Airport work races ahead

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 1994, 12:00am

CONSTRUCTION of the airport at Chek Lap Kok has moved so rapidly that the fleet of dredging craft helping with reclamation are to leave nine months ahead of schedule, it was announced yesterday.

Hailed as the world's biggest dredging operation, site builders Airport Platform Contractors assembled a fleet of 24 dredgers in January last year to clear 70 million cubic metres of mud.

Nearly 19 months later only two million cubic metres still need to be removed and one of the biggest dredging firms, Jan De Nul, will leave next month - well ahead of the planned departure in April next year.

This work is unlikely to be hurt by a proposed ban by the Environmental Protection Department (EDP) on further dumping at the contaminated mud-pit off east Sha Chau, north of Lantau.

Most of the mud is dumped in other EPD-designated areas.

''Since December 1993 the Airport Platform Contractors' (APC) joint venture has slowly but steadily scaled down its fleet. Jan De Nul, the world's largest trailer suction dredger, leaves Hong Kong on July 19 with several others leaving over the following month,'' said the Provisional Airport Authority's (PAA) reclamation director, Frans Uiterwijk.

The mud is being replaced by rock from Chek Lap Kok and the Brothers and about 148 million cubic metres of marine sand, equivalent in volume to 148 Empire State Buildings.

Nine dredgers are being retained by the platform contractors to help place the sand. The PAA said enough sand and mud has been moved to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every minute since work started.

About 730 hectares - or 58 per cent - of the airport site has already been formed and work is well on target to meet the 41 month contract deadline.

Most of the dredgers and barges have been fitted with an electronic global positioning system to ensure the material is dumped in proper areas.

A computer on board each vessel records the dumping position and this data is passed to the EPD for analysis.

APC won the $9 billion site preparation contract in November 1992. The group consists of Costain from Britain, Nishimatsu of Japan, Morrison Knudsen from the US, China Harbour Engineering, Ballast Nedam from Holland and Jan De Nul of Belgium. These last two contractors are responsible for the dredging and sand filling.