Of all of the projects I have worked on throughout my career to-date, one of the most challenging and rewarding has been the construction village on Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia for the multi-billion dollar Gorgon LNG Project.
The $500 million contract for the village, which we at Kentz were awarded together with our joint venture partners Decmil Pty Ltd and Thiess Pty Ltd, involved the design, manufacturing and building of accommodation units for up to 3,300 construction workers involved with the Gorgon project.
Being significantly larger than what many of the team had dealt with previously, this project presented a number of challenges. Its sheer size and complexity meant that lining up the right people in the right place at the right time – a logistical challenge in any project – was especially difficult.
Deadlines with regard to completion of design deliverables, drawings and specifications, which had to be done in time to support the manufacturing and construction phases, were tight.
The project’s complexity was multiplied by several times because of the remoteness of the location and the fact that it was in a natural reserve, which made getting infrastructure, people and materials into place harder.
Finally, the 2,500 accommodation modules needed for the project were designed in the Middle East, meaning that large groups of people had to be managed across different countries and continents.
There are three areas to look at when outlining how these challenges were overcome and what could be learned from the work done.
1) Planning and Forecasting
We were fortunate with regard to this project in that we had a fantastic planner working with us.
The critical path schedule he put together gave us an excellent platform from which we were able to plan out the different milestones we had to meet over the course of the project. It also allowed us to plan out and link the material take-offs for the projects as we generated the early stages of our feed design and our detailed design.
Also, due to our involvement with the actual manufacturing and production of the modules as well as the overall construction of the village, we were able to see that a number of weaknesses emerged when we decided to try to accelerate production of some modules. Because we could also see that we would run into upstream problems if we fell behind schedule, we knew that something had to be done.
Our solution was to make some alterations and come up with a simpler production module, saving us time and allowing us to stick to the schedule in the early stages.
2) Finding the right people
As mentioned, this project was significantly larger than any that many of us had dealt with previously, meaning that getting the right team together was crucial.
Fortunately, one of our joint venture partners is a very large Australian company and had more than ample depth in terms of the human resources available to them.
A critical aspect in this area was making certain we had excellent job descriptions, which had been formulated and developed at an early stage and which were circulated around other departments within the various organisations. These formed the basis of our efforts to try to secure people whose qualifications and expertise were sufficient to help us deliver a project of this scale.
What we found through this is that remarkable feats can be delivered with a team of highly qualified people who are aligned in terms of key objectives.
3) Transport and Logistics
This is one area in which we had to learn some lessons the hard way.
Our modules, each of which weighed 24 tonnes, were first transported by chartered ship to the docks at Henderson near Fremantle. At the shipping yard, we were faced with a problem whereby our accommodation modules had not been designed to be managed by a forklift, and we had failed in our planning to identify that we would need to be able to find ways to pick up and move modules of such weight around the yard. As a result, units had to instead be lifted by crane – a significant addition in terms of time.
Fortunately, we were able to adapt quickly and minimise costs after the first two or three shipments. Importantly, despite having in excess of 150,000 lifts, we had no safety issues or incidents.
Still, this was one aspect of the project where lessons were learned the hard way.
As mentioned earlier, working on this project has been both challenging and rewarding. Hopefully, others embarking on similar large-scale projects in the future can benefit from what we learned.
Tommy Drumm is a senior project director with Kentz Pty Ltd, the Australian operating unit of Kentz Engineering and Construction Group.