12/11/2008 - 22:00

Maunsell in GPO move

12/11/2008 - 22:00


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IF the economic slowdown has some in the Western Australian engineering sector looking over their shoulders, Maunsell AECOM is claiming not to be one of them.

IF the economic slowdown has some in the Western Australian engineering sector looking over their shoulders, Maunsell AECOM is claiming not to be one of them.

Maunsell has committed to taking seven floors in the newly refurbished GPO building overlooking Forrest Place, initially occupying six of them with more than 500 staff that are currently spread across offices around the metropolitan area.

The group, part of the Californian-headquartered AECOM, plans to double its staff in Perth over the next three to five years and has taken up the GPO space to accommodate that growth.

The building will house staff from a number of different AECOM business units, including engineering business Bassett, design, environment, economics and planning group EDAW AECOM and environmental and energy development services operation ENSR.

Maunsell regional director Craig Bloxham said having doubled staff numbers in the past two years, the firm's trajectory remained on track despite the global disruption.

Mr Bloxham said the Maunsell business focus was on planning and detailed engineering at the front end of big infrastructure projects, which had advantages in the down turn.

He said this type of work was relatively low cost, especially compared to the procurement and construction phases and could be conducted well in advance of a project obtaining the green light.

"We are not seeing any slow down at all," Mr Bloxham said.

"If anything, governments, when unemployment starts to rise, increase their spending on infrastructure."

Most consulting engineers in Perth remained confident that business would remain strong despite the economic slowdown, which has even reached mining majors such as Rio Tinto and Brazillian giant Vale.

WA's biggest engineering firm WorleyParsons is the only major to admit to cutbacks so far - shedding a net 70 staff last week; although the rumour mill has projected job losses across the sector.

Several players said work on some projects had slowed, but they had been able to redeploy staff to other operations and most remained in the market for new staff, as job ads attested.

Some players in the sector believe a tightening market would help rein in rampant cost escalation, which has threatened numerous developments.

Maunsell is heavily involved in the mechanical engineering work for the $1 billion Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth's southern suburbs, designing the elements such as ventilation systems.

It is also involved in alliances working on upgrades to highways in the Kimberley and Wheatbelt regions, including the 215-kilometre stretch of the Great Northern Highway from Muchea to Wubin.

On the mining side, Maunsell is involved with various expansion projects for Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, as well as the $5.2 billion Cape Preston development by Hong Kong-listed Citic Pacific, which copped a battering from the cost of hedging contracts linked to its Pilbara operations.

Maunsell said it would be doing the civil infrastructure as well as working on some of the processing equipment and designing the desalination plant.

China Metallurgical Corporation Group, the engineering, procurement and construction contractor to the Sino Iron Ore project at Cape Preston, has engaged GRD Minproc to undertake and manage, in conjunction with Chinese design institute NETC, the engineering services for the processing facility.

Maunsell also views Oakajee as a potential project, having been involved in the early feasibility studies.


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