Another Gulf setback for Leighton

Leighton said today that Al Habtoor Leighton, along with JV partners Murray & Roberts and Takenaka, had withdrawn from the Dubai Airport Concourse 3 project because they were unable to conclude an acceptable contract with the developer, the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation.Al Habtoor Leighton, which is 45%-owned by Leighton Holdings, had a 40% share in the airport JV.Leighton said the withdrawal from the airport project would not have a material impact on Al Habtoor Leighton’s 2009 results.The contract withdrawal follows the suspension late last year of the construction of Dubai’s Trump Tower project, stalling a contract worth $560 million to Al Habtoor Leighton.Al Habtoor Leighton still has billions of dollars of work in hand, including the $3.7 billion Dubai Pearl development and a half-share of the $1.3 billion Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

Mining contractors, employees on double the national wage: ABS

In a preliminary report on employee earnings released yesterday, the ABS said less than one-fifth, or 19.1%, of Australian workers earned more than $1400 a week. Mine workers beat that figure, earning an average of $2038.30 a week, more than four times the average wage of accommodation and food industry workers, who took in a much smaller weekly wage of $451.60. The results, from an August 2008 survey, found that adult full-time employees – who make up the majority of the workforce – received average total cash earnings of $1258.60 each week, compared to $964.80 for all employees. “Average weekly total cash earnings was higher for full-time male employees,” the ABS noted, with this group receiving $1335.20. Meanwhile, female employees earned $254.30, or 19.1%, less a week, with an average of $1080.90. In a surprising statistic, female part-time employees earned slightly more than male part-time employees – with a $448.50 average for women compared to $421.00 for men. The ABS said final estimates of the survey will be published in Employee Earnings and Hours, Australia, August 2008, to be released in June.

Trenching contractors cautiously optimistic about broadband plan

The government has said it plans to begin rolling out the network as early as next year, but whether this translates to “shovel-ready” work, is another matter, according to the Australasian Society for Trenchless Technology (ASTT).“It seems very expensive for what it is, and in the absence of some detail, we’d be keen to see what’s wrapped up in it all,” ASTT representative in Western Australia Trevor Gosatti told CIN.He said many trenchless contractors would want to know whether the new network would be put through the existing cable, or whether new lines would be installed. “But a lot of big companies that do this sort of underground services work would be pretty happy about it if they were putting new cables in,” Gosatti said. “It is good news, and hopefully there’ll be a lot of work for trenchless contractors to lay the lines,” he said. “But the devil is in the detail, and it’ll be interesting to see if it’s included in this year’s budget, or whether it’s planned to happen in six years time.“And I’m a great lover of new technology, but there have been a lot of questions as to whether cable is the future or whether wireless is the future,” Gosatti told CIN. “There’s a lot of cable in the ground now, and they’re saying we’ve got to put this new one in. How long ago was the old one put in? Not that long ago.”

Self-erector speeds walkway job

Hutchinson Builders designed and built the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway for Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. The 420m walkway is located in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area, 30 kilometres west of Innisfail in Far North Queensland. It comprises platforms, interconnecting bridges and 30 towers, including a 37m high main tower.Access restrictions dictated the walkway be constructed with modest component weights, for ease of transport and erection. Access was better than normal because of damage wreaked by Cyclone Larry, which opened up the canopy and allowed the self-erecting crane to be used. The crane was powered by a specially built trailer-mounted enclosed generator set with a sump that eliminated the potential for oil leaks into the rainforest. The maximum crane radius was 40m, at which 1750kg could be lifted. Not all lifts were at maximum radius, but the job was planned so that components were close to the maximum weight that could be lifted at the available radius. A prime mover was used to relocate the crane 13 times over the nine-month duration of the project.Although rain was probably the main difficulty during construction, it was found that by regularly maintaining the roadway through the forest (decomposed granite 400mm thick), conventional vehicles could be used.All footings were built first, then the tower crane was returned to the start of the walkway and used to build the towers, then the walkways. Components were lifted above the tree canopy and then positioned and lowered into place. Up to three tower and deck sections could be installed in a day.Arup acted as consulting engineers for the structural aspects of the project, while Golders consulted on geotechnical aspects to ensure footings were adequate.Steel components were fabricated by Tedesco Structural & General Engineering in Innisfail and Fitzroy Fabrications in Cairns, and galvanised before transport to site. Height safety was important, and Tedesco and Hutchinson staff devised a small platform with eight hinged legs that could be lowered inside the tower by crane (with legs retracted), then nested in the tower by using a rope release to allow the legs to swing out and rest on the tower frame. Riggers could work from this platform to bolt the next section of towers without the need to hang from harnesses.

