Firstly: guidance if you are a legal professional engaged in litigation regarding this project. If you have found this article, others will.
Nothing made the negotiations about joining the 3rd Bosphorus Bridge
Occasionally when the phone rang it was an interesting-sounding lady, a "headhunter" in Singapore, who made further enquiries about my readiness to go to a job to the East, entering Asia. In the general context, it was "just another" - someone trying to string a deal together.
In the green fields of the Peaks with family in the Christmas of 2014-2015, the phone rang again, I confirmed that yes I would still be interested.
It was explained that they were under such pressure didn't have time to conduct interviews etc, and they knew I had the right abilities (!), so they were going to proceed immediately. Yeah, right...
Then "wham" - through came a Contract.
This was for real, and the time for it was now!
The details were I would be going to Turkey, to work for a Korean
organisation headed by Hyundai.
The job would be based around Istanbul.
Searching the Web, for the first time I found there was an industrial zone in Turkey around Sea of Marmara.
I was later to have it explained - the tectonic plate "fault" which
causes earthquakes which occasionally erase entire towns also gives
Turkey the Sea of Marmara. Which I was to realise is an enormous
commercial advantage around whose Eastern extent is a huge industrial
Any ship can get in and out, yet the place is sheltered and transport is easy and cheap.
[The Sea of Marmara is almost an inland sea isolated from all others by two long narrow channels, the Dardanelles to the South and the Bosphorus to the North]
In all the world Hyundai chose to come to me. Why would they make that
selection amongst all the people in the world? There was nearly
US$1Billion "on the line" and they decided I was their person to
navigate them out of trouble.
I am a welding engineer who can actually weld. That is one appeal.
I combine science as a metallurgist having done extensive study of welds with engineering as I transitioned to being a welding engineer. That transition from scientist to engineer made possible in my case by having worked for some time as a Tradesperson welder.
Therefore, I can apply my scientific and engineering knowledge in the context of a deep insight into welding. The nature in which a weld "controls" is probably impossible to capture in a text description. Yet a scientist working as a welder can see and identify many fundamental physical principles of the Universe in action governing what they are doing and manipulating.
The employing company made contact. They became represented by a voice - a charming-sounding lady handling Visa and travel matters. Whose family-name, as seen in emails, presented a mystery where you could not start to guess how it might be pronounced.
There was a desire and pressure for me to be there immediately.
I soon had to be blunt. "'Welding engineer' is a job with a lot of risks. What happens if I turn-up at a hospital with an injury obviously caused during work and I am on a tourist visa???".
The Turkish Consulate in London gave what I suspected (correctly) was
a microcosm of the country I would be going to live in for a while.
It was simply "different".
I managed through a bit of organising with a British company to get myself a "Maintenance and Installation Visa" to go out to Turkey "to install and some equipment supplied by this Company".
What I'm finding-out about the area I am going to is too tentative to mention here.
The Turkish language. As they use the Roman alphabet (what we use
across Western Europe), it seems that should give you an immediate
So off to the book-store I went, emerging with "Complete Turkish" by Pollard and Pollard (he's native-English; she's native Turkish). I'd recommend it.
Trying to explain forward from what little I had heard about Turkey cannot work, as almost nothing was anything like right.
Turkey as much as I came to understand it is best explained retrospectively from what you find being there. So here is the preview I chose to offer:
* the Turkish language is much better scripted by the modified Roman
alphabet. No other reason - solely to serve their own interests.
Turkish was clumsily scripted by Middle Eastern scripts, causing
historic literacy rates to be low. In forming modern Turkey, they did
something about it. Full success. Turks you meet who speak English
know how to slow-down and enunciate their language in a way which is
easy for "us" to understand - but that's deluding. Turkish is a
full-on Middle-Eastern language (?) and it "hits you full-on" when you
have to speak with people who speak only Turkish.
Specifically to knock-down a common "Western" misapprehension about why the Turks switched to the Roman alphabet - it was 100% about their own indigenous "thing".
* Where I've mentioned Turkish names, I've not used the Turkish-modified letters where they arise - I've defaulted to the "original" Roman character (pronouncing Turkish sounds requires re-training how you produce sounds to include completely new sounds - better not go there in this mainly engineering story)
* Turkey as I met it was dominated by the image of
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
[if this link doesn't work, it might be because there is one of those special Turkish alphabet characters in his name]
who was at the centre of forming modern Turkey in the 1920's.
That is almost a spiritual guidance - "What would Ataturk want done?". Much becomes understandable then.
A rapid whirl of activity had me ready to go, I packed what I best guessed I would need, and headed-off. I was now being funded by the Company, so I was able to do things for instant speed.
First slight consternation was seeing a whited-out landscape flying
over Eastern Europe. Seeing sleet (heavy wet snow) falling around the
plane as it manoeuvred in to the terminal at the airport caused not the
greatest emotion, as I'd filled my suitcase with short-sleeved shirts.
There's a world of difference between Istanbul, which I was to find has a full four seasons, and Antalya down on the Southern, Mediterranean, coast, where Brits going on holiday.
A quick mobile phone call has the next adjustment I need to make - the chauffeur-driven limousine. Sloshing through the slush, we are soon heading North up the hilly forested country by the Bosphorus. Arriving at the "main project compound" at the Bridge.
As the limo. sweeps along, I'm overcome with a sense "What am I doing here?! Surely they can't have got this right, that I am the person they need? They will find out - might as well enjoy what I can and accept being firmly put on a plane home when it happens". Life has taught me to "play the game", "act-out the part" and see what happens - because you never know what the twists-and-turns might bring.
The chauffeur exchanged a few words with the security-official on the gate, the barrier swung open and I was in the compound. I stepped-out into...
A freezing white-out, surrounded by the howling sounds of the frozen hard wind from the North. The 300m-tall concrete towers of the Bridge evoked awe, then standing "alone", looming over the site. So you had to tip your head well back to see the top, coming in-and-out of view in the low snow-laden cloud scudding by, sometimes making even the aircraft-warning red lights disappear from view. The Black Sea contrasted the whiteness, being solid black - very apply named. Ships slunk off to the horizon, to which I could little help attach a false foreboding of never being seen again as they disappeared into the snow.
Lead into the project office, I was introduced to the bright young lady whose voice I'd heard. I had at least got some approximate idea how to pronounce her family name by then (but which I never attempted to inflict upon her). Fortunately she had a very jolly simple-to-pronounce given name which suited her perfectly.
The snow had turned to proper crisp snowflakes and roads were closing, so she'd organised a room for me in the compound, I was assured. Leaving me untroubled and feeling well-taken-care-of as I started meeting the Korean senior Hyundai personnel I would be reporting to.
The names in emails became real people. I'd already been sent some specific information, so I could infer the approaches they were using, from the steels, welding techniques and exact details thereof, etc.
The most senior person I was ultimately responsible to, the Head of the quality organisation (in effect everything to do with manufacturing the bridge) made a personable greeting and had me sat relaxed by his desk.
He commented that the task I had described was not the current top priority and here was their current topmost issue. Spreading drawings across his desk (I won't go into details, but it can be known in this narrative by reference to "Kocaeli", the place (the "c" has a pure "j" sound in English phonetics - the rest match English phonetics)).
Result - within two hours of arriving, I am locked-onto task and never stopped working 'til I left four months later.
I had to do one of the fastest adjustments I'd ever done - in all the world they had found the right person...
Whatever the twists-and-turns life had brought me before; the only reality which mattered now was all their problems were within my comprehension and I could see the type of strategies they would need to use to get out of the problems shown to me.
Walking out for "fresh air" (very fresh - swirling snowflakes blew onto your nostrils with that particularly vivid sensation), the only vehicles moving were minibuses with snow-chains fitted. So much for my short-sleeved shirts :-(
My room in a portable cabin was warm and "en-suite". Functional and I slept well.
The catering block had a huge hall serving Korean food. The
television screens on the walls showed Korean channels. Tired Koreans
gained sustenance from their familiar Korean food.
I joined the line at the counter, copied others as best I could in stacking my plate, took my chop-sticks and got on with it.
Result - in those first few days in Turkey, at "the Bridge compound" I never tasted any Turkish food. In entirety it was a Korean immersion.
As the snow first lifted, I did get a ride with the minibus to the
nearest metro terminus, getting out at the nearest town of Sariyer.
Getting clear indication from the driver of where-and-when to
flag-down the bus on its return journey.
It was initially a "freaky" experience. It did all look and feel incredibly "different". I was later to find that a lot of European Turkey is a lot more cramped and therefore intense on the emotions than Asian Turkey. A coffee in a nice cafe on a pier was pleasant and made me feel at-ease.
My story was to be centred on Tuzla, the Eastern edge of Istanbul - Asian Istanbul.
As the snowstorm lifted and the roads re-opened, the original plan was
resumed, and the charming "Visas" lady got a chauffeured limo. and
accompanied us to the far Eastern edge of Anatolian Istanbul, where I
was to be based near the shipyard subcontractors.
That's at least a two-hour journey, with the Istanbul traffic (hope "my" bridge helps now - alongside all the other infrastructure work).
A quick stop for a coffee and first immersion in Turkey put me further at-ease. I was sure I would like it here.
My in-UK inspection of on-line map programs had been somewhat right, and the vista of a seascape lined with a vastness of shipyards came into view as we crested a final hill heading around to the Eastern edge of Istanbul.
We stopped-off first for sustenance at a restaurant I was later to frequent often, and was guided in having a feast of proverbial proportions. To become familiar - the Turkish style.
Then up into the Tuzla project-office which was to become my work "home". Introduced and desk assigned, the rest was for me to improvise - as generally comes to me and others in my situation.
I'd been booked into a holiday hotel in the local resort on the other side of the peninsula - largely empty and glad of the custom in the off-season. I was dropped-off every afternoon, and collected outside the hotel in the morning, by one of the Koreans from the office.
I was soon wandering out into the nearby resort-town area, getting my evening meals and feeling very happy.
My Turkish so far got its first application, helping me to get an insight into the familiar. A small child, in their "terrible twos", was being lead along exclaiming "No! No! No!", refusing to co-operate in heading home. Similarities tend to exceed differences ! :-)
So life was comfortable and I was able to concentrate. An enduring feature of this assignment...
The first month was to be dominated by "Kocaeli" matters.
However, the bridge-deck (1.4km span and 59.4m wide - no wonder it presented issues) came to me immediately when I was bid accompany the Tuzla boss on a walk-around. The shipyard was massive, and the small part of it set-aside exclusively for the bridge-deck contract was in itself a huge enterprise.
Stated without explanation. The "Neta" factory a few km away
stockyarded the steel plates (several tens of thousands of tonnes -
high-performance - not "commodity" grades) and mass-produced
repetitive sub-assemblies small enough to transport by lorry (it was
the one site without sea access). The Tuzla shipyard assembled
stiffened-panels as accurately as could be done on a panels
production-line, to maximally simplify later assembly activities. The
Tuzla facility was a "factory" environment. Those panels were stacked
on a small ship which took them across the Sea to the Altinova
"assembly yard" - which I was not to see for more than a month, given
the priority of the "Kocaeli" work. The "assembly yard" was very much
"a construction-site" environment - as had been described to me. The
end of the story, not yet in view to me, is that the bridge-deck
sections, 24m long and weighing 760 tonnes, already painted in huge
sealed and environmental-controlled grit-blasting and spray-painting
halls, were transported by a specialist ship across the Sea of
Marmara, past Istanbul and up the Bosphorus to the bridge site, where
the deck-sections were lifted directly from the ship to its position
adding to the installed bridge-deck.
The presence of the Sea of Marmara changed everything, in terms of economy and the chosen solution.
Little note - driving a several-hundred tonne item off the quay and
onto a ship is made to look that simple. By computer-control on the
transporter and the ship - which has powerful pumps throwing water
overboard from ballast-tanks in exact match to the weight landing on
the ship. Producing the illusion that keeping everything level in the
two "horizontal" dimensions and constantly at the correct height
matching the quay simply "happens".
The overall concept is that there in Turkey I was seeing a lot of newer technologies applied for the first time.
