A completely new type of pier, in connection with a redeveloped port, was unveiled this week by Longyearbyen officials. A pier that can accommodate large cruise ships, store fuel, and house university employees and a laboratory as part of a long-term solution to the city's infrastructure needs.
"The plan is to have the floating dock planning finished during the summer," said Longyearbyen Port Manager Kjetil Bråten. "If we get grant money from the state budget, it hopefully just becomes a matter of pressing 'play.'"
Bråten and the Longyearbyen Community Council have worked for many years trying to find suitable dock options for the city. The reason is the city is struggling to find enough space for boats, especially during peak season. In addition to the significant income generated by cruise ships, local companies have smaller boats that also need berths.
"If we were to build a traditional quay with a 120-meter pier length, we would get exactly that," Bråten said. "With a floating pier of the same length, we will get usage of the quay at both ends of the dock and on the inside. It is nearly the same as a 300-meter quay."
Liner structures used in aquaculture have long been seen as a starting point for investigating local possibilities. Such structures have rooms on top and act as floating installations at facilities such as fish farms.
In addition, city officials have worked at length with The University Centre in Svalbard to assess ice conditions in order to determine how much stress a pier must endure to be sufficiently durable.
"We have spoken with many, but struggled to get someone to put their name on the project because of the uncertainty with respect to the ice," Bråten said. "Therefore, the project was 'put on ice' until we got in contact with engineers at Dr. Techn. Olav Olsen AS."
The company is good at building offshore concrete structures, and has designed platforms and undersea tunnels.
Long ways to go
The result is an advanced floating dock with two interior floors and two endpoint extensions with two to three stories above the pier itself. The combined quay and warehouse facility will also include offices which, in addition to accepting tens of thousands of tourists a year, also will house university staff, students and a laboratory for Arctic marine environment research. The stories of the quay as envisioned will total 10,000 square meters and the weight of the fully-loaded structure will be 35,000 tons.
"There's no point in being sneaky once you get going, Bråten said, laughing.
But he doesn't deny a great deal of work remains. Who will build the colossus is unclear. If and when that happens, the work will be done on the mainland and the quay will be towed at sea up to Longyearbyen.
The cost of the project is also highly uncertain.
Hoping to get blessing
City officials have made considerable progress, but because of the project's uncertain nature kept their cards close to the vest for a long period of time. With specifics now starting to emerge, it is possible to reveal plans to the public while the design work continues.
"We have hopes of getting more money appropriated for harbor development from the state budget for 2016," said Marianne Aasen, head of the city's infrastructure department.
The budget will be submitted and adopted in this fall. Until then, local officials will continuing working with the "hairy" quay possibilities in the hope of making further progress.
"We have worked on this project for a long time and every day that passes we are a notch further," Bråten said. "It is a solution that is exciting for Longyearbyen and Norway, and it can also offer a perspective on solutions for other ports at our latitude."