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Construction of the massive gravity base structure (GBS) for the C$5 billion (£2.6bn) Hibernia offshore oil project in Canada is behind schedule and 30 per cent over budget.The GBS is being built by Newfoundland Offshore Development Constructors, in which Wimpey has a 29 per cent stake.But the Hibernia Development and Management Company, formed by five oil companies to carry out the giant scheme, said cost savings on other parts of the programme mean the project as a whole is within the C$5.2 billion (£2.69bn) pre-production budget and on target for first oil in 1997.The delay and over-run on the GBS, revealed in a report to the Canadian government, are being blamed on design changes and lower than expected labour productivity.By the end of July last year more than C$1.3 billion (£673m) had been spent on the GBS, much higher than the original forecast of C$965 million (£500m).HMDC president Bob Kimberlin said: 'Hibernia is the largest construction project in North America and will continue to challenge us in many areas. We have the expertise and qualified workforce to address these issues.'The Newfoundland labour force has the right technical skills to construct the GBS and to fabricate the wellhead module.'I am confident that we will meet the major construction milestones ahead.'Work on the GBS was halted in February 1992 after a major investor pulled out of the project, but restarted eight months later.Any financial difficulties experienced by companies with Hibernia contracts which were awarded before February 1992 will be absorbed by the four private consortium members and the Canadian government.In October 1993 experts from Norwegian contractors were brought in to try to improve construction techniques in a bid to save money and speed up the work. CONSTRUCTION NEWS