Konecranes unveils audit service to Aussie market

The survey helps Australian crane owners ensure adherence to Australian Standard AS 2550.3.“We can offer a comprehensive and dependable CRS process to ensure your cranes meet and exceed the required performance and safety levels,” Konecranes national sales manager Bill Shukla said.The survey can be used to audit all makes and models of overhead lifting equipment, he said.According to the company, the CRS provides crane owners with a comprehensive analysis and report, providing a basis for making decisions about the use and maintenance of equipment.“Every crane and situation is different, so each CRS is customised to address the specific concerns and needs of particular industries and particular companies,” Shukla said.“CRS presents the best possible return on capital investment, with better predictability and control over the total cost of ownership.”The audit supplies owners with information on specific repairs and upgrades that may be needed, giving them a long-term maintenance plan.“With this plan, owners can prevent a loss in production revenue by avoiding the unpleasant surprise of a sudden breakdown and the unexpected expense for repairs or replacement of equipment,” Shukla said.“Using this roadmap as a guide, owners can plan future maintenance actions with appropriate timing and scope to ensure compliance to AS 2550.3 Section 7, Continued Safe Use.”

Vortex secures new pipe lining work with Water Corp

Vortex said the contract was worth $350,000 and the company would use its Saertex multiCom fibreglass and resin liner for the work. The liners will be set using Vortex’s ultra-violet light curing technology, which it says will ensure the liners are fitted closely to the inside of the existing pipes.The work involves the refurbishment of 2.3 kilometres of reticulation pipes at various areas across Perth. Vortex managing director Trevor Gosatti said this contract represented a move towards a stronger relationship with the Water Corporation, which is the main asset owner of sewer and water networks in WA.

China stimulus could boost contractors

Last month, FMG cancelled a services contract for its Cloudbreak mine six months early.Civil construction group Brierty said Fortescue issued the company a termination notice over its 11-month mining services contract, cutting short work that was originally to have lasted until August. Brierty said the contract termination was expected to result in around $A12 million in lost revenue for 2009 and the loss of “a significant number of jobs”.This week, Tapp told delegates at the Global Iron & Steel Forecast Conference in Perth week that the whole world, not just iron ore miners, was depending on China’s continued growth.“Doubly so for a company like Fortescue, where 100 per cent of our contracts are with China,” he said.“China’s global iron and steel consumption is double the global average, which says it all as to why China is so important to us.”Tapp, originally an economist, said China’s figures can be awkward to interpret, but its RMB4 trillion ($A832 billion) stimulus package – equating to $US440 per Chinese citizen – should have a positive impact.According to Tapp’s calculations, China’s stimulus package works out to be around 13.2% of its total economy and, more importantly, it is steel intensive.“We are hopeful that investment will carry the economy through until the export market begins to pick up,” he said.Tapp pointed out that fiscal stimulus in China is likely to have a quicker impact on the economy as projects were not bogged down with planning and red tape as they are in other economies.He also said China would be more dependent on Australian iron ore as Chinese iron ore projects typically have lower grades and higher costs.Tapp said while the company was disappointed at not meeting production targets, the focus now was on lowering costs.While the falling Australian dollar partially offset the lower iron ore spot price, Tapp said FMG’s cash costs of $33.90 per tonne for the first half of the 2009 financial year was “unacceptable”.“All of our focus is driving that number back down again,” he said.The company’s use of Wirtgen surface miners had been a “fantastic success,” but Tapp said more than 100 modifications have been made to suit the conditions in the Pilbara.“The next generation coming through will be much more efficient,” he said.Tapp said FMG’s overburden system, which moved ore horizontally via conveyers, drove down costs and eliminated the need for rehabilitation once mining was complete.A desanding plant has recently been commissioned at Cloudbreak.“Before the desanding plant was operating, the Chinese were putting pressure on us to lower the alumina content in the ore we produced,” Tapp said.He said the ore is stripped of some of the silica and alumina through a washing process that upgrades the ore quality.“It’s not an expensive operation but it wasn’t ready when we started mining.”Tapp said until the plant was ready, the company had been selectively mining higher-grade ore, which pushed cash costs higher.“So the desanding plant coming into operation is going to lower our mining costs.”Tapp said FMG has the largest landholding in the Pilbara and, while it had discovered 4 billion tonnes of iron ore in five years at a discovery cost of less than 2c per tonne, much of its land remained underexplored.

NEWEST & BRIGHTEST: Get a grip in both directions

Bridgestone senior manager Paul Comninos said VJT’s innovative tread pattern ensured the same high traction moving forward or backward, for extra rimpull and productivity.“In addition, a larger tread volume compared with the VMT design results in significantly slower wear rates,” he said. “This larger tread volume and slower wear rate gives extended tyre life.”Comninos said the VJT’s sidewalls had been shaped to minimise damage from cutting, with cut resistance further enhanced by protectors to guard against tears and cuts due to heavy loads. “The new design also features more rigid sidewalls, meaning fewer sidewall cuts – again increasing tyre life – but also reduced vibration, for greatly improved operator comfort,” he said.“Bridgestone’s tyre design engineers have paid particular attention to reducing vibration – and therefore increasing operator comfort – through the use of two separate reinforcement systems designed to provide extra-low vibration.” VJT tyres are available in the popular sizes for mid-sized wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks, including 20.5R25* (loader only), and 23.5R25 MS* and 26.5R25 MS* (loader and articulated dump truck).

