the Corps after it assumed control of the project.

Port of Alaska terminal
A map showing Port of Alaska terminal facilities. Graphic via Port of Alaska.

Anchorage sued the Maritime Administration over its handling of the expansion in February 2014.

“The Port of Alaska is a vital piece of infrastructure for all Alaskans, with roughly 90% of our population touched by goods that come through the port. This is a victory for Alaska,” Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said. “The court’s decision comes at a crucial time as we are working with state and federal partners to secure nearly $1.6 billion to repair the port, to ensure our supply chain is kept intact and guarantee food security for our citizens.”

The Court of Federal Claims has yet to issue a final decision regarding damages, but the municipality said in a Dec. 9 statement that it expects the court to release a decision “soon.”