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SAISC Launches Power Line Industry Association

As part of its ongoing efforts to prevent job losses and to ensure that the steel construction industry maximises its potential in terms of future growth opportunities, the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) recently launched another independent sub-association: the Power Line Association of Southern Africa (POLASA).

"The power line sector represents a massive employment opportunity and growth potential in the local steel construction industry and it is under constant threat from foreign suppliers. The formation of a formal representative structure will ensure high standards, competitiveness and better representation with government structures thus alleviating this threat to a great extent," says Paolo Trinchero SAISC CEO.

The SAISC launched POLASA in response to a period that has been termed a 'crisis period' by the industry. Describing the situation Gary Whalley, MD of Babcock Ntuthuko Powerlines and the first Chairman of POLASA, said the irony is that in an environment where much work needs to be done, the industry is at a stand-still to the extent that in the recent past, six contractors in the power line and associated industries were liquidated or applied for Business Rescue, no significant enquiries were issued for more than 22 months and the industry faces up to 12 months without power line work.  "One of the major problems is the slow rate at which ESKOM is able to obtain servitudes and access the rights to build power lines. Significant job losses have already been incurred and at present some 6000 direct jobs are at risk," Whalley says.

POLASA's fundamental task will be to turn this situation around by helping the local industry to make interim arrangements and to take advantage of the fact that power line construction is integral to the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) in which, of the 18 Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP's), six contain transmission and distribution infrastructure.

"According to Eskom's Transmission Development Plan (TDP), the demand indications for extra high voltage (EHV) lines of 275 kV, 400 kV and 765 kV for the period 2013 to 2017 totals 7610 km (1500 km of new lines every year) followed in the period  2018 to 2022 by 5393 km of new lines or 1000 km per year," Whalley says. "When one considers that by March 2014 approximately 1500 km of new high voltage lines will have been built in the past two years, the enormity of the task ahead and the huge potential for the local industry is clear."

He adds that currently there are 14 Contractors servicing the EHV industry, directly employing more than 6000 people. "These jobs must be protected at all costs and this is the raison d'etre of POLASA," Whalley says

SAISC's Kobus de Beer, one of the main protagonists behind the formation of POLASA, says that to realize this goal POLASA will actively promote the development, growth and flexibility of its members through, inter alia, training and education initiatives, the development of export markets, adding value to engineering issues applicable to the industry in close co-operation with the SAISC, adding value to ESKOM activities such as the Eskom Safety Improvement Project by creating a platform to facilitate bilateral discussions between ESKOM and industry on issues not dealt with elsewhere, the publishing of various design and engineering handbooks and the organising of seminars, talks and conferences.

De Beer says that POLASA will support healthy competition between entities and will even accept participation by foreign companies pre-qualified to build lines in South Africa for ESKOM.  "POLASA is not there to protect our local industry willy-nilly.  Its aim, rather, is to resolve issues that restrict the industry from performing at optimum levels of productivity, quality and safety," de Beer concludes.

POLASA is a sub-association of SAISC and applications for membership can be made at  or by contacting Kobus de Beer (011)726-6111.

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