NEW AIRPORT FIASCO
AOT staff stalling urgent repairs: engineer
Water urgently needs to be drained, but officials say legalities are causing delays
Legal complications have been cited as the latest excuse by the Airports of Thailand (AOT) for delays in fixing the damaged tarmac at Suvarnabhumi Airport - despite repeated warnings from engineers the problem will get much worse once the rains arrive.
Suebsak Promboon, a senior foundation engineer and a member of the Tortrakul Yomnak-led airport tarmac inspection panel, accused AOT officials of staying in "neutral gear" by not taking any action to solve the looming problems at the airport.
Suebsak said AOT concerns that all warranty and liability claims could be declared invalid by the contractors should it intervene prior to formally resolving responsibility for the problems was valid - but the AOT has ignored a solution he proposed more than a week ago.
"Draining the water out of the sand beneath the tarmac is an urgent issue that cannot wait, but the AOT keeps coming up with excuses for not doing anything," he said.
"Everybody there is staying in 'neutral gear'."
The AOT's Flying Officer Kusol Chumpholrat, who is in charge of Suvarnabhumi Airport's operations and maintenance, said the AOT's technical team and construction contractors agreed on the initial repair method.
But the work could not begin because of the "uncertainties" surrounding liability issues, Kusol said.
In a letter to the AOT on February 14, Suebsak suggested the agency file legal charges against contractors responsible for airfield design, construction, construction control and management for what went wrong at the new airport.
At the same time, the AOT, as the project owner, should ask for court protection to allow it to fix the problems without having to wait for consent from the contractors, Suebsak said.
"The AOT should treat the cracks and ruts in the airfield as emergency problems that can only deteriorate if they are not dealt with soon enough," he said.
"With a protection order from the court, the AOT would not breach the contracts and the contractors would not be able to claim their responsibility was nullified by AOT intervention."
Suebsak's inspection panel concluded on February 12 that water trapped in the sand layer underneath the tarmac had contributed to weakening of the asphalt concrete on the surface of the pavement.
The panel recommended the water be drained urgently.
He said a part of the fault was possibly the design: there were no draining facilities installed under the tarmac.
This part of the airfield design was partly the responsibility of the Airport Design Group, a consortium of five companies including the UK-based Scottwilson Co and Norway-based Norconsult.
Scottwilson reportedly sent a representative in Thailand to look at the problem last week. Their Bangkok office was contacted by The Nation but so far they have not replied to a number of queries put to them.
Norconsult, meanwhile, might send an expert next week.
Suebsak said he had not seen the contracts AOT signed with its contractors, but he understood they contained clauses about conflict resolution by an arbitration system.
"An arbitration system can take a long time to resolve the
problem," he said.
"But it doesn't mean we ignore arbitration.
"We still set up the system later to determine what went wrong and which contractors should be responsible."
Suebsak brought the issue up again yesterday at a meeting of the Council of Engineers, which summoned related parties to give information about the
Meanwhile, AOT board president General Saprang Kala-
yanamitr was contacted by The Nation, but said he could not make any comment as he was still engaged in a board meeting at press time.