South African company recovers foreign bungle

Part of the pumping station at Chileka. Part of the pumping station at Chileka.

THE contracts division of APE Pumps is to recover the ball dropped by a foreign company, which has abandoned a major engineering contract associated with water supply to the city of Blantyre, Malawi.

In September, the Blantyre Water Board awarded an EUR4,1m (±R55m) rectifying contract to Wadeville-based APE Pumps, covering the completion of the upgrade of the Walker’s Ferry raw water and high-lift pumping stations.

Walker’s Ferry is located some 40km northwest of Blantyre on the Shire River.  The raw water pumping station there transfers water from the Shire River through the water treatment plant using three pipelines to the high-lift station that pumps it 26km to Chileka, where a further pumping station boosts the water flow all the way to storage tanks in Blantyre.

Chileka is itself a separate R100m contract that APE Pumps is already managing.  Awarded to the company in April, work on this part of Blantyre’s water supply comprises the manufacture, installation and commissioning of eight multi‑stage pumps with electric motors, all motor controls and associated valves, and civil work that includes demolishing and re-building all concrete plinths and bases in the pump house.

To complete the work at Walker’s Ferry, APE Pumps will make use of contract components already delivered to site by the defaulting contractor, combining them with key equipment to be manufactured by APE Pumps itself.

Work has already begun, and APE is busy establishing an on‑site workshop with fabrication facilities to support it.

APE will repair or replace non-functional valves and associated actuators, fittings, couplings and pipes, together with all pump sets and related electrical equipment, instrumentation, suction and delivery pipe work and fittings.

New high voltage devices including the power feeder, transformer, main distribution boards and all cable connection and control cabinets will also be installed.  These are likely to be manufactured by parent company WPIL in India.

By the time the project is completed around mid-2014, all aspects of the existing water intake works and high-lift pumping station at Walker’s Ferry will have been rehabilitated, renewed and commissioned, ensuring a continued supply of water to Chileka.

APE Pumps managing director Peter Robinson said he was satisfied that work on which the company had tendered two years ago had now been awarded to it.

“We took second place during the Walker’s Ferry tender evaluation in 2011, because we were off the mark on pricing,” explained Robinson. “The winning tender from those submitted by six companies in Europe, Africa and Asia came in at EUR7m, against prices ranging between EUR12m and EUR18m.

“The winner managed to supply the bulk of the components needed for the contract, but was asked to leave site owing to a lack of progress with the project,” he said.

Approximately four-fifths of the components that APE Pumps will need are already on site, delivered by the failed contractor. However, APE has still to manufacture and deliver raw water motor controls and various high-lift pump station valves and actuators, along with all pipework and manifolds.

“The re-commissioned pumps at Walker’s Ferry high-lift pumping station will each transfer water at 750m3.h at 550m head, across 26km through two pipelines to Chileka, where our original contract will pick it up and take it to the city,” Robinson said.

“There is considerable satisfaction in knowing that APE Pumps is now managing all aspects of work at both pump stations.”

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