Safety first

Safety is central to all our projects. But sometimes we have to do special things to ensure that we can meet our own requirements. In the TAP project in Albania, we even bought police cars and ambulances.

The construction of the Transadriatic Pipeline (TAP) is a huge project. The gas transport pipeline has a length of 878 km. From the Greek-Turkish border, where the pipeline connects to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), TAP crosses Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to arrive in Italy. A.Hak and Spiecapag take care of the Albanian section: 215 km of pipeline through inhospitable, sometimes even impassable area. This part of the project, which started in 2016, has a contract value of over half a billion euros and at its peak employed 2,300 people from the most diverse countries, from Indonesia to Colombia. By May 2019, more than 13 million man-hours had already been spent on this mega-project.


During risk analyses and workshops, the greatest risk for the project emerged. Not the geology, not the weather, but the traffic. ‘The roads, the driving style, the vehicles: it really is of a different order than what we are used to here in the Netherlands’, says Wilko Koop, director of A.Hak International. ‘There are a lot of cars with bad brakes and in the mountains on unpaved roads that's just very dangerous. Especially when there is reckless driving. The risk of traffic accidents is much higher than in many other countries and we have categorised it as a business risk.’

This meant that A.Hak, together with the client TAP and the joint venture partner Spiecapag, took all kinds of measures that we would not take in the Netherlands, for example. Wilko: ‘Without good logistics, we can’t carry out our projects. But many of the roads were not at all suitable for transporting heavy equipment. That's why we spent the first year widening and sometimes even constructing roads.’


The joint venture introduced a strict regime to protect everyone in traffic. Apart from the trained drivers, no one is allowed to drive on their own. Everyone is transported by minibus to the work location, to the camp or, in the weekend, to a city for an outing. They don't drive in the dark, which means that in winter they make shorter days. The drivers are all trained and received an extra training in defensive driving.

‘In addition, we have equipped all the cars with IVMS, a tracking system that allows us to monitor the cars and have a constant view of them’, says Wilko. ‘When a car exceeds the speed limit for more than 10 seconds or when the driver is behind the wheel for more than two hours, a signal sounds. Is the driver ignoring this? This is followed by a warning the first time. The second time, the driver is disqualified or dismissed in the event of an extreme incident. And every morning before leaving for the site, all drivers have to take a breathalyzer test.’


‘Special measures were also needed at other, unexpected moments. For the transport of our large equipment, we felt it was necessary for the police to escort us for safety reasons’, says Wilko. ‘Only the police cars did not meet our safety requirements. That is why we bought our own police cars, which the Albanian police then used. The same applied to ambulances and police engines, which we also purchased.’

‘Of course you cannot control the behavior of other road users, but hopefully it will not be up to us’, says Wilko. ‘And yes, the regime is a bit militaristic, but we just don't want to leave anything to chance and that's why it works very well. The most important thing is that we all get home safely and that is only possible if we manage the risks as much as possible. We take security very seriously.’ Wilko was pleased that when he took office, the client asked him to write down on paper how he would personally contribute to safety. ‘I would advise every organization to do that. It creates a great deal of awareness about safety and, above all, about your own part in it.’   


The project is expected to be completed in the course of 2020. A serious mountain stage is still planned for this autumn: Terpollar Mountain, a mountain of 2,200 meters high. Cable cranes will be used to cross the summit. During the preparations, the summit was inaccessible due to snow and wind on the steep rock face. When further investigation was finally possible, the mountain turned out to be rather spongy.

‘Much of the melt water disappears into the mountain, so there is a good chance that the mountain wall will move during the life of the pipeline. We work with thousands of sandbags to lay the pipeline properly and safely. It is nice to see that TAP pays a lot of money and attention to safety. And also to restore the environment to its natural state. In the course of the work, for example, they planted 300,000 trees. We are really proud of this project.’