Working round the clock to complete R11bn Coega plant

race against time The Baic SA motor plant at the Coegaindustrial development zone with its recently installed roof
race against time The Baic SA motor plant at the Coegaindustrial development zone with its recently installed roof

Chinese car maker Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation (Baic) is working around the clock to speed up the construction of the R11bn plant it is building at the Coega industrial development zone near Port Elizabeth.

Baic SA project spokesperson Tao Li said one of the measures introduced to speed up construction was working day and night, including on Saturdays and Sundays.

Li said the plant’s roofing structure was now in place, adding that more construction materials were being shipped from China.

Baic SA has revised its project plan for the Coega project, adjusting it to make up for lost construction time owing to site disruptions from disgruntled small, medium and micro enterprises.

He said the June deadline would be met.

“Progress on construction on the site is in line with a revised project plan that was adjusted to make up for lost construction days. Baic SA has committed additional financial and human resources to reach the original construction completion date,” said Li.

“As completion of the Baic SA plant draws closer, we will intensify our market and marketing operations. We have a full-time marketing team based in Johannesburg conducting market research in South Africa around the dealership network,” he added.

Josh Sung, one of the consultants involved in the project, said the delays would “definitely” increase the cost of the project.

He could not say how much the cost of the project would increase by.

“This is construction - material prices are not stagnant. They go up. There have been delays in the execution of the project and obviously that will affect the final project costing. I can’t say exactly by how much, but its a given,” he said.

Local smme’s have since the start of the project, claimed that there are not benefiting from the project as they are not being awarded tenders to participate in the project.

On numerous occasions, the latest being only last Thursday, the smme’s shut down the site as they have demanded to be allocated work.

The site is operational despite intermintent disruptions.

“Towards the end of this month, we will announced several new construction packages for smme’s that will go out to tender. BIAC SA is also in the process of finalising its dealership network,” said Li.

Regarding these packages for smme’s, African Chamber of Business president Luvuyo Popo, was not impressed.

“We have been dealing with these people [BAIC SA] since the inception of this project and our experiences in doing business with them are not good. We don’t even know how those so called packages will be like and how they will benefit smme’s, and so we remain sceptical. Baic SA has not lived up to our expectations and so there is trust deficit,” said Popo.

The African Chamber of Business represents the majority of smme’s disgruntled or involved in the project.

To help resolve the on-going squabbles between smme’s and project owners, numerous Motherwell councillors have now been roped in the project to assist with community facilitation.

Motherwell is the closest township to the project with most of the smme’s coming from there.

Numerous meetings are held almost every week to help the stakeholders find each other.

George Gerber of Uhambiso, the main project consultant, told City Press this week that another problem was the non-registration of the smme’s workers by the Labour department’s compensation division in case of on site injuries.

“This is also a major problem now. The Department of Labour must assist in registering the workers so that in case of injury on duty, they get paid compensation. This is a labour requirement, more so for the construction industry where they can be fatal injuries,” said Gerber.

“Some contractors being appointed lack the required labour regulations. All the workers on site must be registered with the labour compensation department.”

He said although smme’s contracts were being rolled out, the process was not as fast as he would have liked. “There are stumbling blocks,” said Gerber without elaborating.

He also said the other problem was that there are a number of interested groups with “their own agendas”. “They are certain individuals with their own interests.”

The Motherwell councillors involved in the project declined to comment on exactly what their role is.

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