Bit of explanation - in Britain, the "residual" practical activities serving "the service economy" are often astonishingly "backwards". A few years previously at a steel fabrication shop I worked in, a Rumanian new-starter was visibly in a state of wide-eyed thousand-yard-stare shock at the conditions we worked in, sitting in the tea-room at our first break. He'd never seen such crude conditions like this in his native Rumania, let-alone in Spain where he'd worked for a few years.
I'll return to "Project meetings", to which I was first bid come to one by the "Tuzla boss", only a few days after arriving.
A summary of the state of the project as I arrived came to me vividly.
All the functions of the overall project - all the meetings with
several person delegations from each party travelling great distances
in chauffeured cars and company vehicles, all the invoked procedures,
formal requests for information and their written responses - all
following protocols triggered on that initial alert of finding quality
and schedule off-course - were passively recording an unfolding
Passive in that, at this great expense in persons, procedures and administration, there was zero effect of exerting any form of "steerage" to the project.
Re-iterating harshly - the project was "burning-up the budget" to "drown in a sea of paperwork" which had zero functional relation to the bridge construction activity; which was dragging-along in some "lowest common denominator" unsteered way also burning up budget for no useful outcome.
This fate had only descended on the project as the steelwork phase started, as far as I know. The previous concrete construction phase of the bridge approach buttresses and the towers had run to-schedule and to quality goals.
My recruitment seems to have been because of a higher-level comprehension that welded steel structure needed a specialist with aptitude for it. The project needed me to be that person; to apply steerage and engage propulsion, I also appraised at this initial juncture.
The office had another welding engineer, a youngish Turkish man. A privilege to work with, whose name was Ibrahim. Though I was also to see and understand why I was there.
We were to drive to and from Kocaeli frequently, for most of a month.
On first visit, I could see what had gone wrong.
Containing the situation and getting the right components into the bridge needed some ingenuity.
I was also very much puzzled. The component was a strut which clearly
took moments (bending forces). In cross-section a couple of metres by
a few metres, and well over ten metres in the length dimension. I
couldn't make sense of its design, as I couldn't see the purpose of
"odd" features which were causing all the weld trouble.
Big mental note to self that knowing the answer to that "mystery" might help.
We beat a retreat back to Tuzla, had a night to sleep on it, then next morning considered the situation.
A poor weld detail had defeated all efforts to inspect it.
In a situation where we definitely needed those inspections.
All the usual "surface" inspections had been done, let that be clearly understood. We definitely needed the specialist "volume" inspections. Of the type for which Radiography and/or Ultrasonics are the usual candidates.
Radiography was completely ruled-out by the geometry, enabling all attention to immediately go to the Ultrasonic Testing methods which would generally be expected for this thick steel structure.
We had to identify something which could be done.
The blessing was Ibrahim was a qualified and experienced "Level 2" Ultrasonic Testing operative, aside from being an engineer.
The puzzle of the design of the "Kocaeli" component had me catch a
ride to the main Project office at the compound at the bridge site.
The Chief of Hyundai's on-site design team greeted me in the design
office. A very polite economically-speaking man, immaculate in formal
office attire, absolutely the image of an oriental academic and
I'd already sketched an alternative design to the "Kocaeli component", an elementary fabricated square section, with a few simple calculations suggesting why it would do the same job. Which I explained would be so quick and easy to make that, if it was satisfactory, might that not be the quicker solution?
"Ahh - the problem with that design is it would be too stiff. It must match the stiffness of the concrete it attaches to, otherwise the concrete would locally crack at the attachment to this strut".
This explanation made instant sense - the design of the "Kocaeli component" had that effect of much-reducing the stiffness.
The Chief Designer reached across to one of several few-inches-thick files, found a particular page, and laid it open in front of me. I could see these were "Second Moment of Area" calculations, about stiffness of a beam. The several pages of mathematical statements leading to the answer revealed the matter required detailed accurate analysis. A more complete, succinct and helpful answer could not possibly be formulated.
I was able to warmly thank the Chief Designer for his clear explanation, and a relaxed atmosphere allowed me to sink back into a couple of minutes of contemplation.
There remained irrationalities in the details of "the Kocaeli component" which could be avoided on a remanufacture. However...
The component required very accurate compatibility-matching. This additional engineering-design requirement deliberately limiting stiffness below a specific value made a very quick replacement much less feasible. Both in terms of needing a careful extensively-reviewed design, and in steel fabrication and welding a complicated form demandingly machine-accurate fit-up and a lot of welding. My experience of chopping-up steel and welding told me replacement would take time.
I described my thoughts to the Chief Designer, about the extensive hard work to "us" in enabling acceptance of the current "Kocaeli component", how the "stiffness control" issue prevented a very quick replacement, yet if "the Kocaeli component" were found to have any serious defects in the course of our "acceptance" inspection it could not be feasibly repaired and would need a remanufacture anyway.
That, on balance, it seemed best to try to "accept" "the Kocaeli component", while developing preliminary thoughts about how to remanufacture.
He expressed that he had no problems with this view.
Back to Tuzla...
The proposal currently presented for the ultrasonic inspection we were
soon to dismiss. We could see it couldn't work, and challenged the
produce a test-block with a machined-in pseudo-defect and show us they
could see it
The test we proposed was clearly reasonable and everyone wanted that
answer. The Ultrasonic Testing contractor could not image this huge
"perfect" pseudo-defect. Done - move-on.
I'd seen the Client's representative in meetings, but this was the first time we'd "rubbed-shoulders" on-site. Good closer "intro". He's the person having to control and justify where almost a billion US-dollars is going.
The developing idea discussing between myself and Ibrahim in the Tuzla
office was far too novel and without precedent to offer it up for
discussion. We needed to "pilot" it - test the key concepts ourselves
- for feasibility, then reveal our idea(s) if the trial seemed
Without explanation - the idea was a transmitted-beam approach [ transmitted-beam UT technique explained]
Therefore; Ibrahim lead on the details of what we would need, then he phoned the "Kocaeli" subcontractor and stated that list. There was no Contractual clause mandating that, but equally, we knew anything which broke the impasse was to their advantage, so they'd cooperate. We'd already seen they had a good Ultrasonic Testing set, of a type Ibrahim was familiar with. We turned-up and what we'd asked for was in a stowage-crate. The Ultrasonic Testing contractor had understood what the idea was, and one of my early Turkish surprises - they'd added pieces of improvised equipment I'd never heard of existing for that approach. Respect would be called-for in rather large quantities for abilities present in that indigenous industrial region.
The box in the office and the absence of people around was expected - everyone - the subcontractor, their UT subcontractor and the inspection agencies - was keeping clear and avoiding being seen to be associated.
We rigged-up the kit and soon had the transmitted-beam angling down at a shallow angle through the plate steel, bouncing off the back-wall and coming back up to be received by the other probe some distance along the plate. As we hoped would happen. We'd got that far. The technique for the welded joint needed the weld-cap ground off flush with the plate, and I picked-up a nearby 9-inch angle-grinder and got that done over a couple of hundred millimetres of the joint.
The distant group of people were coming ever-closer, and by the time we were probing the joint-area they were right up beside us. Then helpful suggestions started. Before long everyone was in discussion.
It became clear why the technique is "never" used - it is a miserable fall-back - incredibly slow and hard-work, vague and offering no great accuracy [ explanation ]. It fulfilled the engineering need. However, these realities revealing themselves to us detracted from the sense of jubilation we might have felt.
With the technique "piloted" and being seen to work, and no other technique being available, everyone got behind this one demonstrated technique, about which it seemed obvious there would be no competing alternative.
That finished the "Kocaeli" work for me, leaving me free to transfer my attention to the bridge-deck, which desperately needed this attention.
The designer of this component came from a trading area, a place where
companies interact in a locally developed norm, in a different
geographical area. He seems to have been unaware of the implicit
assumptions which made his designs work in that trading area. One
infers that the steels traded in that local market were high above
"commodity" grade. There must have been some preferential trading
arrangement, with the steelworks supplying steel at well-above the
globally-traded "commodity grade" steels minimally meeting well-known
Making-up the payload limit of a truck already traveling the short distance from steelworks to customer would eliminate most price-differential between the local "excellent" and global "commodity" plate.
There are reasons why this is systematically likely in a trading area with excellence. Companies with excellence will produce high-performing products by specifying materials and components of a high standard. Taking the example of a steelworks; set-up with processes inherently meeting the highest standards for which there is a market, those processes can't be "turned-off" for apparently "commodity" grades. Which will have a lot of the qualities of the highest-specified steels. Local companies will habituate to the quality of the steel and make little economies here-and-there in what they do making products, knowing their steel can "take it".
Every aspect of the design of "the Kocaeli component" hinted at some other world found elsewhere where things did work in the way intended.
In support of this surmise, I do know that the subcontracting arrangement - the accepted bid and the chain of actions embarked-upon, had just one designer engaged. With all good intentions. But without cross-checking and an environment of various people contributing, likely interjecting in the design process, the outcome was systematically wrong.
General point: "preferential trading arrangements" is why you cannot uncritically accept the argument "But these Specifications have worked perfectly well across many previous projects!". The argument that it worked before, so it must work now. You can find that the Specifications only worked because of local preferential trading arrangements which would not exist when operating elsewhere. Requiring an engineer to reject the apparently irrefutable "worked well previously" contention.
There is a contradiction in wider intentions here. A "preferential
trading arrangement" does keep prices down and create "our local
thing" which keeps-out competition. As the way the design works is a
local secret. Yet Standards aim to produce generality and make
everything a traded commodity, driving down prices. However,
ultimately, "commoditisation" must remain incomplete, as communication
and interaction up-and-down a trading network will optimise what
emerges at the end of a manufacturing process. Which will typically
manifest as "a good reputation" - pay for the reputable product which
performs in a superior way faultlessly, to maximise your revenue with
all effort going to optimising your own trading activity.
The contradiction between differentiation on excellence and commoditisation for lowest price will always exist.
"The Kocaeli component" was, in a way, an annoying digression for us, a diversion of effort from where we needed to be directing it. We were doing work already paid-for. Yet the schedule implications left us no choice but for everyone to jump-in and sort it out.
Something I'd come to appreciate was Turkish hospitality. Most worksites have a waiter personing a drinks kitchen, providing teas and coffee. Once I'd arrived to have a meeting which must become a "bust-up" with the subcontractor company. Yet the waiter, seeing me arriving in the Hyundai car and running to get changed into work-clothes before following the others into the factory, had made a Turkish coffee and stepped-out presenting it to me as I charged along the corridor. Swigged-down in one but massively appreciated.
The Managing Director, a wizened industrial character who spoke only Turkish, often gestured for me to go into his office and use the large leather swivel-chair to recline and rest.
Despite confrontations, I tried to be helpful where I could. In one case I could not believe how badly an intention had been implemented - extracting samples of steel from the welded structure to test if the steel is exactly the specification and batch it is claimed to be. I could see a way which would be non-destructive. To the Client's representative I described the much better way he could obtain a sample. Without explanation - take the trepanned "discard" from a mag-base drill as your sample to analyse. At the subcontractor's, the Managing Director lead me into the Accountant's office, who did a sentence-by-sentence translation of my explanation given in English accompanying my sketches. The company got the equipment from amongst what they already had and suggested it be used to the Client's representative. He'd have known my "hidden hand" in this, but all was improved and good-will was added-to.
A note about what I was seeing of Turkey...
The journey from Tuzla past Kocaeli and Izmit was 100km "solid" of industry. It was like the British Midlands of my childhood into youth. Steelworks, concrete-factories, huge "portal-frame" workshop buildings of inscrutable purpose, huge expanses of oil-refinery around Izmit, smoke and steam, lorries and railway trains everywhere. All I remembered of my childhood had reappeared here. Dusty and somewhat polluted, but bringing an earning-power which drew in vast numbers of people to work there.
I was indeed wistful as we smoothly cruised back-and-forth in our car - bearing a Western-European badge but which I knew to be made in Bursa, just to the South in Turkey.
