Huge project to build harbour wall in Iran

Morpeth Rotary President Elect Jim Dunn introducing guest speaker Richard Potter. (John Pringle Rotary Secretary also in shot).
Morpeth Rotary President Elect Jim Dunn introducing guest speaker Richard Potter. (John Pringle Rotary Secretary also in shot).

CHARTERED engineer Richard Potter of Whalton told Morpeth Rotary Club members about his two years on a $148million civil engineering project in Iran.

It was to build a 1,000m-long, 17m-high diaphragm wall, put cranes on top and dig a new approach channel for a department of the Government of Iran.

The location for the harbour installation was Bandar Abbas on the Straits of Hormuz opposite Dubai. The harbour was to take Post Panamax ships – ships capable of passing through the widened Panama Canal.

He worked as a client technical adviser with an inexperienced Iranian contractor. There was also an Italian contractor and a Dutch dredging company.

As it was in an earthquake zone, the ground had to be compacted down to 12m below surface level before construction could start.

A machine raised a 27-tonne weight up to 15m and then dropped it, which caused the ground level to be lowered by 12m.

Then 248 interlocking T-shaped cages had to be constructed, each containing 45 tonnes of high tensile steel and 300 cubic metres of concrete.

In the summer, work had to be done at night as daytime temperatures were 40 degrees Centigrade to 45 degrees Centigrade.

Thankfully, the offices had air-conditioning.

Temporary guide walls had to be built into pits in the earth with dug-out material going off to a tip.

A special coating had to be used on the sides to prevent collapse.

Three cages were needed for each section, which were then concrete poured using a casting table with a pipe at the bottom.

It gradually rises as the concrete is poured.

The quay wall needed anchor blocks linked to anchor walls with stressed tension bars screwed in between. The final stage was to provide a crane beam at the front, bollards, fenders, a crane rail and other quay furniture.

The cranes came complete from China with five full-height cranes on each ship. They were unloaded sideways onto temporary rails, jacked up and turned onto the permanent harbour rails.

Instructions had to be in Chinese, Farsi and English to get the job done. There were problems with cash flow and getting deliveries on time. The project was priced in US dollars, but had to be changed to Euros.

Steel came from Iran and Russia, cement from Iran, crane rails from Belgium and concrete and additives from South Africa.

The local people were lovely, friendly and welcoming. An adequate flat had been provided in the local community, as well as the use of a driver and a car. The country has the worst traffic death record in the world and there are no rules of the road.

The main tourist sites are far off, but there are hot springs in the local hills, traditional markets, a bazaar, and lots of corner shops – although there are no supermarkets.

There is good fresh bread, but you can not get cheese and there are no bars or night life in that area.

There were gyms as Iranians are keen on bodybuilding. It was safer than Newcastle to go out at night and there were no restrictions on movement.

Communications and internet connections were difficult to begin with, but improved with access to a satellite dish.

There are lots of mobile phones in the country.

Mr Potter left in 2007 and had one visit back in 2008.