Record breakers

A market has emerged for hammers in the seven-tonne and upwards class, which generally require a host machine in the 65-80t class. This does not seem to be an obstacle for the contractors who have bought these machines, as the productivity of the larger option seems to far outweigh their additional cost.Atlas Copco, Sandvik (formerly Rammer) and Indeco have all sold machines of this size in Australia, and competition is certainly strong between those brands not just at the upper end but across the range.The bulk of these have been sold into Victoria, and Tino Vinella of Victorian Sandvik hammer dealer Walkers Hammers told Contractor he believed the first of these was a Rammer G130 sold to contractor Paul Doherty for use on a 65t Hitachi ZX650H excavator. At the time of purchase, Doherty was looking for something larger than the 3.15t Rammer G90 City hammer that he had mounted on a 30t Hitachi excavator. The G90 had proved a good, reliable hammer but a deep rock excavation project was testing its capabilities and in the worst conditions only a single 2.4m pipe was being laid in a day. By doubling the size of excavator and hammer, it was possible to increase production to six 2.4m pipe lengths per day. Melbourne has a wide range of ground conditions, but the northern and western suburbs contain some very hard rock that, in a non-urban environment, would probably be blasted.Vinella says the larger excavators are still relatively easy to transport, but the productivity gains of larger hammers have made a big impact over the past two years.Atlas Copco offers the HB 7000 in the 7t breaker class and has several units working in Australia. It is also due to introduce a new breaker, the HB 3600, to fill a gap between the HB 3000 and HB 4200 in its heavy breaker line-up (the model designation roughly equates to the operating weight in kilograms).Waiting in the wings is the model HB 10000, which at 10t is claimed to be the largest production breaker in the world (Indeco is believed to have an even larger prototype operating in the United States).Features of the Atlas Copco heavy breaker (HB) range include the optional DustProtector II system for preventing dust and foreign bodies from entering the lower breaker section; the ContiLube II automatic lubrication unit that uses replaceable cartridges and delivers chisel paste only as required; the VibroSilenced damping system; the AutoControl automatic stroke-switching system that maximises percussive performance, reduces energy on blank strokes and starts the breaker in short-stroke mode to facilitate centring; and PowerAdapt, which avoids excessive pressure when the hammer is shifted between different excavators that may have different hydraulic settings.The HB 10000 has a single-blow energy of more than 16,000 joule (25% higher than the HB 7000), and in some applications has doubled the production of the HB 7000. The increased availability of large excavators around the world has made it possible to release a hammer of this size, but Atlas Copco will only bring it to Australia in circumstances where it can back the hammer up adequately and owners agree to maintain the hammer under an Atlas Copco ProCare service package.This seems to be a universal concern of the major brands – that a new model is not introduced to Australia until parts and training are in place to support it, and that adequate ongoing maintenance is performed on large hammers in particular, because of the dollars tied up in the investment.Where the required maintenance includes regular return of a breaker to the workshop, then this would seem to preclude these hammers from working on remote pipeline projects and the like unless an exchange unit was available – something that is difficult to achieve in a unit where the total market is very small and the investment can be in six figures.Indeco is the most recent entrant in the large hammer market, with three HP12000 rock breakers now operating in the Melbourne region. Two of these are with Azzona Drainage and the other is with Armstrong Constructions, and all are working on deep rock trenching in the west of Melbourne. The HP12000 weighs 7.8t, stands 4m high, has a 215mm chisel, and has a power rating of 18,900 joules and a strike rate up to 550 blows per minute.The machines have impressed with their reliability and performance in the time that they have been operating, and Indeco says it hopes to sell more of these hammers in Australia in the future.

Connell Wagner merger makes global major

According to Connell Wagner, Africon is South Africa’s largest privately owned infrastructure consultancy, while Ninham Shand is an established engineering and environmental consultancy. The newly created group, called Aurecon, said today it would provide professional technical services on large-scale integrated infrastructure projects to clients across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. The global group, to be headquartered in Singapore, will employ more than 6,700 people across 87 offices in 28 countries. Based on anticipated combined revenues of the combined businesses, it is expected that Aurecon will rank in the top-60 global consulting firms. Paul Hardy, previously chief executive officer and chairman of Connell Wagner, has been appointed Aurecon’s global chief executive officer. The former non-executive chairman of Africon, Jakes Gerwel, will be Aurecon’s non-executive global chairman. Connell Wagner’s history dates back 75 years and before the merger employed 4,200 people spread across a network of 49 offices in 12 countries, including Australasia, South-East Asia, China, India and the Middle East. Africon was established in 1951, and had 1900 employees before the merger, with offices in South Africa, the rest of Africa, and the Middle East. The consultancy specialised in the transportation, property, municipal services, energy, and mining. Ninham Shand had 19 offices spread throughout South Africa and into Lesotho and Mozambique, employing 600 people. The company had a 76-year history and consulted on projects in the areas of water resources and supply, heavy engineering, infrastructure services, structures and buildings, transportation and roads, and environmental science.