Perfect Hire, Freyssinet Australia and Cathodic Protection

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Perfect Hire, Freyssinet Australia and Cathodic Protection - Port Botany

By Daniel Green

Shipping is and always has been a fair dinkum part of Australian history. What percentage of freight do you think the ocean transported? Seventy percent? Eighty? Ninety? Keep going, because this great southern land transports a staggering 99% of our international freight via the sea. Kinda makes sense seeing as our home is girt by the stuff.

Oceania is a harsh mistress. Gentle one moment, furious the next and all the while quietly eroding away anything and everything she touches. And while most of our ports are already nearing the end of their initial service life, the additional stresses caused by a saltwater environment need attending to, stat! So when NSW Ports awarded Freyssinet Australia another cathodic protection contract, this time at their Botany BLB1 facility – Perfect Hire was pretty dang excited to supply manpower. And after the clear successes at Ingleburn Reservoir, Perfect GM Tim Fitzgibbon felt confident he could supply some top-tier workers.

Cathodic protection [CP]

It is a future-proofing exercise for mostly large, long, steel- or steel-containing structures to prevent them from corrosive destruction. Bulk Liquids Berth number 1 is such a structure – and a vital one as it handles large volumes of imports in the form of bitumen, LPG, bulk chemicals, and refined/aviation fuels. NSW Ports had to act fast! Their primary concrete petroleum and the chemical wharf were rotting away.

When Freyssinet’s NSW Operations Manager Craig Yelavich and Site Engineer Dan Burton contacted Tim, the brief was quite specific:

  • Reliable, physically strong, experienced demo guys
  • Shorter stature if possible
  • MSIC preferred
  • Flexible with start times
  • Pass a Cat 3 Medical
  • As per our agreement, Freyssinet could hire workers directly at the end of 6 months

With Port Botany just up the road from our Marrickville office, Tim made a site visit to get across the requirements. He knew this was a special case when he had to leave everything in the car: lighters, phones – even vapes! The site tour by Freyssinet informed Tim everything he needed to know to find the right workforce. Many of the concrete elements needing repair could only be accessed from underneath. It means that a complete catch deck would need to be built and installed. Hence the need for shorter-statured demo guys who were physically strong. They’d be chasing and jackhammering overhead for most of the shift.

The catch deck had a set height, meaning works would be at the mercy of the tides. Thus the flexible start times. When Tim quizzed them on the use of electric jackhammers and chasers whilst working on wet scaff above the swell of the ocean, a massive mobile compressor was unveiled along with a fleet of pneumatic tools and, wait for it – a whole rack of wet/drysuits. Doing overhead demo with air hammers while waist-deep in seawater? Damn. But okay!

Perfect Hire ain’t no quitter, so Tim high-tailed it back to the office and began assembling the right team. One of the perks of being part of a group of companies that includes a demolition contractor is the access to their demo contracting workforce. At the time, Perfect Contracting had been training up some good, solid young demo guys for long-term projects, who unfortunately had delays due to uncontrollable external factors. It was fortuitous actually. So with some quick negotiating and reshuffling, Tim and had half a dozen shorter-statured demo guys ready to roll. After springing for Cat 3 Medicals and herding them through the extensive Sydney Ports online induction, Tim had them ready to start the day after next.

On the morning of the first day, all six turned up, were on time, in Perfect’s full rail-spec Personal Protective Equipment, and had all their tickets and ID. Anyone who’s used labour hire will know that’s an epic win. One of those individuals was a gentleman, TJ. He was a young guy originally from Mongolia with a work ethic, warrior spirit, and a perpetual smile from ear to ear.

The six got to work on chasing and hammering those beams, headstocks, bridges, and catwalks. Piece by piece the old, million MPA concrete fell in pieces to the catch deck for loading out and hauling away. Fresh new low-voltage wiring and anodes were grouted in behind them. Weeks passed and the project moved steadily forwards. Two of the Perfect guys were relocating to Brisbane and so our numbers on site dwindled, but certainly not our presence. Contracting’s overdue projects had landed so any new workers would be sourced from outside Perfect’s core group.

As before, Andrew made a shortlist, I would conduct phone calls, interviews & VOC’s – Tim would oversee and be a sounding board. We had a good system that always seemed to yield the best results. Over the next twelve months, workers came and workers went, all the while PH maintaining about 50% of the BLB1 labour hire site workforce. The conditions were tough – especially on those frosty winter night shifts, but to their credit, most of our boys stuck. They only left to find work closer to home or the family men would leave for a job with day shift to see their kids more.

Additionally, within the day-to-day grind of the year-long job, there were several shutdown periods that needed a ramped-up workforce. So we would recruit up to 25 guys for two weeks straight of 12-hour days. We were straight up with them every time, which they appreciated. And as the clock ticked by the wharf was remediated, one chase run, anode install, and wiring harness at a time.

The seasons went by. in the end, out of all the labour hire workers on that job only TJ remained. He was there when the catch deck was first assembled and there when it was packed away. He was polite, strong, happy, and an epic demo guy. In the end, we released him to Freyssinet with our blessing. Now, twelve months later he is a full-time employee in a secure, stable job with a great company that really looks after him. It’s one of those success stories that makes us get up in the morning.

The CP project on the BLB1 wharf at Port Botany is now complete. With good upkeep and management, NSW Ports should get another fifty years out of it. Don’t worry, we’ll probably supply that shut down too.

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