The hospitality and quality of the food I was meeting in these heavily industrial areas was such that I was realising that the stories of excellent holidays in "beautiful" tourist areas of Turkey were one-and-the-same as what I was experiencing. The inherent nature of Turkey and the Turkish people.
At the outset, Hyundai's main intention as I was being recruited was
that I would sort-out the bridge-deck manufacturing issues for the 3rd
Bosphorus Bridge project.
"The Kocaeli component" diverted a lot of my effort in the first month.
However, I'd already been to meetings about the bridge-deck, and it was instantly clear both that they had got in an enormous mess over several issues and that each one of these was within an area of knowledge and experience I had. Fortunate for me. Hyundai had recruited the right person; that was definitely a fact.
On the other hand, the manufacture of the bridge-deck was all-but stalled. Which was extremely bad, with huge financial consequence. Irrespective of the trivial stupidity which was the root cause of most problems.
Now freed-up, I headed to the Altinova assembly-yard. Completing my
picture of the state of the project. The Altinova assembly-yard was
an impressive operation, organised using large-project-planning
abilities which can only be mine in the future. However,
equally-much, I could see there were serious absences of sound
leadership regarding welds which were creating a lot of problems at
the assembly-yard stage too.
The much greater amount of good was being completely overshadowed by the small amount of bad coming from weld issues. Hyundai had instinctively and intuitively comprehended this, even though they did not have the answers themselves prior to recruiting me.
The problems had revealed themselves to me in sufficient detail, at a
time it was clear that the parties were rapidly heading for
This needed "heading-off" and prevented from happening, otherwise we would all be losing our jobs.
A step in the right direction, brought about in a way involving some cooperation, was needed to pull back from that disastrous evolution.
I could see immediate steps which would get some quick improvements.
The problem was the politics of getting will behind the right actions.
Only interaction with the Client's representative could do it. A delicate political act in the circumstances. On the other hand, I had been recruited by Hyundai specifically to sort-out the situation...
Going into the office of the Client was an issue in itself. All
"external organisation" offices at the bridge-deck subcontractor's
yard were in the same area of the shipyard. Inspection agencies, the
lead contractor (my employer) and the Client's representatives office.
So I should assume everything would be seen. Especially in this
acrimonious political atmosphere.
The way was to manage it - a private conversation seen by any observer to be "proper".
Going into the office of the Representative of the Client for the
first time, and saying I wanted to have a chat with him, as he reached
for his notebook I stated "No - no notes. And we do not stay in here.
We go outside and walk around". That stated by me inflexibly to the
most powerful person on the project. Comprehended, we pulled-on our
hard-hats and we walked out. The general idea was; nothing about our
persons, hands in view doing nothing, clearly making no notes or other
record, having a conversation known only to us.
We strolled down the ship-repair part of the yard, away from unwelcome attention and with the massive activity of fast turn-around ship maintenance providing a background noise giving us perfect privacy to chat.
Avoiding hazards and navigating around the areas of intense local activity provided a "diluting" backdrop as we strolled along, in unhurried contemplative chat.
It was one of those conversations of careful questions, serving to identify and acknowledge our shared interests. Not stating anything directly, but having a shared understanding of where valuable first improvements might be attainable immediately.
The clear purpose though: I'm hinting there will be from me a proposed course-of-action working on the areas we are talking-around. When you hear it and recognise it, at a minimum don't oppose it, and limit your own teams' objections to it.
I did, of course, brief my boss that I had had the talk with the Client's representative - so he could deal with anyone coming to him with the "secret" that I had been seen with that person.
Anyway, in the days after that talk we did manage to get some small but pleasing changes in the fortunes of the project, gaining pace in time, and the vision of "being shipwrecked on the reefs of litigation" disappeared.
My duties, working for Hyundai, the lead contractor, was to represent their interests, benefit Hyundai, and prevent other parties benefiting at Hyundai's expense.
In my earliest project meetings, it was clearly right now my duty to "go into action" disputing claims being made by parties representing the Client. Which I "got on with" immediately and forceful. In effect my job was to "trash" the various agencies (claiming to - a vital distinction!) represent the Client's interests.
Come a project meeting at the main project compound at the bridge site, the Client's Representative specifically asked Hyundai for my presence at that meeting.
How so, if I'm "beating-up" people he's paying for the services of?
I mustn't presume to speak for him. He clearly saw it in his overall interests for me to be there. I suggest he saw I was "letting light into the situation" and pointing to the way ahead.
The character of the disputing, so far as I saw it on my arrival, had been point-by-point, arguing over the exact meaning and obligations arising from Specifications and phrases in applicable Standards - an activity without "navigation" and overall purpose.
There were incredibly experienced people present representing various parties at those meetings, who I looked up to with great respect. Whose few words transcended the "noise" and lead to the important truly interactive discussions. More on that later...
It cannot have done any harm for it to be seen by the Client that the lead contractor, my employer Hyundai, had taken a "wild" determined act bringing me into the project, within their polite circumspect Korean organisation. My own mind's eye vision of situations like this is "setting a ferret loose down the rabbit-hole" ;-)
The Client's Representative's requesting of my presence was unilateral. Equally it was an acknowledgment and interaction.
As a reminder; we are considering the manufacture of the bridge-deck, which was subcontracted to local shipyards company.
As I got further into the project, these themes I immediately identified continued to be proven correct.
The "topmost" common source of two of these "themes" was the chosen
"Application Standard" to which the bridge was built: EN1090 of 2008.
More specifically: EN1090-1:2009+A1:2011 (an overarching quite compact
quality-system requirement) and EN1090-2:2008+A1:2011 (the extensive
specific technical requirements for steel structures).
(there are Standards for testing methods, Standards for how industrial processes are done, Standards for properties of a material gaining a certain classification, etc - whereas an "Application Standard" brings-together for a specific application all the unique requirements and as much as possible delegated to "normative Standards" of the previously-mentioned type)
Compared to well-respected steel-structure Standards
(ISO's, etc) and Codes (the North American "American Society of
..." documents), EN1090 seems clumsy and insufficiently
peer-reviewed. Also doing something which it should never do, which
is over-rule provisions of the highly-respected extensively-developed
extremely peer-reviewed ISO Standards it refers-to.
"EN1090" is a "lightweight", whereas the "subsidiary" referenced ISO's for weld quality, non-destructive weld inspection, etc, are highly-regarded "heavyweights".
In summary: EN1090 for this application lacked the feeling of "maturity" which other established families of Standards and Codes possess.
Please be aware that these next-described actions of EN1090 are so reprehensible that it should be understood it is painful and distasteful to talk of them as if they should have any serious consideration.
That version of EN1090 "invented" a "new" level of weld perfection, "Execution Class 4" - above the inherent ISO5817 quality levels "D" "C" and "B" which Execution Classes 1 to 3 map-onto - which they name "B+". Whose epicentre is the "notorious" "Table 17" on numbered-page 59 of EN1090-2:2008+A1:2011.
Looking at the requirements as someone with some experience of welding, you can infer "where their heads were at" when they were constructing it. For instance some of it appears to relate to the very specialist activity of end-to-end "butt-welding" of lengths of steel plate which will form the lower flange of fabricated beams for beam bridges at the upper limit of their feasible lengths at some tens of metres. Very specific scenarios which should not be "let loose" as general requirements, as that will have chaotic nonsensical consequences.
These are very specific technical arguments.
The much bigger damage caused is - this EN1090 created a precedent and mandate to "unilaterally pluck requirements out of thin air" by anyone who choses to do so.
I was later to find that the entire contractual quality requirements
had been completely misunderstood by everyone. Obtained for the price
of two cups of coffee, some bottles of spring-water and a "trilece"
dessert (ie not a lot!). But sadly having to wait for that
entire work-day afternoon sat on the outdoor terrace of the
"Uzun Yayla" restaurant in Tuzla
[external link] (near the shipyards, and under "our"
office-block), reading the cover-to-cover the entire contract between
Hyundai and the shipyard subcontractor for the bridge-deck.
Even the designer of the bridge, whose statement on quality requirements for welded steel structure was cited verbatim, did not seem to have the concept of how his correctly-identified overall requirement needed to be interpreted.
The problem is that, unless you are familiar with welds, you would not identify that the "Execution Class" of the entire structure will be different to the "Execution Class" of the welds comprising it.
Reasons include "structural redundancy"; the failure of one weld will not endanger the entire bridge. The designer would avoid that - and there are none on the entirety of the bridge-deck.
The Designer had correctly identified it would be a catastrophe of massive proportions if the bridge were to collapse - "Execution Class 4" for the entire structure.
What no-one had understood is that this would be achieved by the achievable and realistic "Execution Class 3" / "Quality Level B" welds. The top level of excellence for general welds - stringent but attainable.
To be frank - "Execution Class 2" / "Quality Level C" welds would deliver "Execution Class 4" for the entire structure; however, the fatigue-resistance of the welds for a service of high cyclic stresses a bridge endures requires "Execution Class 3" / "Quality Level B" for all load-bearing structure.
These are the three main themes:
Following is the story for each "theme".
For the materials science and engineering issue of "fatigue", search on "metal fatigue", eg "Wikipedia" page.
I have done research on fatigue-resistant welds, and done tens of
hours reading on the topic while sat beside clattering fatigue-testing
machines, occasionally getting up and observing the fate in time of
samples under test. Before the final huge "bang" as the sample
finally "let go" as the diminished remaining cross-sectional area
could no longer take the load. That was for steel welds - as matches
What metals with a good weld will withstand for a long time is astonishing brutal.
Here's my take on what "fatigue" is, for what it's worth. The ductility of metal "disperses" local attacks, making metals very forgiving in structures. Every attack requires huge amounts of energy to do damage to the structure - and the structure can still remain serviceable and fully functioning. The contrast is ceramics, without ductility, which readily shatter with little energy. Using metals, we can design structures with many far-from-ideal but cheap-to-make features, and "throw it all" to the metal to deal with it. Metal fatigue is the one which you do not "get away with". The metal cannot "disperse" the local attack of the cyclic ("repeat") stress. Resulting in a local crack forming. However; the ductility and resilience of the metal defeats a crack-rip, and a high cyclic stress is restrained-down to producing a tiny crack-growth extension per stress cycle - down at atomic distances. So you can "engineer" serviceability by knowing fatigue cracks will occur and looking out for them. Ready to "catch" them and use your general fabrication techniques you used to build the structure to cut-out the damaged area and replace it.
So, back to the "bridge" story...
The sole protagonist driving this matter was the engineering
consultancy hired by the Client to independently review the bridge
design. This was about the stiffened panels as manufactured on the
Tuzla stiffened-panel line - a "factory" environment (as previously
mentioned). A search on "Orthotropic Deck" will fully indicate
the activity - see eg
They insisted that the long longitudinal welds joining the stiffening channels, the approximately "U" shape, to the deck-plates, had features which were vulnerabilities to fatigue.
The mainly American engineering research on the fatigue-limited
service life of "Orthotropic Bridge Decks", cited by them as providing
the "damning" diagnosis, did not match "our" situation on the 3rd
Bosphorus Bridge project. They attached a name loaded with negative
connotations given to recurrent significant flaws in the American weld
to dissimilar features of "our" panel-line welds. Without
explanation: the Americans used "unprepped" "U"-channels sub-arc'ed to
the deck-plates at high currents giving full-penetration - such that
if conditions "loosened" from tight fit-up, if would produce a local
fairly explosive "melt-through" (more accurately, "blow-through") -
whereas the "Tuzla" practice was bevelling the edges of the "U"s and
using FCAW in a weld which varied from 95%-plus penetration to
full-penetrated with a nice smooth small penetration-bead.
Note, for what it's worth, that the majority service stresses are along the length of the weld (?).
The Client's consultants were claiming the local areas of transition from very-high but partial penetration to full penetration were fatigue-stress concentrators.
All my own impressions of fatigue applied to this matter manifested as single exclaimed dismissive expletive. Obviously only in my own mind, apart from in private conversations in a closed room with people I trusted.
The pressing urgency of the matter was that this engineering
consultancy was threatening to "stop the job" if these "features" were
not eliminated immediately.
The welding process and welding approach did not provide a simple way to make that happen - as expedience would have had us do if that was readily achievable, even if we knew the change to be pointless.
