Japanese firm Nishimatsu Construction Co Ltd has a long history of successfully designing and constructing major civil and engineering projects, both at home and abroad. The company, which built the new Chek Lap Kok airport platform and Tate's Cairn Tunnel, entered into a joint venture with Kumagai Gumi Co to design and construct the Western Harbour Crossing (WHC). John Porter, Nishimatsu's project director in Hong Kong, said Nishimatsu and Kumagai Gumi Co had worked together on projects elsewhere in the world but the WHC was the first time they had teamed up in Hong Kong. He said Nishimatsu's experience gained from working on other infrastructure projects and Kumagai Gumi's knowledge of immersed tube construction made linking the companies together an 'obvious marriage'. 'Combining the skills and technical know-how of two companies with a proven track record of major infrastructure tunnel construction seemed like a natural progression,' Mr Porter said. When the WHC was first proposed, both Nishimatsu and Kumagai Gumi were prepared to take an equity stake in the project but were looking to share the investment with others. He said neither company had been looking for a long-term involvement in the build, operate and transfer scheme but were both prepared to use their considerable experience of cost-effective design management, using fast track construction techniques and pass on their knowledge to the investors. 'We wanted to do what we know best, which is to concentrate on the business of construction,' Mr Porter said. The establishment of the Western Harbour Tunnel Company by private investors with previous experience of toll-tunnel operations allowed Nishimatsu and Kumagai Gumi to withdraw as investors and carry on with the design and construction. Mr Porter said a strong management team was the key issue in the smooth running of the WHC project and allowed the construction to be completed three months ahead of schedule. He said the design and management team of more than 100 people consisted of Nishimatsu staff responsible for constructing the Tait's Cairn Tunnel and Kumagai Gumi's management team which was involved in a project to build the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Mr Porter said Nishimatsu had developed management procedures over the last 10 years not only in construction but also in managing design and interfacing with government. The management team was established well before the construction work began which allowed for careful planning and organisation. Contracts were awarded to GEC (HK) for electrical and mechanical work a year before installation was started, enabling the company to research and employ the latest technology. 'Unlike more conventional contracting arrangements, we dealt with all aspects of the project which included a self-checking process. This reduced the need for layer upon layer of management supervising the progress of the contract,' Mr Porter said. The management system shortened decision making time because there was direct access to the key people. 'Other than the regular monthly progress meetings, we were trusted to complete the project on time and to a high quality standard. Our previous records showed we were capable of achieving it,' Mr Porter said. A unique feature of the WHC project was the way design and construction was run in parallel. He said design had to be organised in an efficient way so progress in constructing the tunnel units and foundations could be started.