For the second time in three years McConnell Dowell has taken out Australia’s pre-eminent engineering construction award, this time for the delivery of Rio Tinto’s Chith Export Facility, near Weipa in Far North Queensland.

The Australian Construction Achievement Award was created by the Australian Constructors Association (ACA) and Engineers Australia to recognise and reward innovation and the highest standard of work in the Australian construction industry.

The winning project comprises a 650m access jetty, a 350m loading wharf and an onshore conveyor system that will service Rio Tinto’s Amrun bauxite mine.

This was a large, complex and remotely located construction project that has revolutionised the design and construction approach for large-scale marine infrastructure delivery.

Innovatively designed by Jacobs, constructed in 10 months by McConnell Dowell and with constructability input and oversight from Bechtel; modularisation was at the heart of the solution, and the project team took it to new levels in scale and breadth.

The 350m wharf structure was split into seven, first-of-a-kind ‘jacket’ modules (the substructure) and six topside modules.

Weighing approximately 680 tonnes each and standing 30m high, the jacket modules with integrated dolphins (Jacketed Wharf with integral Dolphins (JWD)) reduced the number of permanent wharf piles required from 100 to just 28, minimising environmental impact to marine life.

The wharf topside modules, placed on the jackets, ranged from 600 to 1400 tonnes and were fabricated complete with all services, conveyors, concrete roadways and access walkways.

In true ‘plug and play’ fashion, the JWD modules were delivered and installed by a heavy-lift ship in a safe, clean and efficient operation.

The 650m access jetty was constructed using McConnell Dowell’s cantilever traveller frame. Developed for efficiency, repeatability and safety, this method minimised high-risk marine-based construction and saw each complete bent delivered in just three days.

Rio Tinto purposely chose an Early Contractor Involvement approach for the Project and it is an outstanding case study in collaboration, showcasing the benefits of open and respectful relationships between owner, project manager, designer and contractor. The ability to leverage the vast experience and technical acumen from those around the table resulted in the development and delivery of a solution that:

  • saved 300,000 job-hours
  • reduced overall build time by 12 months
  • reduced capital expenditure by $40M
  • reduced environmental impacts
  • and achieved a remarkable safety record of zero Lost Time Injuries.

The CEO of McConnell Dowell, Scott Cummins, said the project once again showcased McConnell Dowell’s leadership in marine construction and the team’s ability to collaboratively develop and implement creative customer-focussed solutions.

In accepting the award, McConnell Dowell’s Project Director Graeme Brown was generous with his thanks and made special mention of the Wik-Waya people of Weipa, the Traditional Owners of the area. The deep understanding and personal interaction between the project’s workforce and the Traditional Owners was a driving force behind the Project’s success.

Commenting on the announcement of the winner, ACA President Craig Laslett said that the winning project showcases the highly innovative solutions, teamwork and skills that constructors develop to overcome the technically challenging issues associated with the construction industry.

The Chair of the Judging Panel, Mark Dohrmann said of the winner: “McConnell Dowell’s execution of this challenging project was a standout for its comprehensive achievement of all the major judging criteria including on-time completion of a difficult and complex construction project in a remote region, timely responses to quality issues overseas, exemplary safety, environmental sensitivity, and close collaboration.”

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Learn more about the Chith Export Facility project here