-consultants say Demerara River cable link damaged by fuel ships
A report by supervising consultants into a multi-billion-dollar contract to build new transmission lines and sub-stations across the coastland, has blasted the Chinese contractor for the absence of vital equipment during the construction
phase. As a result, there were some instances where the construction practices were compromised.
The project was part of a number of initiatives by Government and the state-owned Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) to prepare the latter for hydro-electric energy as well to modernize operations.
The report, dated November 2014, was submitted to the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) by Caribbean Engineering and Management Consultants, Inc. (CEMCO), a local firm that had partnered with SMP Engineering, a Canadian outfit, to supervise the project.
The US$42M Chinese-funded infrastructural project was awarded to China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation (CMC), a engineering spare parts company, to build a high voltage 69 kV transmission lines and associated 69/13.8 kV substations. It also involved the interconnection of the Berbice Interconnected System (BIS) and the Demerara Interconnected System (DIS), and the installation of a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to help control the network.
Citing scores of deviations from the agreement, the consultants disclosed that CMC used local contractors to construct the transmission lines.
The consultants said that they were of the opinion this was temporary as special equipment was being shipped.
“While the consultants were of the impression that this was to have been only an initial step to expedite the commencement of the construction activities as the CMC’s sub-contractors had not yet received their equipment from China, local contractors were retained to complete the entire construction.”
The consultants said while the local contractor had the skills and experience in the type of construction, the lack of some of the specialized equipment needed proved a problem.
“As a result of the lack of the equipment, there were some instances where the construction practices were compromised, mainly in stringing conductors which may have resulted in some damage to the conductor finish.”
The same report had criticized the choice of CMC, saying it was found that the contractor was a trading company and had engaged a number of sub-contractors to perform every aspect of the design-build contract, except for purchases of goods.
The consultants were critical about the difficulties they encountered in determining that the equipment installed met international standards.
As a matter of fact, the materials used by CMC were of poor quality.
“The material used for construction of the equipment for the substations was visibly affected by accelerated corrosion during and immediately after construction. This was documented as deficiencies in cases where partial taking over certificates were issued for section of the works.”
According to the report, GPL and CMC agreed on a solution to this problem after an independent inspection was conducted.
“Tests of equipment before and after energization were conducted and most of the test results were acceptable. However, the test equipment did not have valid calibration certificates, which means that the tests’ results had to be qualified.”
As a matter of fact, the report said, endorsement of results obtained for equipment tests done prior to commissioning was compromised by the fact that test equipment did not have valid calibration certificates in all instances as required by the contract and accepted best practices, despite repeated reminders to CMC.
Another major problem facing the project and its management was that CMC and the sub-contractors faced difficulties in communicating.
“Communications in English, translations in particular, was not in keeping with international standards, even though there were exceptions. This resulted in some instances of misinterpretation and difficulty in reaching solution to contentious issues. Generally, the contractor’s construction supervisors/foremen and engineers were not capable of communicating in English and so language translators were used, but even the translators were not all adequately capable and discussions took excessive time…”
OVERHEAD RIVER LINK
Meanwhile, the report also raised questions about the installation of a second submarine cable across the Demerara River. This one crossed Kingston, Georgetown to Vreed-en-Hoop, West Bank Demerara.
The consultants urged that it be re-examined.
“It is generally good practice to have redundant feeds for cables as the time to locate and repair faults can result in extended outages. With a submarine cable this can result in even more extended outages.”
The report pointed out that in addition, it is possible that the life of the cable may have been compromised during installation due to the methods employed and possible dragging of the cables by fuel boats that were traversing the Demerara River.
As an alternative to a second submarine cable, GPL may have to consider an overhead transmission line at a suitable point along the Demerara River, the consultants urged.
The report had blistered the Chinese contractor and noted that the pre-qualification or post-qualification assessments were either not performed or inadequately performed during the tender and selection phase of the project.
The evidence was clear that CMC was ill-prepared for what it takes to run a project of this magnitude.
The report, which was seen by Kaieteur News, would come to light at a time when CMC has submitted bids for a major US$18M project with the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL).
There has been a growing intolerance of poor quality by contractors of state projects.
In addition to corruption, investigations have found poor monitoring by supervising engineers.
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