25 August, 2014: As an increasing number of jetties get new life, thanks to the Fiji Roads Authority, the engineers designing them are facing some of the most challenging conditions around.
“The marine environment itself presents its own set of challenges. You need wave environment experts, plus geotechnical expertise and equipment, there are big safety issues, and it all needs to be very carefully planned and controlled,” says MWH Global Technical Delivery Manager for Fiji, Don Clifford.
“You only get to do the job once. So mistakes can be extremely costly, which is why the investigative work to make sure the solutions are right for the environment, and the specialist equipment, is so important.”
Special pile drivers that can go deeper than their land-based counterparts have been brought in. Barges with tailored counter-weights and marine-hardy drilling, boring and pumping machines are also now part of Fiji’s construction landscape.
The extent of the work that the Fiji Roads Authority is doing speaks to both the importance of jetties as access points for so many people, and the change in thinking that goes hand in hand with the quest for more robust, lasting solutions.
“We often hear people say ‘it’s just a jetty’ when talking about building or fixing them, but in a country that is so reliant on being able to move goods, produce and people by boat, there is no such thing. Every jetty needs its own individual design and engineering to reduce the chance that it will be washed, or blown, away in a storm. Good design and build also helps jetties last longer and makes them easier to repair so that they are out of commission for shorter periods when extreme weather hits,” says Mr Clifford.
In the Central Division, at the busy Natovi jetty, repairs are progressing, with the ramp due to be finished in September. The first stage of this jetty work will make the jetty safe again. A second stage aims to improve business and commercial opportunities between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu and so potentially has a big impact – especially for Vanua Levu, when combined with repairs to the Nabouwalu jetty, and the upgrading of the road from there to Dreketi.
Dredging work has been completed at Oinafa jetty on Rotuma, enabling larger ships to berth in all weather, not just high tide, which was the case after sand accumulated in the harbour over time.
At Yasawa-i-Rara, jetty repairs expected to be completed in late September this year will open the village up to much-needed tourism income and health care, once the Cruise ships – which have been unable to land at the village for a number of years now – can return.
Design work is also underway for a new jetty at Qarani, on the island of Gau. This will provide a significant structure where none existed before. People leaving the island at this location could take only small boats from the shore, to ferry goods and passengers to and from larger boats.
Other jetties that have undergone – or are undergoing – repairs since the start of 2014 include Cicia, Savusavu, Cicia and Lomaloma.
A raft of other jetties across Fiji that need work have been identified, with many booked in for 2015 completion.
Mr Clifford says that the scale of the work means that there is the opportunity for many people to learn new skills.
“Because jetties haven’t been built in Fiji for years, local expertise has waned. This is an opportunity for people to get trained, up-skill themselves, and take much of this work forward from a local perspective in the future so Fiji doesn’t have to look offshore so much in the years to come. The whole idea is to upskill people alongside the work that is being done over the next few years so that, instead of Fiji having to bring so many experts in, people here can become the experts.”
Extensive maintenance programmes are put in place for each jetty that is repaired or rebuilt so it can stay in good condition throughout its expected 50-to-100-year lifespan.
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