27 August 2013, Dar es Salaam – Steel pipes being used to construct Tanzania’s Mtwara to Dar es Salaam gas pipeline are of high quality and can last up to 70 years if properly taken care of, Energy and Minerals minister, Professor Sospeter Muhongo has said.
Muhongo and project’s pipeline engineer from Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation, TPDC, Balthazar Mrosso said the material being used were globally acceptable having undergone scientific tests.
“This is the best pipeline material which can last between 50 and 70 years if properly taken care of,” Prof Muhongo argued after journalists demanded to know why the contractor did not use synthetic aluminium which some local experts argued were better suited to the salty environment of the eastern coastline.
He said there was no scientific proof that synthetic aluminium could transport natural gas safely an observation which was strongly supported by Mr Mrosso. “So far there is no laboratory evidence that synthetic aluminium can transport natural gas at high pressure,” argued Mrosso.
During the inspection of construction sites between Somanga Fungu in Kilwa district and Vikindu in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Prof Muhongo had questioned quality of the pipes many of which were already showing some signs of rusting at either ends.
“You said there are three layers of coating, where is this?” Prof Muhongo inquired at Nyamwage site after inspecting the pipes and apparently seeing signs of rusting. But Mrosso and Gary Allan of South African consultants, Worley Parsons said there was plastic and fibre coating apart from steel within the pipes which weigh between 3-4 tons each.
Mrosso also pointed out that price of other much durable brands of pipelines with a lifespan of up to 100 years is very high. Chinese Ambassador Lu Yonging said may be in future during the second phase of the project, synthetic aluminium pipes may be used if scientific evidence points to that direction.
During the visits to various construction sites, Prof Muhongo and his delegation which included several local journalists witnessed how much of the materials being used in the project comes from abroad especially China raising fears that very little will go to private companies.
At Vikindu site, imported flat sheets were seen being modeled into iron sheets being used to cover prefabricated camps which constitute offices and hostels for mostly Chinese workers at almost all sites. This was despite the fact that the country has several corrugate iron sheet manufacturers including Aluminium Africa Limited.
Local casual labourers at almost all sites had similar tales and experiences; overworked, underpaid and regularly abused. “We work from 8am to noon and break for lunch at 12:30pm, resume at 2pm and knock off at between 6-8pm daily with no overtime, weekend or holiday,” said a casual worker at Nyamwage while briefing journalists.
The casual labourer who concealed his identity said they earn 5,000/- a day which translates into 150,000/- per month which is well below the 250,000/- statutory minimum wage for the construction sector. But Prof Muhongo however down played allegations against the Chinese contractors’ behaviour.
“You have talked to casual workers but it’s not only about casual workers here because the project which is just beginning will hire more engineers, drivers, technicians and others,” he said.
But as pressure mounted from local casual labourers and journalists questioning the domination of Chinese workers including welding tractor drivers/operators, TPDC’s Mrosso fobbed off all criticism targeting state owned China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau.
“I personally went to China to verify the quality of welding tractor operators, this is a highly sophisticated job which locals cannot afford but as we go by they will definitely acquire the skills,” argued Mrosso while responding to a question from another journalist who wanted to know how many locals were lined up to operate the 40 plus welding tractors which started work of joining the pipes on Monday.
Mrosso was backed by Minister Muhongo who pointed out that because of the nature and complexity of the pipeline laying project, “If anything goes wrong, we want to hold them fully accountable because this project is specialised.”
China’s Export-Import Bank is providing the over 1.2 billion US dollars (over 1.9trn/-) loan to finance the project which will enabled production of 3,900MW of electricity to be used domestically but also exported to neighbouring markets.
– Tanzania Daily News