Customer: Australian Defence Force
Location: Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu, Palau, Solomon Islands
Contract: Design and Construct
McConnell Dowell is proud to be upgrading marine infrastructure for nine Pacific Island countries as part of the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP).
McConnell Dowell Managing Director for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Fraser Wyllie said the project aligned perfectly with the company's capabilities and values. “With our strength in marine construction and our established networks in the Pacific, this project is a perfect fit. We have a strong track record for delivering logistically challenging marine projects and our vision is to build a better life across the Pacific.”
The wharf upgrades are designed to accommodate the Australian-gifted Guardian-class Patrol Boats (GPBs). Each Pacific Island country will use the GPBs to monitor their exclusive economic zones, help prevent smuggling and illegal fishing, and assist with search and rescue operations. Each wharf has unique facilities and requires different upgrades, but the overall scope is to provide safe berthing and mooring facilities, as well as access and services for maintenance and provisioning for the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
Work was split into nine packages, one package per location, and includes piling, sheet piling, installing wharf furniture, electrical and hydraulic services, dredging, structural steelwork, and concreting, to be completed with a mixture of marine and onshore plant. The project has been managed from the newly established Fiji office, which offers easy transport links to most of the Pacific and serves to strengthen McConnell Dowell's presence in the Pacific.
The design and construct contract was awarded by the Australian Government in April 2019. The project team completed a six-month-long design and procurement period and had mobilised at several sites when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
Construction already underway in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands was put on hold and sites were shut down. When many of the borders reopened around mid-2022 the teams remobilised and restarted construction according to each county’s codes and regulations.
Covid 19 was a unique and unexpected challenge but logistics and labour also presented both risks and opportunities.
McConnell Dowell takes a holistic approach to managing risk and is constantly looking for ways to turn challenges into opportunities. Infrastructure construction in the Pacific presents unique logistical challenges but local knowledge and strong relationships with local suppliers, built over 50 years working in the region, have inspired some great initiatives.
One example is the on-island concrete batching plant MCD established in Tonga that minimised environmental impacts and maximised social and economic benefits. Setting up the plant created jobs, opportunities to upskill, and used local materials, all of which contributed to positive broader social outcomes.
MCD has also used predominantly local labour on the project and the team continues to train and develop local workers wherever possible. Social procurement is also important and the team works hard to find local suppliers. By using local suppliers and finding efficient ways to transport plant and materials, travel can be kept to a minimum, time and cost saved, and the project's carbon footprint reduced.
The wharf upgrades in Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, and Vanuatu are complete. Delays due to the pandemic and its continued impact on supply chains and the workforce have extended the project’s programme.
Construction is underway in the Solomon Islands and Palau and work will be completed by mid-2024. The team will also mobilise to Tuvalu to begin work in early 2024 and to Vanuatu to repair the wharf which sustained damage during Cyclone Judy last year. The full scope of work across all nine Pacific Islands will be completed by late 2025.