A Massachusetts jury has awarded a multimillion-dollar verdict to a pair of marine contractors who say they encountered boulders where sand and silt was supposed to be when dredging New Bedford harbor for a new port terminal.
Cashman Dredging and Marine Co. and Weeks Marine Inc. have won a $21.3 million judgement in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston against the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the quasi-state agency that oversaw the work on the $113-million New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal.
Lawyers for the contractors successfully argued that MassCEC, as it is known, underestimated the amount of work needed to dredge the harbor and then refused to pay the additional money the contractors said they needed to finish the job.
But MassCEC insists it was the contractors who were at fault with errors in their analysis of the project and construction, leading to increased costs for the state.
“While disappointed in last week's ruling, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is reviewing its options for appeal and remains committed to advancing the clean energy industry in Massachusetts while helping the Commonwealth meet its climate goals,” said Craig Gilvarg, a spokesman for MassCEC, in a statement.
However, the contractors paint a much different picture, arguing problems with the dredging project began when bidders were given inaccurate geotechnical surveys.
While MassCEC characterized the area to be dredged mainly silt, sand and gravel, the contractors, in their 2016 lawsuit filed in state court, stated that after they began work in 2014 “they began encountering large quantities of cobbles and boulders of a size far beyond that which a reasonable contractor would expect.”
Work on the terminal project was completed in 2015. After initially struggling financially, the port terminal has since bounced back.
MassCEC last fall inked an 18-month lease with Vineyard Wind at an annual rate of $6 million.
Starting Dec. 1, 2020, Vineyard Wind will use the New Bedford port terminal for staging and deployment of an 800-megawatt offshore wind project now underway.