ITA 2008 news from Agra, India
ITA 2008 news from Agra, India Sep 2008
Shani Wallis, Editor
27 September 2008: It was a busy time for the member nations at the 36th General Assembly in Agra with much business to attend to since the last General Assembly 16 months ago in Prague, in the Czech Republic in May 2007. The following were among the major items of business concluded.
TunnelTalk Editor Shani Wallis (right) speaks with ITA President Martin Knights (left) and Indian Minster of Hydropower and Energy (centre) at the WTC2008 in Agra
Bai Yun of China elected to the ITA Executive
All 34 nations present at the General Assembly in Agra voted unanimously for Bai Yun of China to take a seat on the Association's Executive Council. Bai is Chief Engineer of the Shanghai Urban Construction Group, parent company of Shanghai Tunnel Engineering Co. Ltd. and has been a regular attendee at ITA World Congresses as part of an ever-growing Chinese delegation. More than 60 Chinese delegates were present in Agra.
Executive Director and Secretary General posting
It was confirmed that Olivier Vion is to be promoted from his current position with the ITA's Secretariat to fill the Association's new post of Executive Director. Vion will take up the post in January 2009 and will take over much of the administrative duties of the Secretary General, a position to which long serving incumbent Claude Berenguier was confirmed again for the coming three-year engagement to the 2011 General Assembly in Helsinki.
Two new member nations welcomed to the ITA fold
Membership of Kazakhstan and Peru as member nations of the International Tunnelling Association (ITA) was ratified at the Agra General Assembly. Kazakhstan, through the Kazakhstan Tunnelling Association (KTA) and represented by KTA President Baibol Utepbayev, is the 53rd member nation.
Peru is represented by APTOS - the Associacion Peruana de Tuneles y Obras Subterraneas (Peruvian Tunnelling and Underground Works Association) and is the 54th ITA member nation.
Finland for ITA 2011
Helsinki, Finland is selected to host the 37th ITA General Assembly and World Tunnelling Congress in 2011. The invitation to Finland was accepted at the General Assembly in Agra when 37 of the 52 member nations present voted 21 to 16 for the Nordic venue over the bid from Lyon, France. The Helsinki event will be held in May 2011 and will follow the 2010 Congress in Vancouver, Canada (14-20 May) and the next ITA Assembly in Budapest, Hungary in 2009 (23-28 May).
Also in Agra, TUTG, the Thailand Underground & Tunnelling Group, registered its offer to host the 2012 ITA General Assembly and World Tunnelling Congress in Bangkok. Competing bidders are yet to announce.
Open Session fireworks
Among the highlights of a packed program of more than 65 papers presented to the 800-plus delegates at the Congress, was the Open Session on Tuesday morning that discussed contractual practices worldwide.
The opening paper, presented by J.M. Barros and Andre Assis, discussed An Independent View of the Pinheiros Station Accident on the Sao Paulo Metro and Lessons Learned for Future Contractual Arrangements. Rather than examining again the causes of the collapse, the paper considered what the Independent View report highlighted contractual flaws that influenced the event. These included:
  • lack of controls built into the design-build contracts;
  • application of self-certification;
  • over simplification of the complexities of the geological investigation studies;
  • lack of an adequate contingency and emergency management plan in the contract;
  • and non validation of design alternatives presented in the design-build proposal.
By way of recommendations, the paper suggested that design-build contracts need to give more strength to the designer, more strength to the process of quality control, and "by no means" employ the process of self-certification.
The discussion period at the end of the full Open Session illustrated clearly that the central causes of the collapse are by no means universally agreed, with Dr Nick Barton raising the issue of evidence that the Independent View report failed to take into consideration. The session chair and vice chair had to be called time on discussion with the reminder that the session was about Contractual Practice and not re-investigation of the causes of tunnel collapses or the root causes of the Pinheiros Station failure that claimed the lives of seven in December 2006.
Contract Models in Underground Construction - Experiences from an Owner Viewpoint was the presentation of Heinz Ehrbar and was based on his experiences as Chief Construction Manager of the Alp Transit Gotthard Ltd company that is procuring the twin 57km long rail tunnels through the base of the massif. Ehrbar started by comparing current contractual practice with those employed for construction more than 100 years ago of the existing Simplon and Old Gotthard rail tunnel under which all ground risk was with the contractor. "This was a disaster for the contractor who had to pay heavy late delivery penalties" and went broke as a result of the effort. From his own experience as an owner, Ehrbar agreed, "the ground belongs to the Owner but the means and methods belong to the Contractor" wherein lies great room for dispute and gray areas of interpretation, and recommended a unit-price based contract as the most economical and fair method of procurement for both parties; a DRB as the first vehicle for assessing and settling any disputes; and the establishment of national codes to suit the construction norms and legal systems in each country.
In his presentation, Contractual Practices Worldwide - Engineering Sector Views, Yannn Leblais of Arcadis, France picked up on themes he introduced at the previous Open Session at the Prague Congress last year (2007). He started by stating that insurance claims for failures in tunnelling over recent years lay more than 50% of the cause or blame with the design and the geological investigation of the project. Because of this he called on all sectors of the industry to pay more attention to design. In criticizing the actions of some Owners and fellow designers, he said the designers need to be "in the ground" with the contractor and not in remote offices trying to control design from a distance. He warned fellow designers not to become "intellectual slaves" to contractors in design-build projects and questioned the ultimate responsibility in PPP projects asking "who has the right to stop the ongoing work on the site" under these increasingly popular procurement vehicles.
Christian Genschel of Bilfinger Berger Ingenieurbau GmbH of Germany presented a take on the Contractor's Views and Wishes. Genschel called on several actual experiences to make his case
  • for being given sufficient time to prepare bids - "a call to prepare a bid within three weeks resulted in bids all two times the estimate";
  • that Contractors are not gamblers - "the Owner has to know what he wants in specific detail and we have to bid against a firm scope of works";
  • for unit-price contracting - "unit prices can also be to the advantage of the Owner but in that case the Contractor doesn't lose, he just doesn't get paid for what he doesn't do. Simple."
  • for a DRB - "providing it is permitted to function properly"; and
  • for "contracts to be written to be understood by engineers - and not for lawyers."
This last point raised spontaneous applause in the audience.
Tailoring New Contractual Frameworks for the Demands of the Local Market was the topic of Arnold Dix from Australia, who aurgued that while each country is free to prepare contractual practice according to local legal and operational systems, they must base these on best practice as already established in other countries, particularly if the intent is to attract interest from foreign contractors and consultants.
To round out the session, H K Sharma, Chairman and Managing Director of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd of India and D G Kadkade, Chief Advisor to Japiprakash Associates Ltd of India presented two papers on the Contractual Practices in Tunnel and Underground Works in India, which highlighted just how particular India's practices are compared to other international systems.
Missed opportunity
Those who decided not to attend the Congress in Agra, missed a chance of a life time to visit the home of the famous, and truly remarkable, Taj Mahal, (unless they had visited the city before); missed the hospitality and effective administration of the organizers; an introduction to the vast amount of tunnelling needed through out the country to increase its economic wealth and raise the standard of living for so many of its 1 billion-plus population; and a most enjoyable gathering of the ITA 'family'. We meet again next year in Budapest.


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