Centennial Pier
(1958-1970)

Centennial Pier was so named to mark BC’s 1958 Centennial. Construction began in 1956 and when completed two years later; the new $5 million break-bulk facility included four German-built dockside cranes with a lifting capacity of 5 tons, covered storage (Shed 2) for 200,664 sf (18,580 sq m) of cargo, and outdoor storage space for another 250,830 sf (23,255 sq m) of cargo.[i]

 

Ten years later in 1966, Centennial Pier was further expanded through the construction of a million-dollar 97,000 sf (9,000 sq m) transit shed (Shed 1). The concrete flooring - 506 ft (154 m) long by 191 ft (58 m) wide - was laid with steel-framed walls and roof supporting a concrete roof deck for a 250-car park. The Heatley Avenue overpass was extended to the car deck with pedestrian access to the pier level provided by stairs at the north and south ends. At the new Centennial Pier extension just west of the new transit shed, work included erection of a new stationary 300-ton heavy lift crane, costing about $450.000. As the heaviest crane on the Pacific coast at the time (1966), it handled amongst other things, the inward movement of turbine components for the Peace and Columbia River hydroelectric dam projects. [ii]

 

In 1970, the pier began its transformation into the South Shore’s first container terminal.[iii]

 

[i] Delgado, J.P. Waterfront: the illustrated Maritime Story of Greater Vancouver (North Vancouver, BC: Stanton, Acton & Dosil Publishers, 2009) p 134

[ii] The Province (Vancouver, BC: August 24, 1966) p 13

[iii] The Province (Vancouver, BC: May 30, 1970) p 24

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Notable Events

Famed U.S. Submarine pays visit

One of the oldest commissioned U.S. Navy submarines, the USS Bluegill (SS 242) berthed at Centennial Pier for the weekend of August 15-16, 1964, and opened for general visiting between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

A Gato-class submarine, the Bluegill was commissioned in 1943 and had a distinguished war career in the Pacific, sinking 10 ships for a total of 46,212 tons, including the Japanese light cruiser Yubari. On her sixth and final patrol in 1945, her crew swarmed ashore with small arms and sabers to capture Pratas Atoll, a Japanese radio and weather station in the South China Sea. Seven years later, the Bluegill was converted to a hunter-killer submarine. After her 1964 visit, Bluegill again saw wartime service during the Vietnam War. In 1969, she was decommissioned and scuttled off Lahaina, Maui, HI for use in underwater rescue training in 1971. Finally in 1983, the ex-Bluegill was raised and towed to deep water where she was sunk with military honors.[i]

At the time of her 1964 visit to Vancouver, Lieut.-Cmdr. H.E. Robisch was Bluegill’s commanding officer.[ii]

Massive Steel Girders for Portland Freeway

In 1970, Canron Ltd. delivered on two contracts for the supply of steel to the Oregon Department of Transportation worth a combined value of $19 million. In one contract, worth $6 million, Canron completed all of the fabrication work using imported Japanese raw steel.  The second $13 million order, Japanese sub-contractors fabricated complete bridge girders, which Canron tested, assembled, sand blasted, and painted at its Western Bridge Division plant on the Fraser River. The steel girders were then shipped by deep-sea barge to Portland and incorporated into the interchanges at either end of the Freemont Bridge across the Willamette River. [iii]

On May 6, 1970, the first of a series of seven steel shipments arrived from Japan – not full cargoes but deck loads of that number. The steel was unloaded from the MS Spruce at Centennial Pier using the 300-ton heavy lift crane. The 145 ft (44 m), 90-ton curved steel beams were then trucked over city streets to Canron Ltd.’s plant. By the end of the contract, there will also have been about six shiploads of raw steel, all together about 22,000 tons.[iv]

 

[i] http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08242.htm accessed October 20, 2022

[ii] The Province (Vancouver, BC: August 15, 1964) p 19

[iii] The Province (Vancouver, BC: June 19, 1970) p 19

[iv] The Province (Vancouver, BC: November 14, 1970) p 22

The Pier