Cape Romain Contractors, Inc. is a venerable firm with a speciality in heavy highway bridge services and marine construction giving it a major presence on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. Formed just after World War Two, the Wando, South Carolina-based company counts an impressive list of high-profile clients, from the U.S. Navy to the Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The company specializes in design-build projects involving pier and bridge construction, pile driving, underwater construction, marine salvage, marine towing, subaqueous crossings and pipelines. The common thread in most of the most of these projects is the presence of water, which makes sense given that the firm is based on South Carolina’s coastline. While many of Cape Romain’s customers are located in its home state, the company has also worked extensively in North Carolina and Georgia.
Cape Romain was founded in 1946 by brothers James H. DuPre and Andrew ‘Binks’ DuPre. At the time, James was a civil engineering graduate while Andrew managed the Cape Romain and Bull’s Island National Wildlife Refuge. The original corporate name was the Cape Romain Land Development and Engineering Company.
At first, the company built dikes and did various water control projects, with a focus on developing duck and fish ponds in the area. Cape Romain also promoted wildlife conservation practices – a forward-thinking approach for the time.
The brothers later split up, with James DuPre setting up a utility construction firm of his own while Binks DuPre forged ahead with Cape Romain. Over the decades, the focus of the firm shifted from conservation to coastal construction work. When Binks DuPre died in 1979, his son Andrew ‘Tin’ DuPre took over the company.
Tin DuPre, who had already been working for the firm, expanded its reach and reputation even farther. In 2002, Anthony ‘Sonny’ DuPre Jr. became company president, serving until 2015. He was succeeded by his brother, Andrew G. DuPre that year.
Cape Romain has a team of engineers, project managers and superintendents who can carry out projects from concept to finish. The firm’s engineers utilize AutoCAD software among other technologically advanced tools.
The firm owns its equipment, from 250-ton cranes to pile-driving hammers, tugboats and barges. On the marine contracting front, the company owns a fleet of 150 to 800 horsepower tugs. It takes on marine projects involving port facilities, bridges, submerged utility crossings and more.
Cape Romain is an expert bridge builder. The company can construct anything from large structural steel bridges to concrete girder bridges and smaller-sized, flat-slab and cored-slab bridges. As a sub-specialty, it replaces railroad bridges. Cape Romain began working on railroad bridges in the 1970s, with the Bushy Park Canal Railroad Bridge. Cape Romain has the necessary equipment, including temporary crane access trestles, to move cranes over wetlands to construct such bridges.
The company also has a flair for trip walls, which are barriers common to coastal areas, installed to decrease wave load on structures situated behind the walls. This service has taken on new urgency as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) redraws and modifies flood maps of flood-prone areas on the coast. Cape Romain’s team can take on the installation of a trip wall, with an eye to meeting sometimes strict government and community regulations and requirements.
Cape Romain does not only do work above water. The company has skilled marine divers who carry out underwater repairs and construction tasks. This division is capable of welding under the waves and other aquatic services such as underwater pipe repairs, pipe restoration, cable installation and marine salvage.
The company’s equipment operators have industry certification and are highly qualified. Cape Romain retains a full-time safety director to ensure all work is performed with minimal injuries and mishaps, a safety focus that is shared by management. The company also belongs to several industry associations, including the American Subcontractors Association, Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA) and the Carolinas AGC (Associated General Contractors).
The Cape Romain has undertaken a wide breadth of project types. Last year, for example, the firm did a big job at the CSX Railroad Bridge in Ideal, Georgia. Among other things, it replaced a single-track timber trestle with a much stronger new trestle featuring a steel-supported structure. The project was competed June 2017.
That same year, Cape Romain served as a subcontractor on a project to install a flat-slab bridge to replace a culvert across Deep Creek, located in Florence County, SouthCa. The project owner was the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), and this particular undertaking was completed April 2017. The venture involved staged construction – so traffic could be accommodated, demolition of the existing culvert and temporary shoring.
Cape Romain is presently involved in a huge SCDOT project to improve road access on I-26 leading to a terminal in North Charleston, South Carolina that is still under construction but has a scheduled completion date of 2020. It has been working on two separate bridge structures for this enormous task. Concrete pilings, steel pilings and temporary crane trestles are all involved.
The company has also worked for transportation departments in North Carolina and Georgia, as well as North Carolina Ports, South Carolina Ports, the Georgia Ports Authority, Charleston County Parks & Recreation and Charleston Water System. Federal government clients include the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
Cape Romain’s quality workmanship and commitment to the industry has not gone unrecognized. In 2016, the Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA) awarded Sonny DuPre the John T. Parker, Jr. Industry Ambassador Award. The honour is given annually “to an individual who shares John Parker’s passion for this industry – someone who has represented and promoted pile driving in a way that reflects the highest standards of our industry,” states the PDCA.
No doubt Cape Romain will retain that passion as it approaches its 75th anniversary in the business.