Portland begins work on cruise ship 'mega-berth'

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PORTLAND — Work on the much-anticipated cruise ship “mega-berth” at Ocean Gateway has started and the governor will be in Portland on Friday to visit the construction site.

The 1,000-foot floating pier will be constructed at the end of the Ocean Gateway terminal on the city’s Eastern Waterfront.

After a few years of unsuccessfully trying to fund construction of the berth, the state earmarked $6.5 million in a transportation bond approved by voters in June. The city had previously applied for federal funds for the pier and also tried to get developers interested in redeveloping the nearby Maine State Pier in 2008 to contribute cash for the project.

The city is banking on the new berth to attract more revenue-producing cruise ships. Larger cruise ships now dock at the Maine State Pier, not Ocean Gateway, which was designed for the now-discontinued Nova Scotia ferry service.

Two-year-old Ocean Gateway, however, is a more modern, attractive terminal. The new berth will accommodate ships of any size.

“It can take them as big as they come,” City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said.

Clegg said the target date for completion of the berth is July 15, 2011. Portland’s cruise ship season traditionally begins in late summer and lasts through the end of October. This year, 71 ships came to port, carrying more than 70,000 visitors.

Reed & Reed of Woolwich is constructing the berth. The company also constructed the $20.7 million main terminal. The city at one time estimated the berth would cost as much as $8 million, but Reed & Reed won the project with a bid of $4.88 million in August.

Although work has already started, a formal ground-breaking ceremony with Gov. John Baldacci, Mayor Nick Mavodones and other officials is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 29, at Ocean Gateway.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net