As it celebrates its sixtieth year in South Africa, Italian multinational engineering solutions provider Maccaferri will complete the construction of one of the country’s largest surfaces of mechanically stabilised earth walls to date – at 10 000 m2 – at the Mount Edgecombe interchange, in KwaZulu-Natal.
Maccaferri SA was contracted to supply the engineering services and construction components required for the retaining structures in the South African National Roads Agency’s project to expand the N2. The project began in 2012 to reduce traffic congestion in Durban, and completion is expected by the end of the year.
Maccaferri South Africa (SA) MD Adriano Gilli explains that the company locally manufactures the moulds needed to cast the concrete panels used in the walls. The panels are fitted with loops, through which reinforcing, corrosion-resistant polymeric strips are driven to produce a series of vertical concrete panels with a tie-back system.
Ideally, the panels should be constructed on site, but space constraints at the Mount Edgecombe project required using a casting yard close to site, he highlights.
“Liaison with the main contractor was required to ensure that each of the nine walls . . . was constructed and delivered to site as it was needed. This involved careful planning to ensure that our time management and sequencing was accurate.”
He stresses that quality control on the project was paramount, with Maccaferri SA conducting inspections on each individual panel of the walls. He adds that, in KwaZulu-Natal, the company’s capabilities in the province – facilitated by a manufacturing plant in Tongaat and offices in New Germany – further meant that engineers could readily be on site to offer advice and oversee operations when required.
“This has ensured that the delivery of our product has been complemented by the ongoing provision of professional services for the duration of the project. We are not just a supplier – we are an engineering partner and have proven that we can take up the responsibility associated with specialised element designs, working hand-in-hand with the main contractor to complete turnkey projects.”
A Base for Africa
Maccaferri has been active in South Africa since 1957, offering clients a comprehensive range of engineered solutions that have been tried and tested in other countries. The company’s sales in South Africa are mostly linked to civil engineering projects, although Gilli highlights that demand from the mining industry is growing for the company’s highly loaded vertical retaining walls and other rockfall-risk-mitigation structures in openpits.
The company is also developing its market presence in terms of industrial foundations and pavement reinforcement, where it has a successful record of basal reinforcement in industrial foundations, particularly on poor quality soils.
With the establishment of a manufacturing plant in Tongaat in 2010 – strategically located close to the Port of Durban – Maccaferri’s presence in Africa has grown, with the South African branch serving countries throughout Southern and East Africa, as well as Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Nigeria on the west coast through a network of distributors.
“Our products and services are important to the South African market, as we manufacture locally, creating new jobs opportunities and meeting the gazetted requirements of using 100% local steel. Maccaferri’s strategy has further been to maximise its presence in the African market through increased awareness of its solutions in civil and mining projects, and by providing African engineers with the design tools and training needed to implement them.”
Gilli explains that for several years Maccaferri has provided its South African clients with design software and information about the theoretical approach underlying its solutions through continuing professional development lectures, accredited by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, and in-house presentations. He highlights that this has formed an important training activity for the company, through which it empowers local engineers to actively collaborate with Maccaferri’s engineers on projects.
“Market response to this approach has been very positive, as this knowledge complements the academic education that young engineers have completed and provides them with the opportunity of using our innovations in practice. We aim to work with our clients to provide them with sustainable options that they can take ownership of, confident in the knowledge that they are underpinned by the experience gleaned from a long history of successful projects completed all over the world.”
Driving Social Development
In collaboration with the nonprofit Italian Southern African Development Organisation (ISADO) – which focuses on building partnerships between local government departments and the private sector – Maccaferri SA has, moreover, initiated several social outreach programmes for disadvantaged schools in KwaZulu-Natal since 2013.
In addition, over the past two years, the company has sponsored a flying teacher at King George Hospital, in Durban, where more than 70 convalescing children with drug-resistant tuberculosis reside. ISADO project coordinator Gisella Reale explains that patients are hospitalised for up to 24 months at a time before being discharged; a school was, thus, built in the 1950s on the premises to enable children in the wards to continue with their schooling. However, owing to poor maintenance, the school is now unusable and, to combat this problem, Maccaferri SA has sponsored a teacher who travels to the hospital on a daily basis to assist the children.
“This facilitates interaction between the children and provides them with some distraction from the hospital environment. Most importantly, it gives them the dignity and the joy of feeling like a school learner, even if they are out of school,” says Reale.
She stresses that, following the success of this project, ISADO, with the support and commitment of other Italian and South African companies, would like to drive the expansion of this project to reach all hospitals in South Africa.