WHAT possible similarity could there be, asked members of Northern Counties Association earlier this month, between the construction of a remote 1840's 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 which had 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 multi- disiplinary 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, the financial comparisons ended there, insisted Belsham. The £96,000 lighthouse ended up 50% over budget and construction time, while Immingham, Belsham stressed, was completed to both time and cost.