4 January 2016
Following our successful support for the UK MoD Civilian Engineering Support Team (CEST) at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, we were appointed to the development of the MoD’s new UK support facility at Mina Salman Port, Bahrain. The ground-breaking ceremony of the facility, to mark the start of its construction, took place in the presence of the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and the Bahrain Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, as reported by the BBC.
Kenny Bickerstaff and Tony Gardiner, both Associate Directors from the Management Services Team in Leeds, have been assigned to the project and will be working in Bahrain for two years, providing project management services to Joint Force Command supervising the build of the new facility. We take this opportunity to look back at a typical week in the Gulf for our project team.
Firstly, Sunday marks the start of the working week here. This usually entails a trip to the Bahraini Defence Force Military Works Directorate to plan for the week ahead, as they are responsible for the design and construction of the project. We meet with the Colonel in charge of the construction department and agree the finer details for the week, including site meetings, design reviews, and visits to the design department.
We start with a visit to the site. It is a 300m x 200m piece of quayside real estate in the Mina Salman Port, close to the US managed Naval Support Activity area which supports an international cast, representative of the naval presence in the Gulf region. We assess the ground with the Contractor, marking the site layout. The Civil Engineer reviews positions of buildings and we advise on how buildings can be moved, ensuring standards are met regarding distances between buildings and to the site perimeters.
We visit our client’s Naval Commander who constitutes our day-to-day contact in the country. He’s developing the project governance and ensures that requirements are still valid. As he represents the personnel who will work, train and live in the facility, his input is crucial to operational success. We lay out a set of drawings and review the feedback.
More meetings today to address the issue of building in such close proximity to a major US installation whilst facilitating day-to-day military operations. The UK staff living and working in our facility will need to move freely in and out of the US controlled area so we visit their security controller, a US Naval Commander. We come away with compliance actions and follow up with UK MOD specialists to ensure compliance is maintained.
Our client has provided us with tender details for elements to be funded by the UK. We have to ensure that the submissions are technically and financially assessed in line with the UK MOD standards. Local contractors will be able to provide the standard of products necessary but the level of information required under UK procurement is over and above what they usually provide. The queries go back to the Bahraini Defence Force and we will complete our assessments upon their return.
To finish off the day, we have a conference call with our Client back in the UK during which we provide a progress update and key actions for the following week.
This is the first day of the weekend in the Gulf. However, today will revolve around recording what has been achieved in the past five days. Our weekly report is drafted alongside a notification and project log. Working alongside the military on such a major project requires continuous reporting. As Service Personnel working on the project are replaced whenever their tour of duty ends every six months, it is vital to keep a record of everything so that their replacement can be back-briefed and understand the project development.
In the evening, we meet up with one of the Lieutenants from the design department for a weekly 5-a-side kick about. After spending time in the Gulf, the hospitality of our hosts is manifest and Abdullah’s weekly invitation to play football has allowed us to develop a social side to our deployment and meet people who we wouldn’t encounter in our daily work. It is also a good excuse to fit in some exercise too.
A day off so we wake up early and head out for a jog before the temperatures become too extreme. One of Bahrain’s major land reclamation projects is beside our apartment giving a 10km jog along the clear blue Gulf waters and a view of the capital Manama from across the bay. We also get to relax (by the pool) before heading in to catch the latest sport from the UK, hoping our beloved Belfast Giants and Newcastle United finish off the week in style for us. Tomorrow, we start all over again.