Kings of the (New) castle: Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group and Aurecon Hatch

"Ahead of schedule. Below budget." These are welcome words to any project manager. Add "outstanding quality" and "exemplary safety" and you begin to capture the remarkable results achieved by the Aurecon Hatch joint venture in support of Stage One of the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group's (NCIG) Coal Export Terminal (CET) on Kooragang Island in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

Making these accomplishments even more noteworthy is the fact that the NCIG greenfield terminal represents the largest single-stage development of a new coal terminal of its type in history, with an estimated capacity of 30 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa).

An initiative of this size never comes without challenges. A massive four-year program of dredging about six million cubic metres of sediments from the Hunter River was undertaken to both widen and deepen its southern arm in order to accommodate the loading of large Cape-class bulk vessels at the terminal. The project also faced significant geotechnical challenges, stemming from Kooragang Island's original formation from a number of smaller islands, and the fact that the site was used as a contaminated waste dumping ground between 1960 and 1990. An accelerated project schedule, combined with a shortage of sands from dredging, necessitated the development of a faster ground improvement technique and an innovative construction method designed to accommodate long-term settlement.

Aurecon Hatch's involvement in Stage One of this three-stage project was comprehensive, ranging from preparation of the initial project concept in 2005 prefeasibility and detailed feasibility studies, to oversight of geotechnical investigations and dredging and fill-materials management, to provision of full-scope engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services through completion in 2010. Aurecon Hatch also helped NCIG to negotiate with the New South Wales government for the land lease.

A distinguishing feature of the program was the team's ability to reduce capital costs through innovative design. The NCIG CET uses wide-bed stockpile designs with the world's largest capacity, dual-function stacker - reclaimer machines. This reduced overall capital costs by approximately A$160 million while increasing the port's coal storage capacity by 60 percent compared with conventional narrow stockpiles and separate stackers and reclaimers. These accomplishments were consistent with a budget-conscious project that was ultimately delivered in 26 months — five weeks ahead of schedule — at a cost of A$1.12 billion, compared with an original budget of A$1.16 billion. The success of the project was recognized at the 2010 Australian Bulk Handling Awards, where it won Bulk Handling Facility of the Year.

Another hallmark of this successful program was its strong safety achievements. The project experienced one lost-time injury in more than four million man-hours of labor-a feat that earned the coveted Safety Leadership Award from the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales. The safety challenge was especially significant on a site where over 5,000 workers were inducted, a wide range of contractors with differing degrees of safety maturity were engaged and the hazards were significant. The secret to success? A combination of expertise, consistency and attitude — all of which coalesced into an exceptionally strong relationship in which both Aurecon Hatch and NCIG were laser-focused on delivering a successful project safely.

The Aurecon Hatch team was carefully chosen to bring together members with considerable coal terminal maintenance and operations experience. The team was also committed to maintaining a stable workforce, without the frequent "fly in and fly out" dynamics often associated with these sorts of projects. The consistency and deep experience of the team also contributed to the project coming in under budget.

Above all, however, the key to this project's success has been the attitude of the joint team. Day-in and day-out, the team had an unswerving "can do" attitude, which quickly diffused potentially challenging situations before they compromised its ability to deliver on the performance, time or cost commitments.

Today, Aurecon Hatch is already ahead of schedule and under budget for the recently initiated Stage Two of the project, which will take the site's annual coal capacity to 53 Mtpa. Stage Three, expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2013, will grow capacity to 66 Mtpa.

NCIG's Coal Export Terminal
In 2011, NCIG's Coal Export Terminal project won the Gold Award for Excellence in Project Management at the Consult Australia Awards.
5,000 workers inducted