As common in projects, an inspection and consultancy agency generally requires and obtains the power on proclaiming dissatisfaction to prohibit further work.
My mental image was of the people in that agency being "en-masse" engaged in a simultaneous synchronised gratuitous act of physical self-pleasure.
How the story proceeded can be dealt with by relating the next step. The Client's Representative, needing to get to the root of this, engaged an independent Consultant of International repute on fatigue matters.
In all of Hyundai's project organisation of hundreds of experts, it
emerged that I was the one who needed to "step-up" and lead for
Hyundai on this.
It needed to be clear that Hyundai was strongly-defended, so that trying to throw blame and costs on Hyundai lacked appeal.
Tee-hee - I'd for sure like to do a good job - but it's not my money on the line. "Showtime" !
The parties are gathering, hosted in the large elegant conference-room at the shipyard of the bridge-deck subcontractor.
The Consultant engaged by the Client's Representative was introduced
by the Client's Representative.
Time to get in there and get control. Be first and shape the discussion.
Fortunately I could see how to do this with charm - much more desirable where possible.
"Excuse me - could you help me with a misunderstanding? I have been unable to understand how these features are the most important, given fatigue finds your structure's worst feature, and there appear to be far worse fatigue details which are part of the design less than half a metre away?"
The Consultant, for whom I had massive respect and whose accumulated experience was vastly above mine, pulled an expression conveying that this question posed a huge complex genuine issue to address, while making a swirling-and-diving hand-gesture to reinforce that same message.
Straight-off down the first-principles technical direction of looking at fatigue-ratings of design features, and the stresses in each area attacking those features.
The discussion rapidly spread-out to rate all features of the bridge-deck as designed and implemented - a comprehensive engineering view - excellent!
The necessary design detail and fatigue-resistance analysis rightfully required diagrams and illustrations, so the Consultant and I were shortly stood beside the whiteboard with pens of many colours denoting shapes, stresses and their flow, flaws and stress-concentrators, etc. Soon to be joined by others who genuinely possessed engineering thinking, in a joint activity of sketching, "arrowing" and "ringing" as we agreed on the crucial issues.
Perfect success, as all the parties ready to interject with "legalistic" contentions-without-context where isolated-out, never to get their chance.
The Client was charmed by the interactive analysis of the bridge deck features on their merits, and condoned the prioritisations and solutions which emerged.
The design review consultancy continued in ensuing time to try to use their "stop the job" power as a threat to force this matter back to sole-and-central consideration.
A bit more effort required from me on this matter...
I confess I wish I could have taken my fatigue-resistant welds investigative research further, and this looked like a blessing to me - if not to anyone else (!).
The Client, in a reaction to their own design-oversight consultants,
had contracted with an external testing organisation a full-sized
fatigue test on a panel.
This would be completely useless for "our" purposes in making a good bridge.
Given the financial issues at stake, for Hyundai as lead contractor and "our" subcontractors to unilaterally and independently obtain pertinent fatigue-test results at our own expense was a "no-brainer" (an outcome so advantageous overall that it needed no extensive consideration to opt for it).
I saw two "lines of attack" on the issue. One was to isolate solely the feature of a change from high-partial-penetration to full-penetration on the stiffener-rib to deck-plate welds.
The other was - could we test entire panels? Many metres in each
dimension. Normally a fatigue-testing machine dwarfs in size the
sample it tests - but could we weld with short cross-struts two panels
face-to-face and insert some elementary mechanism into that gap which
flexed them through some fixed displacement - say for example 50mm?
That one would fail first is irrelevant - we are searching for the
worst features, remember...
There would be a squillion angry objections critiquing the method - but the findings could not be ignored - especially as we accumulated repeat tests.
In a shipyard, there's enough space to put the test in a distant empty shed, stand-back and set the test going, lock the door and come back when there's the loud "bang".
While the shipyard subcontractor for the bridge-deck did say in principle they could contribute their resources and facilities to a suitable test-programme, that one never went any further - because the other action we took removed the necessity.
The test-approach isolating solely the change-in-weld-penetration
region of the stiffener-to-deckplate would fall within the
force-applying ability of a large fatigue-testing machine.
We'd have to cut-up one good panel with an abundance of the feature to extract our samples - but it could be easily replaced, so in the scale of priorities, that was no problem.
I'd been told that no suitable fatigue-testing facility existed in Turkey - but I was having instinctive doubts about that, given the competence and ability I was encountering in Turkey.
Some Internet searching indicated an applied engineering research group investigating fatigue-resistance of structures, at a university in Ankara. Asking around of indigenous Turkish engineers I encountered, comments were along the line of "He was my Professor of my Master's Degree!" referring to the leader of the group named in my searches. Plus more happy recollections.
Phoning him, backed by an email with attached sketches describing our situation, got an engaged response.
The tests were possible and he could do them immediately. He could indeed "crank-up" the force to a level producing high stresses and rapid failures, revealing what were the vulnerabilities, and how vulnerable they were.
The immediate result: as soon as it became obvious that I / we the
lead contractors would be coming along in about a couple of weeks with
real results and findings, suddenly there was silence on the issue.
A perfect outcome for the project.
With that outcome already achieved, the tests never went ahead.
This was to prove to be a recurrent theme. Where I use my abilities
to organise for real information to be generated resolving a matter,
the problem-claiming protagonists, realising they are outclassed and
probably talking "rubbish", promptly shut-up.
Leaving me with the emotion of regret that I have used the time of good people who were willing to cooperate with me without anything in return, and that interesting ready-to-go investigations which would have added to my portfolio of expertise never happened.
The "best" "face-saving" influence the engineering-design oversight consultants managed was to get an on-site inspection team, whose normal job is investigating the condition of drains, sending a crawler-robot with a video-camera down every stiffener-rib. As a Trade team, they got on with what they were paid to do, not getting in anyone's way or forcing any disruption, happily pocketing their remuneration for their performed task. A pointless exercise but a small expense in the overall project priorities in appeasing the oversight consultants.
I was able to comment in meetings and advise my employers upon the following point almost immediately on arrival at the project; though it was to be a little while before I could forcefully act upon it.
In my earliest meetings, the talk on non-destructive examination (NDE) of welds (interchangeably called non-destructive testing, NDT), in particular the ultrasonic testing (UT), revealed a profound misunderstanding of the purpose of the non-destructive testing. A commonly-encountered misunderstanding, but surprising for me to find on such a large prestigious project.
Non-destructive examination results can only tell you whether your
welding methods are giving you the weld quality you specify.
"Repair" of defects found on non-destructive examination cannot restore quality which the original welding process did not provide (!!!).
For economy of explanation; first consider how NDE and UT are correctly used.
You design a component - including specifying all materials, how it is welded, how it is inspected (NDE/UT), painted, etc. If the "run" is many easily-replicated components, on applying UT to your first "batch", if you found weld defects you would conclude that your welding process does not have the ability to meet the quality specification. So you go off and define a new method and specification for your welding. That first "batch" of components are discarded. When with re-design and testing you get components which "pass" NDE with no defects found in any of them, then you proceed with the full manufacturing run. With sample NDE / UT to ensure that quality remains what it should be by reason of the manufacturing process being invariant.
The same logic applies to a large high-value high-stakes one-off or few-manufactured components. Reluctance to conclude it is below-specification does not change that it is below specification.
Hence; as soon as I heard of the "strenuous efforts" "quickly" "getting around" the bridge-deck sections performing ultrasonic testing and "performing weld repairs as quickly as possible", I knew something was seriously wrong.
Obviously, gross defects found on NDE which would cause rapid failure of the bridge deck structure must be removed. Typically by gouging then repair-welding. There should be very few of these. They need to be "exceptional", otherwise your manufacturing process is totally unfit for purpose, as is the component you have made.
Here is the explanation why non-destructive examination, including
ultrasonic testing, cannot bestow quality not originally present.
That is in-general, and particularly so for welded structures.
Most structural failures are fatigue-cracking, many originating from prior flaws and defects in the structure.
Non-destructive examination techniques, including ultrasonic testing, have a "probability of detection" ("p-o-d") of defects. If you inspect a welded joint, you will only detect some of the defects if it possesses them.
Fatigue, the attack by high cyclic stresses, "probes" your structure and will "find" your worst features.
Therefore if you "repair" the defects which you do find, you will not change the performance of the structure.
Because fatigue will "find" the other defects you did not detect, and initiate failures there.
Broadly the same argument applies to other "attacks" upon your structure.
Therefore, there is no point in removing moderate defects detected.
Then there is the propensity of "repairs" to be less-good than the original weld with a known modest defect, and be the initiation site for failures, making your structure less good than it was before "repair".
The discipline of "Engineering Critical Analysis" came into being from evaluating exactly this dilemma. It's familiar and very important.
Clarifying something - no weld is without flaws. In rough-and-ready terms: a flaw is something inevitable and within the design basis; a defect is a flaw significant enough to degrade performance of your structure (though may still be accommodated within the design basis); while a gross defect causes risk of loss-of-use or even to the survival of your structure.
So what is the actual purpose of non-destructive examination to a
Apart from detecting gross defects which must be eliminated.
The majority purpose of non-destructive examination serves the
engineering oversight of the project, by being a quality-control
measure within the overall quality-assurance function within the
If you are finding defects in welds, you must rectify and/or improve your welding so the next components you manufacture will have the quality you desire.
On my first project meeting hosted in the Altinova assembly-yard, the
ultrasonic testing issue went right there to the centre. One very
senior engineer of the Client organisation was there, speaking with a
tone of incredulity "Can the defect and rejection rates really be SO
high???". He went on to describe the reliability of these completely
familiar welding processes, to which everyone else experienced in big
fabrication-yard welding agreed. What different could be happening
This was about the regular scheduled ultrasonic testing of welds reporting huge numbers of defects.
The magnitude of the matter was conveyed in charts the shipyard had prepared, which everyone agreed realistically conveyed the reality.
This was the main cause of the recently started steel structures phase
of the project being almost fully stalled. All "condemned" welds were
being Air-Arc-Gouged out (
) [external link : The Welding Institute's "Job Knowledge" series] and
What was to be seen, walking around the assembly-yard, was a scene of carnage. Welds were being gouged-out in every direction you looked, and welding teams were trying to do awkward repair-welds in very non-ideal conditions.
No-one had overall understanding of why this was happening to "us" the entire project.
Repair-welds were also being "condemned" on ultrasonic testing, and repeated re-welding was raising concerns about losing the dimensional accuracy which had been worked-for so hard, with the vast jigs and the frequent trigonometric surveying used during set-up. Welds shrink on cooling and cause distortion, which presents enough challenges getting accurate dimensions in the best of circumstances - whereas this was uncontrolled and without overall plan.
We were in the middle of something both mysterious and disastrous.
We were walking around the assembly-yard, observing lots of busy teams working-away, with nothing observed revealing what was causing the problem. Everything looked "normal" in the first-making of the bridge-deck sections.
These "streamlined" shapes were complete in the cross-section at 59.5m
wide, made in 24m lengthwise sections weighing 760tonnes each.
The sections were made end-to-end for exact dimensional matching, to make assembly into the completed bridge deck a single geometrically convenient enormous-length girth-weld.
Thus, on the bridge-deck jigs, you were often on or within over 200m of structure, and never less than about 100m of structure with a high view down onto the rest of the jigs being fitted-up with the next sections.
Inside the bridge-deck, a scaffolding which could finally be dismantled and removed was encased within during the assembly "tacking-up" sequence, providing tiers of lightweight metal decking across which you had to walk stooped, often ducking very low to get under big structural stiffening beams of the bridge-deck structure. Lights hung at frequent intervals. The scaffold decking gave access to all surfaces of the bridge-deck structure during its manufacture to completion.
Within the structure, the lowest level upon the lower internal surface of the bridge-deck offered more space to move, but involved walking along beam-flanges (narrow-ish) and hopping from stiffener-rib to stiffener-rib. Moving in groups, it was quite an energetic vision seeing the line of people flowing along making the identical move at each location - a bit like observing a millipede moving.
