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Contractor speaks on Heritage Wharf

The Island is rife with “incomplete, wrong and misleading” comments about the role of Correia Construction in the building of Heritage Wharf, according to the company's head. Contractor Dennis Correia said his business had built the Dockyard cruise ship pier “entirely to specification”, and without cutting corners, even as the project underwent “constant” changes to plans.

“There were no shortcuts, substitutions or significant cost overruns,” he said.

“At the time of the build, the project was a moving target, with changes to plans and specifications being made constantly — but in all phases the work was checked and approved by qualified third party engineers.”

Mr Correia spoke out after the tabling of a report in Parliament by Heather Jacobs Matthews, the Auditor-General, that faulted the planning of the project, with a sidestepping of financial instructions and a lack of capital planning.

Heritage Wharf caught widespread criticism in 2010 after a direct hit from Hurricane Igor, a Category 1 storm, visibly damaged the steel thruster walls.

“The thruster wall was initially designed for a Category 5 hurricane event,” Mr Correia told The Royal Gazette.

“It was reduced to Category 2. Then finally to a Cat 1. This was all cost driven. Correia Construction did not agree with the downgrading of the design. However, we as the contractor left the design to the engineers, and we constructed the thruster wall as per their design.”

Robert Richardson, the company's project manager, said many in the public tended to confuse the thruster wall with the dock itself.

“The general public has two issues,” he said. “They feel that it was a lot of money, and they feel that it was poorly constructed. But it was constructed to design.”

The company insists that while the thruster wall fared poorly, its performance was no reflection on the dock itself, a separate structure that remains intact.

An engineering report that faults the use of sand in supporting piles for the thruster wall was based on different plans: the final designs submitted by Entech Limited called for the use of sand filling.

In addition, the popular belief that Heritage Wharf was a $35 million job that ballooned to $60 million is “just not the case”, Mr Richardson added. “Those original costs were based on one conceptual design.”

The figure of $38.9 million as the negotiated fair price even made its way into the Auditor-General's report.

However, the figure for Heritage Wharf drawn up by the construction firm, and accepted by Cabinet, was almost $10 million higher.

Preliminary drawings given by the overseas engineers Bermello Ajamil did not include additions such as the thruster wall, terminal building or security features at Heritage Wharf.

Correia Construction was tasked with achieving a completion date of April 2009 while the pier's specifications were still in early preliminary form: in September 2007, the same month that construction started, a revised cost of $47.8 million was handed in as the price tag for Heritage Wharf, and approved. The project's total contract amount totalled $54.27 million.

Mr Correia said his company's books had been open to the Auditor-General's forensic accounting.

“They found nothing whatsoever that was inappropriate,” he said. “There were no skeletons in the closet.”

The figure of $30 million heard in Parliament for repairs at Heritage Wharf applies to the addition of four new mooring dolphins, rather than repairs to the main dock, he said.

“The Government's initial design was for Voyager class ships,” Mr Correia said. “But the Breakaway was two sizes bigger, so they had to enhance it. That job was done by a different company.”

Asked whether he believed the designers of the wharf had erred in settling for a Voyager capacity when cruise ships were already outstripping that size, Mr Correia replied that he didn't know. However, he pointed to a report from Entech engineer Dave Ramrattan declaring that the Breakaway Class would not impose a need for strengthening the dock or moorings.

Saying he didn't disagree with the Auditor-General's report, which was scathing of the Government's handling of the project, Mr Correia said: “I take exception when it keeps getting put on me, when it had nothing to do with me.”

He likened the failure of the saga of the thruster wall to being asked to “build a huge house — a house that is good after many hurricanes”, with a fence originally 8ft high that was scaled down to a 2ft fence for cost reasons, and subsequently got damaged.

“Correia Construction was not the designer, project manager or architect for this project,” he said.

Damaged sections: a file photograph of the thruster wall

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Published December 19, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 19, 2015 at 8:09 am)

Contractor speaks on Heritage Wharf

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