From Moray to Antarctica – distance no object for Moray firms

Allan Martin and HQSE Administrator Jazmin Kellas

HOME IS WHERE the heart is for most in Moray – but one local engineering firm will go the extra mile – or even 8000 miles!

That is the distance Forres-based AJ Engineering and Construction Services had to go when contracted to create a steel platform on Bird Island at South Georgia, Antarctica.

The firm usually handles installation of its creations – and had to carry out a mock-up of this installation at its yard with contractors BAM Nuttall. The project involved fabricating over 600 individual pieces which have now be shipped to Bird Island where the new platform is part of the modernisation of a Research Station.

The items will take around two weeks to arrive at their destination ready for installation by the team at BAM Nuttall. The work has taken AJ Engineering around three months to complete.

Due to the sensitivities of the island has thrown up a few challenges as Jazmin Kellas, AJ Engineering’s quality manager explained: “I have been working with Allan Martin our project manager for the contract and it has been absolutely fascinating.

“The fact that it is 8000 miles away and is so remote is interesting enough, but due to the unique bio-diversity of the island we have had to rethink about how we package the items we are sending over there. The island has been largely untouched by the outside world and the researchers there understandably want to keep it that way.

“Normally we package things using polystyrene or cardboard, however both of these materials are a big no no. Cardboard can harbour foreign objects such as seeds – and the polystyrene can break off. We have had to adopt new methods to ensure that each of the 600 items arrives unscathed – and bubble wrap has been one of the solutions.”

Jazmin, who has been working with AJ Engineering for six months, added they also had to work with the team at BAM Nuttall to demonstrate how the sections of the platform fit together, as the AJ Engineering team will not be on site to help.

He explained: “While we often handle installation for our clients, for this project it was just not practical. This is a long-term project and we can’t have a team out there for six months.

“So instead, our installers worked with BAM Nuttall in the yard showing them how the platform fits together. There is no room for error as once it’s all out there, the teams are pretty cut off. We have also been extremely thorough about the items in the shipment.

“Once the consignment leaves Forres it will take over two weeks for it to reach Bird Island predominantly by cargo ferry. If we forget to pack something, then the whole project could be held up.”
The steelworks were galvanised by Elgin-based Highland Galvanizers who have specialised in structures for remote locations previously.

Geoff Crowley, Highland Galvanizers’ development director explained why their expertise was important for Bird Island: “The island’s isolation and small population mean that low maintenance designs are essential, but the steel frame must be protected from corrosion and the harsh environment.

“For the Bird Island project we used hot dip galvanizing as the steel protection system. We have experience of working for isolated places and have galvanized steel for St Kilda and the Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha. The coating should give the steel a maintenance free life of over 50 years in Bird Island’s severe climate.”