Work-teams were all over the internal space and external surfaces, welding the welds which at the assembly stage in the jig had been tack-welded, or locked into juxtaposition by long stitch-like lines of "strongback" plates transversely welded-on bridging the welded-joint to be made.
Given the huge length of the structure in assembly, and the awkwardness of walking down the constricted spaces, it was often expedient to enter it through hatches which would in the finished bridge provide the maintenance access. The high stresses to be experienced by the finished bridge, and the need for close dimensional accuracy, precluded leaving access-openings later to be closed to finish the structure as designed.
Ladders and railings - the various "secondary steelwork", could not be included while the primary structure was being constructed. Making climbing through the smallish access-hatches with surrounding thick stress-diverting coaming, on steeply-sloping side surfaces, a very athletic activity, often requiring lowering yourself off your elbows braced on coaming for a long distance until your feet touched some surface below.
Teamwork is everything, and I was present at the "Eureka!" moment when
we found our way into the explanation.
At the Altinova assembly-yard for a serendipitous visit, I joined-up with a Korean Hyundai engineer I'd never previously met for a walk-around.
Walking along the deck surface, we randomly came across an ultrasonic testing technician who was in the moment of both looking at the instrument's screen attentively while marking-up the location and nature of a detected defect.
The Hyundai engineer, who it transpired was experienced with application of ultrasonic testing, seeing something odd, swept-in and got the ultrasonic testing technician to explain. The Hyundai engineer had seen that the reflector (flaw? defect?) indication was not as high on the screen as it should be to be classified as a defect, according to the widely-used Standard applied here.
He asked for the ultrasonic testing probe, which he took from the ultrasonic testing technician, and slid it around probing the reflector the ultrasonic testing technician had marked-up as a defect. After about half a minute of probing, he asked the ultrasonic testing technician to demonstrate where he was "seeing" the defect-sized reflector, which the Hyundai engineer could not find.
Then the magical moment which let us into the "secret" of what was happening. The ultrasonic testing technician, squirming because he realised he was about to become the epicentre of a storm, had to explain that he was seeing the same as the Hyundai engineer was seeing, but he was following an additional instruction above-and-beyond the highly-respected Standard ISO11666 ("Non-destructive testing of welds -- Ultrasonic testing -- Acceptance levels"), about the magnitude of a returning-echo off a reflecting flaw above which to report a defect is there.
That instruction was to declare a defect at a smaller reflectivity - a less-high "spike" (peak) on the ultrasonic testing instrument screen - that the ISO11666 criteria. ie a smaller flaw indication is marked-up as a defect.
Background note : an ultrasonic testing set screen in use is full of
echoes from many sources, and it is an astonishing training that
enables an operator to filter out all but the very few which are
defect indications. Moreover, the operator gets to quite accurately
identify the type of flaw, from the "beam dynamics" - how the
reflector spike on the screen behaves as the probe is swept around so
the ultrasonic beam probes the reflector. You are typically scanning
around through the metal to about 100mm distance from the probe. Some
peaks leaping around the screen are "ghost-echoes" from the physics of
the ultrasonic beam changing mode from shear to compression waves and
back, some are off the physical shape of the structure as-designed so
are irrelevant, etc. A flaw reflection comes from a region
where there should be no reflector, because that region is within the
as-designed structure - which should transmit the beam uninterrupted.
The problem is that any weld will contain flaws, and engineering knowledge is that a small flaw is best left as-is, because to gouge it out and repair it has its own risks. Then there is the question of whether there really was anything there at all. So there is a need for a pragmatic Standard for interpreting and "sentencing" ultrasonic testing indications.
Anyway, back from this aside; we'd found the explanation and
root-cause for the chaos which had engulfed the project.
(there's also the issue of what the organisation's response is to finding weld defects on ultrasonic testing inspection, which needed to be wrong for the effect of wrong ultrasonic testing defect-declaration criteria to "bite")
Summarising: there was no abundance of defects; the reporting of many defects was because the inspection agencies had "played with" the ultrasonic testing evaluation criteria and were reporting defects where there were none.
The discovery was relayed back to the entire project team.
Memories jogged, it was recalled that the lead local inspection agency engaged by the Client had talked about changing ultrasonic testing acceptance criteria when in conversations with various parties. Nothing which could even approximately be construed as providing as much as a partial mandate for anything like this which had been discovered.
That the inspection agency would do something like this raised a
fundamental issue of whether they were truly representing the
interests of their employer, the Client.
It was later to seem likely that that inspection agency was peeved at not getting a more important role they bid for on the project, so was trying to aggrandise itself in other ways.
Trying to get an understanding of what was happening, a single defect
reported overnight was selected for re-investigation. All engineering
parties to the project sent representatives, who gathered in the
bright cool morning air, high up in the sea-breeze felt on the top
surface of the bridge-deck section as it stood on blocks at the
assembly-yard. Engineers from the project and trusted non-destructive
experts brought along ultrasonic testing sets, and they set-about
locating then measuring the size of that indication marked as a
Various parties all got to work with their ultrasonic testing sets, and no-one could find any defect. After about an hour of searching, the leader of the inspection agency which had reported this defect was summoned.
In an astonishing scene, he straightened-up and sanctimoniously stated that "We report a defect at 32decibels below DAC".
That is mind-boggling insane.
We were clearly alongside a "full-blown" case of what I dubbed "Execution Class 4 madness".
Here is "my" quick explanation which hopefully makes these things
"DAC" in this common case is the reflectivity of a 3mm hole probed side-on - "a 3mm side-drilled-hole" ("3mm SDH") - an easily-made consistent reflector in a sample of any material you are ultrasonic testing. The reference reflectivity, given the decibels on a ultrasonic testing set screen can only ever be relative.
For indications away from the immediate vicinity of the probe - where the majority of the scanning is done - the ISO11666 threshold level at which a flaw is classified as a defect is 14decibels below 3mm SDH DAC.
32dB below 3mm-SDH-DAC in relation to 14dB below 3mm-SDH-DAC is an 18dB reduction.
An inherent property of the decibel scale is that it is logarithmic.
Any 18dB reduction means a reduction to nearly 1/8th of the previous reflected ultrasonic-beam amplitude (it is 1/7.94).
Getting more advanced into physics, but vitally important: the ultrasonic vibration beam obeys wave behaviour, including not being able to image anything smaller than its wavelength. That wavelength for a 4MHz shear-wave probe on steel is 0.8mm. Only part of the defect might be reflecting back to the probe - not its full size. The "wavelength" physical limit was probably already acting.
This is is all so crazy "you cannot go there" (it's too illogical to be amenable to logical analysis).
What you will "see" could only be known to an omnipotent Creator - if they would spare any time for this idiotic situation, where the proper answer is do as you were told to - follow the Standard.
The inspection agencies where clearly "plucking requirements out of
thin air", and seemed to be competing with each other to be most
"important" by reason of inventing the most "stringent" criteria.
Having broken-free of engineering oversight, on first unilaterally changing an ultrasonic testing defect-classification threshold some time ago and "getting away with it".
More exposition would only be "strokes of the same brush". We had now identified "the big picture". Only details followed.
Again I found myself representing Hyundai in project meetings, this time on the ultrasonic testing matters. In the "fatigue-resistant weld-design" issue, the requirement upon me had been dominating with technical excellence. In this case of the ultrasonic testing issues, the requirement upon me was to know how to act upon the parties involved - a more "social engineering" task.
Without a "script" saying what to do in this situation, I found my intuition being the driving force for Hyundai.
Giving full credit particularly to my Tuzla Hyundai office colleague Ibrahim, who was beside me, had experience of ultrasonic testing (as I described previously) and advised me of details of Standards.
The inspection agencies initially tried to "hide" by talking in Turkish between each other extensively, claiming the matters were so complex that they had to be granted that indulgence.
By that stage my Turkish was good enough that I could recognise
numbers - for example "-14" and anything else which was not "-14".
Also what Standards were being discussed eg ISO11666,
If they tried to discuss between each other deviation from Standards, I could identify that.
Therefore I had only to lean over to Ibrahim to ask him for a summary of what they were discussing. The brief explanation providing me with the confidence to intervene.
My clearly barked-out responses in well-pronounced Turkish of "No!" and "False!" rather abruptly halted these "private" conversations.
(both "no" and "false" involve special Turkish sounds which have to be scripted by Turkish-specific modifications to the Roman alphabet, and to "hit" those sounds right in a clearly-enunciated interjections did assert my presence there)
I could see one "place" I could act which would "demolish" the
inspection agencies in project meetings.
However, it required presenting a challenge designed to personally discredit individuals representing other parties present in project meetings.
Not something to be done unilaterally. I discussed with the senior managers on-site of my employer, Hyundai. Who were Orientals inclined to be inscrutable and polite. They solemnly concurred that my view was also Hyundai's formal view.
The context is this: even if you were to as much as propose a
deviation from the ultrasonic testing Standards, you would have to
provide both a clear justification which stands-up to peer review,
plus a portfolio of trial results indicating that the proposed
ultrasonic testing technique delivers the claimed outcome.
This is about entitlement to as much as suggest deviation from Standards!
None of the protagonists had done any ultrasonic technique tests, despite unilaterally deviating from Standards...
The nature of the tests which would be required was obvious to any
When investigating what ultrasonic testing techniques will really do, the tests use pseudo-defects of known shape and dimensions, in blocks of representative material.
This creates the inverse of the inspection case, where an ultrasonic beam of known characteristics and responses interacts with unknown flaws. In the tests, the pseudo-defects are known and the properties of the ultrasonic beam are being investigated.
Teamwork strengthened my position, as Ibrahim "starred" again, alerting me to less-widely-known Standards showing ultrasonic test-block configurations and their suggested applications.
Which validated what was first-principles obvious. Some of the techniques were actually simpler than I had anticipated, not needing features I thought necessary to replicate the real situation. It also meant the inspection agencies, supposed to be the experts on ultrasonic testing, should know of these Standards and have applied their guidance.
The inspection agencies had selectively focused on something where there was no immediate proof to refute their bogus claims. The centre of their "protagonism" was about detecting spherical flaws defined as having an infeasibly small maximum tolerated size in EN1090 - the notorious "Table 17" of EN1090 part 2: 2008.
What the inspection agencies had not taken into account was someone arriving on the scene who was good at generating data and therefore proofs.
The shipyard subcontractor making the bridge-deck had machine-shops and promised they would make any ultrasonic test block which appropriate parties refused to make. ie non-cooperation would not prevent the ultrasonic technique testing results being presented before the project.
The shipyard's motivation - for a cost of maybe a few tens of USDollars in total, they could get rid of problems costing millions of dollars.
In effect, these conferences and discussions were about "setting the trap".
I was soon in a small cutting-tool shop only about 400m from our Tuzla
office, part of the local shipyard economy supplying the myriad of
detailed needs. Looking for a particular cutter which could also
serve to make the required "targets" in the ultrasonic test blocks.
My sketch of what I needed communicated unequivocally.
For a Turkish lira equivalent of a few UKPounds or USDollars, I departed with a 3mm milling tool with a hemispherical end.
Its alternative application for this case would be to send it down the 3mm twist-drill hole of the required depth, solely to form the bottom of that hole to an accurate hemispherical shape of 1.5mm radius.
Probed with an ultrasonic beam from the opposite surface of the block, the beam would behave as if it were encountering a spherical defect. The beam reflects off the front surface only - so that there is a hole behind the reflector makes no difference.
Per Ibrahim's guidance - this is exactly one of the test-blocks which is recognised in demonstrating ultrasonic testing techniques.
All this preparation for the moment when it arose.
At the next project meeting, the inspection agencies were again insisting on deviating from applicable ultrasonic testing Standards. I stretched out my arm vertically, with the cutter in my hand presented for all to see. Clearly, very slowly and extremely deliberately, I enunciated what Hyundai's on-site senior managers concurred was Hyundai's formal view:
"Anyone who does not have the competence to produce a test-block, using this tool which may be borrowed, or a similar one, to demonstrate what is being advocated here, does not have the competence to question the requirements of the applicable Ultrasonic Testing Standards".
Brutal but necessary.
