"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Bridging the Gap: Constructing the Komo Airfield

The remote location of key upstream area facilities and the limited road system in the PNG Highlands provided a logistical challenge for engineers who needed to transport large and delicate equipment for construction of ExxonMobil’s Hides Gas Conditioning Plant (HGCP). Following extensive evaluation by ExxonMobil and the PNG LNG Project partners, the solution was to build an airfield capable of handling the huge Antonov aircraft needed to transport specialised equipment that was either too large or too sensitive to be transported by road. Construction of the Komo Airfield began in 2010, with McConnell Dowell and Consolidated Contractors Company joint venture (MCJV) awarded the contract. The airfield site is located approximately 10 km south-east of the HGCP in the Hela Province of the Papua New Guinea Highlands. Constructed to accommodate the world’s largest commercial aircraft, the Antonov AN-124, the Komo Airfield infrastructure includes a 3.2 km runway with facilities including taxiways, a terminal, fuel storage facilities and radio and navigation equipment. A major logistics challenge faced the crews working to construct the airfield. The only approach to site was via an 800 km highway that required significant road and bridge upgrades in parts. With no facilities at the site of the airfield, a pioneer camp had to be established for the workforce so that site construction activities could commence. The project scope required close to 9 million m3 of earthworks, major crushed rock and asphalt pavement construction, building and facilities work, and two new bridges designed for heavy load transport on the road between the HGCP and the Komo Airfield. From the outset, ExxonMobil, the operator of the PNG LNG Project, realised that strong relationships would be key to the success of the Project. As well as developing an extensive Land and Community Affairs team and managing thousands of community meetings, ExxonMobil encouraged its contractors to also reach out to the communities around their specific sites. At Komo, ExxonMobil and MCJV established a Community Issues Committee (CIC) which enabled different clans and tribes in the area to communicate via open discussions about the project, which helped to bridge the gap between the construction teams and the local community. With the introduction of community projects such as water tanks, medicine supplies and support for the local education system, the local community embraced the ExxonMobil and MCJV teams and crews working in the area, thankful for the support and benefits from the project. The Project also reached out to schools, which included a particular focus on safety awareness. Through initiatives such as the distribution of colouring pages which showed the different types of machinery used on the project, children got a better understanding of the construction equipment and how to be alert and safe within the vicinity of the project. There were also extensive efforts to employ, train and enhance the skills of the local community to work on the Project. The results included many local workers earning an Australian Standard Certificate of Competence. Landowner spokesperson Jack Pawa believes the Project has provided fantastic opportunities for the local communities. “ExxonMobil and MCJV have changed this place basically by employing more local people here. Women, men who have never worked in any part of PNG, now they have been employed, so everyone is benefitting tremendously from the operation here,” Pawa said. After a culmination of years of effort, the first Antonov AN-124, the largest cargo aircraft, achieved successful touchdown on 3 May 2013 ready to offload the first of 88 scheduled runs. The Komo Airfield Project is an example of how a world-class project can be successfully undertaken in remote, inaccessible terrain and leave an ongoing positive legacy for the people and future generations of PNG.

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