WHAT possible similarity, asked members of Northern Counties Association earlier this month, could there be between the construction of a remote 1840s Scottish lighthouse and a recently completed bulk tanker storage jetty at Immingham docks on Humberside ?
The obvious answer was that their incoming chairman, David Belsham, was both a lighthouse fan and area manager of Edmund Nuttall, the contractor that built the jetty. But there was a more significant engineering similarity, as Belsham explained to members as he toured the north giving his inaugural lecture at Newcastle, Teesside and Neversham, Cumbria.
Built by Alan Stevenson - a member of the famous lighthouse family, collectively responsible for 97 of them off Scotland's shoreline - Skerryvore, near Tirree off the west coast, epitomised the tough engineering and financial challenges so often faced by pioneering Victorian engineers when everything - especially the elements - seemed stacked on the side of failure.
Immingham jetty, Belsham was quick to stress, was far from a one-man effort. But its project team had faced the same challenges and opportunities of design and build; had similarly used every new engineering technique to beat the weather and, like Stevenson, had taken on the whole multidisciplinary construction task, so avoiding risk- prone interfaces.
And though both schemes only exist today because engineers had adopted persuasive and political skills to get them approved, there the financial comparisons ended, Belsham insisted. The £96,000 lighthouse had ended up 50% over budget and construction time. Immingham, Belsham stressed, was completed to both time and cost.