None of the protagonists was a leader or on-their-feet organiser able to do much - a reality made obvious to all in the silence as I continued to proffer the cutting tool.
I was being a bit disingenuous, as at-a-push they could surely have made the ultrasonic test blocks. But I was sure they knew the outcome of such tests would show ultrasonics never had capability to detect flaws they demanded it must. I think they knew that I knew why they had to remain silent and suffer that moment and the ensuing effect of being labelled as having no competence in this issue about which they had caused so much disruption.
I think they had allowed peeved sentiments about their seniority in the project, mutating into political avarice, to cause them to make exaggerated claims and demands. When removed from political distortions, they were probably an organisation of very skilled, experienced and able non-destructive examination technicians.
That terminated a persistent annoyance which had wasted over two months of project meeting time and prevented attention going to real issues.
For me, it's about identifying priorities on the path to success and one part of the task is doing the myriad of small "housekeeping" jobs like this one described which get the detritus swept off that path.
The situation with weld quality was often as absurd as the story of the ultrasonic testing.
The shipyard subcontractor for the bridge-deck suffered some very
unfavourable judgment by myself, for sure.
However, again, the inspection agencies were being protagonists, pretending to best represent the Client while maximally aggrandising themselves, given no exposure to the success or otherwise of the bridge project.
Having got to know me a bit, after about two weeks in Tuzla (about 3 weeks after arriving in Turkey), the subcontractor's head of the bridge-deck contract bid me follow him on a mission he declined to explain. You can visualise my astonishment when, having walked through a purely ship-repair part of their yard, and ducking under some beams in a most unpromising location, we emerged up a ladder through a hatch into a busy test-weld facility concealed within an apparently defunct portable "hood" furnace for stress-relieving weldments by heat-treatment. In the space at least 10m square and more than that tall, lamps hung down from cables rigged from its "roof". Welding fume naturally rose through the "chimney" in the roof of the structure, while fresh air rose up through the steel gratings laid-out forming the floor. Portable? This is in a shipyard with cranes spanning tens of metres and with a capacity of hundreds of tonnes... The place had about 15 welders working testing welding methods on test-pieces whose geometry I recognised as representing parts of the bridge.
The shipyard manager explained that, with the inspection agencies
vying to get control of and influence everything, the shipyard kept
this facility secret and hidden. So they could test and know about
welding methods themselves independently.
Avoiding the often "wrecking" influence of the inspection agencies.
Much of the rest of my presence on the Project had similarly absurd situations.
Going to the Altinova assembly-yard, there was no excuse possible by
the shipyard for some of the things I saw.
The unfavourable part of the view of our subcontractor.
An example was that they fully-ground every weld. Tens of Tradesmen
were engaged in contract-labour gangs doing this, using
The argument was that this was needed to meet "Execution Class 4". Essentially - no - you cannot "dress" quality into a weld which doesn't meet specification as-welded. Similarish argument to you cannot inspect and repair quality into a weld.
Another argument was that only fully-ground welds provided the smooth surface for which the paint supplier would guarantee a 50-year service-life for the paint system applied. To which the answer is that welds executed in a way which meet weld quality requirements would require little dressing to meet a supreme painting-preparation specification.
The problems created were many-fold, and the activity should never
have been permitted. This is another case of Hyundai correctly
identifying that they needed a welding specialist to join them. They
knew something was wrong, but not what was wrong...
Here I was to tell them:
This left me having to run around the project persuading all the leaderships that the "full-grinding" needed to be prohibited. Even if there was a case for it, it needed to only happen after visual inspection.
Other problems were caused by deficiencies in the applicable ISO
Standards. Normally "ISO's" are highly regarded. However, for
welding, there is a problem of fitness-for-purpose.
There have been some idiosyncratic influences to the ISO welding Standards, coming through the committees to which the details of Standards are delegated by the International Organization for Standardization ("ISO").
I make no detailed references to mechanised welding using "submerged-arc welding" ("SAW", "subarc"). This is a high-productivity very consistent process. The shipyard was doing a good job implementing mechanised welding where possible. Often putting careful thought to it and making custom equipment which enabled the mechanised "subarc" where variable and problematic manual welds had initially been used. I couldn't contribute much to this. Especially as several Hyundai engineers provided deep experience of "subarc" welds. So this was a topic I left in other capable hands, while I directed my effort where my skills were highest and most productively applied.
An illustrative example in this category:
very early in my time in Turkey, at the Hyundai engineering office in Tuzla, I had to very forcefully counsel my immediate supervisor, the boss of the office, that one proposal he was mulling-over regarding welds would be very bad and have very undesirable effects.
The suggestion was that the shipyard subcontractor for the bridge-deck be pressed to form a "repair-weld" team comprising about 30 of the best welders (the persons) the shipyard has.
The consequences would be pernicious, for several reasons:
This aspect of ISO15614 was the basis for many problems in "mandating" a lamentable absence of engineering control of welding practice at the bridge-deck assembly yard in Altinova.
For economy of explanation, it is necessary to indicate what should be
done. Which is simple to explain.
For current highly-refined welding processes, do exactly what the welding consumables manufacturer says you must do to get the properties they guarantee it delivers.
With decades of development and refinement by a specialist
welding-consumables industry which has developed the
welding-wires, etc, it is generally absurd to suggest that a
company doing weld fabrications can prove anything useful by a weld
Only say National bodies overseeing nuclear power-station design might have the competence and integrity to honestly investigate uses of welding systems beyond what welding equipment manufacturers can recommend.
Organisations where typical amounts of money involved are in billions of USDollars or equivalent.
Take a specific example.
Accommodating me given what I was seeing, the shipyard did cooperate in making available to me a welding machine for doing the Flux-Cored Arc Welding by which all manual welds were done. Plus issuing me from Stores with a reel of the welding wire.
Experimenting, I found that for this welding system doing "positional" welds - eg vertical-up fillet welds - the welding conditions were incredibly exact. For Amps, less than 210A was permissible but less productive than there was justification in most cases. 220A was uncontrollable, with gravity pulling on the oversized weld-pool. 215A seemed to be the sole Amperage necessary for all positional welds.
For voltage, 25.4V gave a weld-pool which could be "manipulated" by weaving the torch with your hand, giving the weld shape and size you chose. Whereas at 26.0V, the weld-bead inherently filled the fillet to full-width, and you delegated all control to the flux-system shaping the weld-bead while simply following the joint upwards at a rate which let the weld metal fill to the specified size. 26.1V getting a bit "baggy" and 26.3V beyond controllable.
So that's 210A to 215A and 25.4V to 26.0V.
Now, Amps can be measured quite accurately, because electrons being matter are conserved (neither lost nor gained) - so current in Amps can be measured unequivocally at any point in the circuit of the welding current. Including putting your meter on the return-lead, away from the heat of the welding arc.
However, Voltage is much more "difficult". It reduces around a circuit, due to work done, resistance losses, etc. The voltage across the arc is what you need, and that cannot be measured directly in any practicable way. There is not even provision in the welding torch to "stab" a meter connection into it, even in the body of the torch which the welder-the-person grips. So you have to connect-up at the wire-feeder several metres away - from which there is the voltage-drop along the "harness" ("cable") of the welding torch of something like one volt, minimum. That being highly variable according to how well-coupled the connections are. So here is the punchline - I said "25.4V to 26.0V" because that is what my meter read. What I really mean is a range of only 0.6V covers the entire range from the smallest operable weld-pool to the largest operable weld-pool. The errors in the measurement of the "absolute" voltage are at least as big is this. Even more problematically; the variation in the error on voltage measurement will be at least as big as this.
Therefore; it is in any practicable sense impossible to meaningfully specify your weld by stating a voltage.
The only way the engineering management could specify to the welders-the-persons the voltage for the weld required is by a qualitative statement about the weld-pool characteristics leading to weld-width which must be achieved.
I found two ways which validated my finding about "210A to 215A, 25.4V to 26.0V"
On one occasion, with Hyundai management, the shipyard management and
some inspectors present, and given the foreman was visibly present in
the group, I looked around and the first welder I saw finish a weld I
went over and asked them to come with me. Leading him to our group
around the welding machine. I'd put a jacket over the front of the
welding machine so its settings could not be seen.
I described the weld I wanted, indicating on my set-up test-piece where to finish the three runs successively more "short" of the full length, enabling the "structure" of the weld to be seen.
The welder produced an immaculate weld.
Asking him, he replied that yes, these are conditions he would use. He said that these conditions are used around the yard. He liked the conditions. The Turkish engineers stepped-in to relay the more detailed questions and his response.
Everyone was much convinced, feeling clarity where none had made itself known before.
Hyundai later convened a meeting of its Korean staff to discuss the "philosophical" question of what a welding engineer is, reflecting on this alternative view they had never previously encountered...
The other validation was going around the bridge-deck sections in manufacture and putting a meter on the welding machines. I found that the more experienced welders were using the "215A, 26.0V" condition. The Turkish workers were a friendly accommodating bunch, and I was able to operate in this very beneficial way. I always showed them the readings I got, writing them with my chalk, and letting them compare these from my calibrated meter to the read-outs on their welding machines. I was able to do some limited chat, given my basic Turkish, and they were happy to show me their welding technique. I always carried a foldable leather welding mask (a "monkey-mask", to enable a welder to get their head into a confined space for awkward welding). So I could be beside them and watch their weld through the "#11" filter in my mask - in particular the flow of the weld-pool; the dominant control the welder-the-person exercises.
Now to the contrast - what ISO15614 lead to. The "Welding Procedure
Specifications" ("WPS's") typically said something like "180A to 300A"
and "22V to 30V".
That serves no useful purpose at all. That "WPS" does not specify the weld.
(very technical "eg" - at 22V this Flux-Cored Wire consumable would be "dipping" - it would be trying to run in dip-transfer - which is an impractical nonsense for this with-flux system, etc...)
The ISO15614 "range of qualification" has this effect, of being cited as the mandate to exercise no real control of welding.
ISO15614 is used in other deliberately pernicious ways. Its set of
rules are applied to "game the system" and "prove" that unacceptable
practices are mandated.
In this case of Flux-Cored Arc Welding of structural steels, it's "proving" that high heat-input welds (large slow welds) are acceptable (high toughness of the FCAW weld metal is only achieved at restricted low heat inputs of a rapid small weld).
Poorly drafted WPS's in the assembly yard did "permit" unacceptable high-heat-input welds - which I objected to. Though fortunately there was no real application which caused a high heat input.
A very broad "gaming of the system" is, when a batch of particularly good steel is recognised, a large stock of its offcuts are stored, ready to be used in the "standard weld tests" of ISO15614. That the "weld procedure qualification" "proven" using the exceptionally good steel will be applied to all other common "commodity" steels is of no concern when exact legalistic fulfilment of clauses of a complex expensive system has become the substitute focus.
Showing how ingrained the idiosyncrasies are with the ISO weld
Standards; when I talked with the shipyard welding engineer about
WPS's which addressed engineering need and specified the required weld
to the narrow operating range known to be good, he claimed that would
make the WPS "not compliant with ISO15614".
Again, it would take a thesis to explain everything which is wrong with that claim.
Here's some indicative background.
There is an entire industry writing computer-programs which calculate the range-of-qualification a Weld Procedure Qualification Test grants for the various weld Standards including ISO15614, across all the variables describing a weld.
The point being lost along the way.
In this context, it is not surprising that suggesting a WPS which actually specifies the specific weld you are making is an unfamiliar concept which meets vigorous resistance(!).
With my serendipitous site-visits, searching from wide walk-arounds to crawling deep inside structures, the bridge-deck subcontractor seemed to conclude that "say nothing and hope it doesn't get noticed" would not be a rewarding strategy. The extent to which they contested what I found and demanded seemed to have been identified by the shipyard as a choice about how much pain they wanted to suffer.
The nett effect - the shipyard started consulting me about problems which had arisen in the most recent welds, which I was yet to find myself. Sometimes I had ideas to contribute. Other times I was unable to make useful comment, and listened-in on their efforts to keep quality where it should be.
A desirable situation!
