Hutchison Port Holdings put out an edict earlier this year that, where possible, all construction valued at over £250,000 is to be awarded using a design & build contract form. D&B was pioneered by Hutchison Westports chief engineer George Steele at Felixstowe on the procurement of buildings over a decade ago. 'It makes for short delivery time, usually for best cost,' he comments.
On smaller jobs and those where quantification is difficult Hutchison will use the ICE 6th contract. JCT 81 is used for buildings and minor works and MF1 and MF2 are used for mechanical and electrical contracts.
Hutchison takes no liability for design, transferring all risk to the contractor. Unforeseen ground conditions is the most significant danger, Steele says. However, the engineering department vets all designs before construction and aims to catch potential problems before they happen. 'We want to be seen as fair employers to contractors,' he comments. 'Our aim is to supply as much information up front as possible.'
Low value maintenance work is awarded on a term contract basis, re-tendered every three to four years.
Hutchison Westports has its own in-house civil engineering department, based at Felixstowe, which operates as project planner, brief writer and construction supervisor. It looks after projects at all three UK ports and has been closely involved in developing Hutchison Port Holdings' overseas ports as well.
Steele's department typically puts together the outline design and job specification. Hutchison's procurement route involves production of employer's documents and inquiry documents, and is geared towards getting rapid tender responses.
'What we want from contractors is, first and last, a job done to price, to programme and to quality. We aim to get contractors with experience and a proven track record,' says Steele. Hutchison maintains a list of contractors and consultants, and selects firms for up-coming work through interview. Contractors must show they have the necessary specialist skills, but more importantly are selected for previous experience in ports or comparable sectors. The engineering department is interested in a contractor's personnel and their CVs. 'Not every consultant will understand the port business, and if they don't we can find a lot of time is spent taking out bad design,' Steele comments.
Solutions that will increase the usable life and reduce maintenance of heavily used and abused port structures are vital. Steele is interested in seeing the application of new products that have recently included concrete admixtures reducing salt water penetration, fibre mesh reinforcment and asphalt paving blocks.