So far, on weld quality, we have gone through detailed problems and
their solutions. Also for issues with ultrasonic testing of welds.
Necessary, but it was correctly identifying an overall strategy for the welded bridge-deck structure which made the biggest difference.
I couldn't "wave a magic wand", but my ideas did influence people from various parties in the project. Such that I later got thanks for making completion of the bridge possible, for what that's worth...
The entire reason for my employment on the 3rd Bosphorus Bridge project was to provide a strategy for getting the bridge-deck manufacture, all 1.4km of its span, back on-track and to schedule.
Which I presented quite early in my time in Turkey on the 3rd
Bosphorus Bridge project.
I could not present it in meetings, because I could only present Hyundai's formal position on various matters. So I had to go around having private meetings, trying to persuade.
My overall strategy for weld quality and completing the bridge-deck is sketched as follows [ larger PDF version ].
A couple of explanations necessary in conveying what is shown by this drawing:
There are colours red, blue and green, and their symmetrical disposition in relation to the piers and the centre of the bridge is explained by the construction method.
Shown in red: the first 50m of the bridge-deck so far made, fitting against the bridge-piers on each shore, is accepted as-is. Immediately accessible emerging from passages within the concrete abutment, for frequent monitoring and to perform rapid repair during brief planned off-peak closure, the consequences of in-service failure could be minimised.
Shown in green: the middle 1.2km, the 600m to the centre, must possess the intended quality, giving very few in-service failures over a long service life. As failures would be problematic and very disruptive.
Shown in blue: that gives 50m each end, next to be fabricated, in which quality must be raised to desired levels.
The "red" sections denote the bridge-deck sections already made or
already in the jigs being welded. Which would be approximately the
first 50m of the bridge from each pier. I was saying: the bridge
sections you already have - get them "as they are" to the bridge
immediately and put them in-place. The previous section
Detailed explanation why NDE / UT cannot be a means to create quality
justifies that. Without scrapping and re-manufacturing them -
infeasible given schedule and the amount of plate-steel in-stock -
they must be accepted "as-is" to a lesser specification.
So stop all the "repair-welding" immediately - apart from the hopefully very few gross defects found.
The consequence of weld quality less than desired is mitigated by the ease of in-service repairs for these sections which are immediately adjacent to the bridge piers. The more frequent and extensive fatigue-cracking can be readily accessed for running repairs, by gouging the cracks and welding, or by replacement of panels of the steel structure.
The most disruptive probable effect of fatigue cracking will be break-up of the tarmac road-surface as the underlying steel plate flexes on losing some of its support. Forcing an unplanned closure of the bridge for repair - hopefully deferrable to the night-time when there is less traffic.
With these sections being near the bridge-piers, which offer large access galleries into the bridge-deck in which to assemble equipment and a maintenance gang while the bridge continues in-use, the gang can hopefully surge forward into the bridge-deck and effect a rapid repair to enable the bridge to reopen in very few hours.
As I explained previously; the susceptibility to fatigue-cracks cannot be changed, but the engineering justification for the strategy is made.
The "blue" sections are where all effort is put to improving weld
quality from what it is at present to where it needs to be. That
must happen over the next 50m of the bridge length, I am indicating.
That section of the bridge-deck remains fairly readily accessed from the inside, being still manageably near the concrete bridge-piers with their access-galleries.
Note that a huge amount of engineering oversight effort and tradesperson effort would be liberated on terminating the "repair-weld" activity, all of which could be directed to the "blue" sections, getting the as-welded quality improving and converging as rapidly as possible on what it should be.
The "green" section, the middle 1.2km of the bridge, ranging from 100m to 700m from the concrete bridge-piers, needs to have all the weldment quality intended, for a long service life with minimal maintenance despite the severe service duty. Given how much more difficult it would be to do running-maintenance and running-repairs in this central region, far from the bridge-piers with their large access-galleries, and with only small access-hatches from the bridge top surface.
It would have needed a magic wand to make all parties simultaneously and instantaneously consider my suggested strategy and all declare it was exactly the right way to proceed.
The idea that if you find a defect you must "repair" it is ingrained
and hard to replace with a nuanced judgment based around engineering
judgment from evaluating the overall outcome.
As previously mentioned Engineering Critical Analysis (ECA), otherwise known as Engineering Critical Assessment, is the engineering discipline applying sciences like fracture-mechanics to quantitatively evaluate what flaws should be tolerated and what flaws are unacceptable defects.
Here on this project the instinct of "We found a defect; we repair the defect" was very dominant. As mentioned previously, the inspection bodies had been given the authority to mark-up a weld as "rejected", for it to be immediately gouged-out and repair-welded - with no engineering oversight.
With an established "way of doing things", it was difficult work trying to persuade a clear and "pure" acceptance of the strategy I outlined.
There was another factor in-play. By human nature, regarding Execution Class, continuing to try to get "4" when you have paid for "3" could seem rather good. It fell to me, in a private setting, with only a very few of the most senior people of the Client and manufacturing parties to the project, to be extremely blunt in explaining how, in reaching for an unachievably high goal, the outcome was systematically worse than from reaching for the achievable appropriate goal.
The ideas on my overall strategy did influence thinking, and the desirability of directing effort to get welds right as first welded was perceived by the Client and all manufacturing parties to the project.
The nett outcome was to later receive thanks for making completion of the bridge possible.
Mea culpa! Do not underestimate the size and obviousness of errors which could "jump out at you" as a subject specialist. Without having built a "map" in your mind of the project, so most of the Contract goes straight past your "mental sieve" unchecked, there may be things which even in isolation get caught on that "mental sieve" at that early stage.
I earlier mentioned about the issue of Execution Class. No-one not knowing welding would know that the Execution Class for an entire structure and the Execution Class for an individual weld comprising it are two different things.
I would have spotted that without yet knowing any details of the project and any of its history.
That said, if I had spotted that in the first instance I would have seemed more than a miracle - I would have been mistaken for a deity...
Rushing from task to task, "plugging the leaks" according to the priorities indicated, it was to be a while before I obtained a copy of the Contract for the bridge-deck manufacture and put my feet up in a cafe consuming coffees, mineral-water and desserts while cover-to-cover'ing the Contract. On the other hand, if Hyundai wasn't such a good employer with such good judgment, I never would have flown to such a high overview...
All the "non-destructive examination" and "ultrasonic testing" nonsense need never have happened. All of the welding, addressing a realistic goal, could have been converged onto a very narrow but achievable target specification consistently meeting those goals.
As I previously said, mea culpa. I take that lesson forward.
Welding is complexly and concurrently dependent on several interacting
physical laws of the Universe. Heat-flow, electrical effects,
metallurgy, gravity, the physics of the welding arc, surface-tension,
chemistry of fluxes, ... Factored across the required outcome -
properties, sizes, metals, ...
Permutations are only about discrete entities. These are continuous scales giving infinitely variable outcomes. To specify a good weld, you have to visualise a multi-dimensional topological map created by the interacting scientific first-principles, visualising the few "sweet-spots" coming from the confluence of variables. Which can be identified by tracking along the "contours" of the visualised map, to arrive at a solution which you then retrospectively demonstrate to other parties fulfills the applicable Standards.
You cannot "approach in the opposite way" through the clauses of the Standards and arrive at a good weld. Some subjects you can. Familiar to me: to radiograph a weld, you can by process-of-elimination, following what is permitted or mandated by the Standard, arrive at a good technique.
With the basis of a Contract often being Standards, it would seem commercially expedient to have Standards experts, evaluating any concept clause-by-clause through the applicable Standards.
Do that for welding, with the Standards experts of the stakeholder parties going into "clause combat", and at great cost and with many threats of litigation no progress will result.
Fairly much what had happened with this project when I got that call asking if I could get out to Turkey immediately.
Hence - if the project has weldments, it needs a welding specialist.
If the word "dolmus" isn't familiar, it isn't easy to describe day-to-day events in Turkey.
If you travel around in Turkey, you will get to know of
[Wikipedia page - about which I have reservations as the
pictures are out-of-date],
"dolmus ride how-to"
They are the size of a minibus, run a standard route, and stop to pick-up and set-down anywhere.
A minibus is unsuitable, with the rapid getting on-and-off of many passengers, so dolmus are indigenously-made vehicles with a large power-operated side-door. There are few seats and most passengers stand, as routes are short and quick. Plus the fares are "economical" (understatement) - so the dolmus needs to carry a lot of fare-paying passengers.
There is a hilarious meeting of tradition and modernity in dolmus. On
the one hand people are passing money up to the driver, and change is
being returned - and you have to participate, developing the ability
to remember who is before and after you in the chain of passing the
money of a simultaneous plurality of passengers. The passenger next
to the driver often puts the money in the tray and extracts the
change, leaving the driver to drive. Amongst other very traditional
Turkish ways of doing things. Including the driving which is often
"spirited" and you have to hold on firmly.
Made more exhilarating by the modern aspect - the performance. Most dolmus (in 2015), a single model and manufacturer, had a "Euro 5 level" diesel engine - as modern as you can get, oozing performance from these smooth quiet clean turbocharged engines. With the rest of the construction to match - steering and brakes.
I very soon found I would be needing to have a lot of respect
available for the abilities of Turkish organisations and individuals I
In this case, I was able to present for consideration a contract for a radiography of welds service much more advanced than I had encountered elsewhere.
That the company willingly interacted with me, playing on the probability of "landing" a contract, providing real demonstrating and justifying technical data coming from a trial they did, was everything I have ever hoped for in my work.
The radiographic testing method is described in another webpage with sketches and comparative radiographs - see "computed radiography" solution with fully-shielded X-ray source
Here is the fuller story...
In one project meeting, the senior people from this ultrasonic testing contractors were present and responding to a lot of nonsense questions from the troublesome inspection agency retained by the Client. Their technical lead, a lady with "Level 3" non-destructive examination including ultrasonic testing qualification and obviously an abundance of extensive experience, was showing wisdom and an astonishing amount of patience. In formulating simple sensible replies to stupid ill-formed questions.
Feeling interest in the company, we chatted after the meeting and exchanged business-cards. As well as ultrasonics, I asked about a concept I'd had about radiography - radiographic testing of welds. Radiography has a reputation for revealing well less-serious defects in welds while being poor at finding cracks. However, on this project some radiography had been ordered where there was a strong suspicion of quality problems including cracks, and radiography did find some cracks where ultrasonics had not. Particularly on 4-way weld intersections, where the corners of plates meet.
They had adjourned to a seafront restaurant for a well-deserved moment of recovery, from where I received a call from them.
After conferring with the office boss, seeing as they would clearly be hoping for something from me, I jumped on a dolmus to the seafront and met them at the restaurant. My sum-total "inducement" was being treated to an "Irmik" - a simple local dessert.
The company did want to win another contract on the bridge project,
for sure, and hoped I could influence that. On ultrasonic testing, I
could not have done anything regardless of any inclination I might
With Radiography, I could see this opportunity where they offered a specific technical excellence and we in Hyundai might be very happy to push an overt proposal for their services to be obtained.
The radiography obtained so far had the consequence of asking for something without accurately defining what it is you want. What was being obtained was almost useless, for many reasons. That the radiography required a huge "exclusion zone" due to the radiation hazard meant it was only done after the deck-section was completed and removed to a distant location. Making the findings too late to be of any use. Then the quality of the radiographs was poor with very little contrast - a consequence of using a common radio-isotope which is on its lower limits of usability at the steel plate thicknesses of the bridge-deck. Resulting in bags of radiographs being carried around to be re-interpreted by the few people with enormous experience of radiographic interpretation, divining detailed meaning from the very "flat" blurry images.
The geometry of all the radiographs shared being the simplest case of straight butt-joints in steel plates, all horizontal. Enabling the solution presented in the linked-to page.
Discussing and sketching at the restaurant, the non-destructive
examination company surprised me by recommended using an X-ray source
for this procedure - not a "gamma" radioactive isotope source. The
logic was there. Doing radiography while welding was still ongoing,
they could obtain power for the X-ray set from the power provided for
welding, etc. They had some quite small and light portable
X-ray sets of good specification giving a high image quality, they
The advantage would be very high image contrast and resolution of detail, as you tune the voltage of the X-ray set to get radiation which only just gets through the plate - maximising flaw resolution.
Also meaning the radiation which must be fully-shielded can be effectively shielded by steel plate not much thicker than the plate steel of the bridge-deck.
The one thing they would need from us would be the radiation shield for the beam-path, made from suitably cut and welded steel plate. Given we the bridge organisation were the experts on steel and steel fabrication and had the steel and facilities to make that component.
Turkish food was generally excellent.
Even the little cafe across the road from my apartment is a fond memory.
Walking from my apartment to the Tuzla office and the nearby shipyards was fine.
Half my time I went to the assembly-yard in Altinova. With my Turkish language now at an elementary level where I could get about, I made my own way there, independent of Hyundai's company cars.
I caught the dolmus to the bridge over the big freeway, and had a
breakfast of borek (a stuffed pastry) and tea at a cafe I frequented.
Then down under the bridge to the loop-lane provided for pick-up and
drop-off. Hundreds of minibuses with a company name displayed on a
large card in the front window came and went, and I jumped-to and got
on the shipyard's minibus when it came into view (Turkish hospitality
- you can travel on their bus, too, as well as being fed at
The minibus took us to a small port on the North side of the Sea of Marmara, where the private "run-about" boats of the many shipyards came-and-went, ferrying staff across the Sea to their shipyards.
Tea from the cafe at the harbour, then as "our shipyard contractor's" boat arrived, walk off the harbour wall onto its bow as the skipper runs the engine pushing the boat into the wall, then edge around the 150mm-wide walkway and climb into the cabin, closing and securing the door if last in of about 15 persons, given the noise of the engine and the sprays of water when at full speed - about 20knots. Slowly out of the harbour then up into planing-mode, skimming along past the many cargo ships going up and down the Sea - oil-tankers, vehicle-carriers with cars for export, general cargo vessels, timber-carriers from Russia, etc. Often "slamming" crossing the wake of the big ships.
Then into the shipyard, still at skimming at full-speed while passing along the length of moored oil-tankers. Then filing off the bow of the boat onto the quay, again as the skipper revs the engine to thrust the bow against the quay, before showing my pass on its lanyard to the security person on the sea-side gate.
On the return journey, I travelled with my colleagues on the ferry,
which carried about 2000 shipyard workers.
Per Turkish norms, we often rode in the bridge, with the protocol that you were totally silent, as the captain had the navigation radio channel running, communicating of ships changing course, pilots being despatched to guide ships unfamiliar with the waters, etc.
Or we rode on-deck, drinking tea.
With many shipyards all finishing at the same time, all presenting a
sea-journey of equal distance to the harbour on the North side, in
very Turkish style it was a race to be first to the quay and get
the best position. A quiet seaside resort was simultaneous inundated
with several thousand shipyard workers, so the incentive to be first
off and away had everyone packed solid to the bow, with people jumping
across the water as soon as the ship was within a metre of the quay.
A scene like a Viking invasion but made many-fold more wild. The
scene of two ferries arriving simultaneous was something to see.
Unnecessary to mention - the ferries were very modern and sliced the water well with the fine lines of elegant design.
Some of the shipyard workers had very "rustic" appearances one would expect to be a tourist illusion if seen in a holiday brochure portrait of say a shepherd. Many of the industrial workers came from Eastern Anatolia on a one-way train journey from the far Middle-Eastern reaches of the State of Turkey.
The total cultural immersion, always with the comfortable coexistence of age-old tradition and energetic modernism.
Traveling out of Eskihisar harbour in the morning in the private boat
of the bridge-deck subcontractor heading for the Altinova bridge-deck
assembly-yard, the only other passengers were three most senior
executive Directors of that enormous shipyards industrial combine.
Leaving the harbour and picking up speed across the seaway, it was clear to see that something had gone seriously wrong with "the Japanese bridge", a suspension-bridge under construction across the Gulf of Izmit. Its "catwalk", the temporary access-way slung under the main cables while the main cables of a suspension bridge are being "spun" in-situ, was only quarter-present, descending into the sea near the Northern side. No casualties - that was already known.
There was ill-feeling to some extent as "the Japanese bridge" had been used as a comparison of "doing it right" against "the Korean bridge" being built across the Bosphorus.
"The Japanese bridge" was longer, but was a pure suspension bridge of totally familiar design, with deck of conventional proportions - much smaller and lighter. Plus it had a bigger budget for a less economically-significant bridge and a longer build-time allocated. Whereas "the Korean bridge" had an unfamiliarly vast deck for many lanes of road-vehicles and two railway-tracks, was mainly cable-stayed (though had a central suspended portion to cope with it being so long), with the cable-staying giving a shorter build-time and a lower cost for the bigger bridge. Very novel to meet extreme demands. Plus the Bosphorus is geopolitically strategic seaway of global ramifications, while the Gulf of Izmit is for sure busy but globally geopolitically significant it is not. So access issues are much more severe for the Bosphorus bridge.
Seeing the relief of pressure from "the Korean bridge" and our bridge-deck subcontractor, there was a temptation, which was starting to manifest, to celebrate the misfortune which would put "the Japanese bridge" far off schedule, revealing some realities known in-general but previously unsayable.
My "gut-instinct" surged over my feeling of deference to these
experienced industrialists of enormous stature and I firmly asserted
"We must not celebrate - we will encounter our own problems along the
Having worked "on the shop-floor" in steelworks, foundries and steel-fabrications shops, and on construction-sites as a steel-erector (North America: "ironworker") at great heights craning steels around, risk had been every-present, news of mishaps sweep through the industry, and "near-misses" are salutary personal experiences. Hence I let that instinct "run" in the presence of these giants of industry.
We would otherwise have struggled to gain moral absolution when later
that day the news came that one of the Japanese engineers had killed
himself, going to a local cemetery and committing suicide.
In over a thousand workers at the assembly yard, everyone continued with work but with a "heavy, ladened" demeanour and no smiles or laughter were to be observed anywhere in the rest of that day.
Everyone felt the burden of the challenges put upon us and the risks faced when part of one of these mega-projects. The stakes are high, for sure.
You do not have to bring packed meals to work with you in Turkey; certainly as I experienced.
The convention of Turkish hospitality has ever person on a work-site, regardless of their status as employee, visitor, contract-labour, etc, provided a meal in a canteen run by the site operator.
At the assembly-yard, there were so many workers, they had to have a
system of "sittings", where categories of workers were given a
meal-time in order to give an even flow of people through the canteen.
Leading me to ask in our office the most grammatic thing I ever said in Turkish "Shall we go now for our midday meal?". That takes two words in Turkish. However, there are complex grammatic endings on each of the two words conveying that information.
The meals were served on a single stainless-steel tray with pressed-in recesses of various sizes to take the various parts of the meal, which you presented as you moved rapidly along the serving counter. I'd gladly keep the utilitarian tray to keep the quality of the meals - the food was truly excellent.
In Tuzla, I confess I did sometimes arrange subcontractor meetings to be just before midday meal-time, resulting in replenishing at the shipyard's canteen. I enjoyed the company, of course, transitioning from serious discussion in which I pressed the interests of my employer Hyundai to winding-down and chatting about whatever was our inclination.
Once a regional power-outage caused by an accident involving major transmission line "blacked-out" our office. With need to have a chat with the quality head of the shipyard's bridge-deck contract, I made my way over there. Entering the shipyard, a building I hadn't paid attention to before was very much to the forefront, with four several-inch diameter exhaust-pipes each shooting out a long haze of hot air. With a noise like many diesel railway locomotives all setting-off with a heavy load simultaneously. Walking through the yard, all work was continuing, and when I arrived at the office of the person I sought, he phoned-through for two Turkish coffees, which arrived a couple of minutes later - brewed from the power of the diesel generators.
I had to like and respect Turkey and its way of doing things.
Where there are earthquakes, there are hot springs. Across the Sea of
Marmara, in the mountains just inland from Yalova, is a thermal spa of
some antiquity, the spa buildings coming from Ottoman times.
Hyundai put me on a 5-day a week work contract. Where theirs was six days a week and they often worked seven days a week. On the other hand, I raced about, charging into all problems encountered and finding solutions, to the great delight of Hyundai.
In return for which I got those two-day weekends in which I relaxed and "re-charged".
Including spending weekends at the Thermal Spa and staying in the adjoining holiday village of Gokcedere.
My Turkish colleagues got on the phone and negotiated at room for me
in a little guest-house in the middle of the village.
On that occasion, on Friday finish of work in the Altinova assembly-yard, I rode on the shipyard's bus to Yalova, where at the appointed cafe my ladyfriend was waiting as arranged having crossed the Sea on the ferry coming from Tuzla, and we rode the dolmus up into the hills to Gokcedere.
The relaxation was as enjoyable as the work was intense.
Many of the Turkish engineers I met had worked overseas. Turkey is in the ascendency as an economic power, for sure.
Space at the assembly-yard was at a premium despite its large size,
and Hyundai had an office in a building nearby awaiting its intended
occupancy. A gravel road either dusty or muddy, depending on weather
conditions. Plus heavy-vehicle traffic created some danger, so
getting a ride was to be preferred.
That office could only provide solitude and contemplation - something I only occasionally required.
In general, I used a small "perch" I was graciously provided at the on-site cabin provided for the Hyundai companies.
That office had an equal mix of welding engineers and paint
Inevitably, humorously-intended barbs flew back and forth between the two groups. Once, when deeply involved in a very earnest discussion about eliminating wormhole pores in submerged-arc welds, the interjection "That's nothing a bit of putty wouldn't fix" from a passing paint-inspector left me spluttering and quite unable to function for something like a minute.
However, talking with him on the way home on the ferry, I realised that I really did need to adjust my priorities and learn new skills.
He was guiding me rightly.
This paint inspector had a working understanding of fracture-mechanics and I had to grant that, indeed, occasional wormhole pores (which are cylindrical and barely a stress-raiser), which are not a manifestation of a systematic underlying problem, are disappearingly unimportant compared to that say 0.5mm thickness of organic-molecules layer which isolates the steel from the environment. That 0.5mm layer whose failure would lead to a service life of only a few years instead of decades.
For a welded steel structure, all the elements of welding and weld-engineering gets a satisfactory component into service. The paints specialist keeps that component in satisfactory service. They are two equally import dimensions.
I engineer my welds by design to perform well regarding service
stresses, to be weldable, I specify what welding methods will give a
good result, what the properties of the weld must be on test, how the
weld will be non-destructively examined after welding, etc.
These are the optimisations of the design.
I now perceived that to be the welding engineer I wanted to be, I needed in addition to optimise my designs to maximally advantage the paint system - in its readily-performed good application and its survival in passing time in-service.
I went on a paint-inspector course, as a way to get sufficient systematic initial engagement with paints and coatings to get draw forward the whole world of activities. Which worked.
The fatigue-resistant welds issue lead me to consider: had I had the
ability to do Finite Element Analysis modelling of structures, could I
have acted much more rapidly on the engineering design contentions?
I did not need to be an expert, able to lead on structural analysis. The test was this - could I hold-out a "laptop" computer showing a finite element simulation representing the structure under consideration and meaningfully say "The results of my own simulation are very different to yours - can you help me understand why that is so?". In the sense that others trust me enough to also want that explanation to be identified.
The point is to be able to act unilaterally and quickly. For example, use deduced shapes and estimated dimensions from photographs and observations to next day present a simulation sufficiently good to command attention.
Back in England, I got to work in a campaign of self-study and found that yes, these hopes were exactly what one could do with a modest Finite Element Analysis package installed on a laptop computer.
I even found I could readily produce a simulation of the bridge-deck of the 3rd Bosphorus Bridge - which would have been very useful.
In summary: thank-you Turkey - I hope I really did give unto you, because I benefited from being with you for that time.
About the Korean company and those I worked with I can say - I never before had a working environment where such total trust was extended to me. I am happy that their reward was the maximum of the effort I could make factored by the maximum effectiveness from where that effort was directed.
(R. Smith, 12Apr2017 to 20Apr2017, 27Apr2017)