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Having a blast

ALTHOUGH 90 per cent of the Controlled Demolit ion explosive team's work is in the UK it has seen its fair share of foreign climes, working all over mainland Europe, the USA and the m iddle east, with a recent glut of work in Dubai.

Though it is possible for the f irm to buy explosive products in many of the countries it is sometimes necessary for them to be imported. The highest security situation it ever experienced was not far from home.

'The security in Belfast was the tightest ever.

They actually had to change the importation rules so that we could bring nitroglycerine-based explosives into the country, ' recalls Mr Williams.

Portugal brought its own complications.

Midway through the contract Controlled was approached by a man who claimed he had patented 'implosive demolition' in the country.

'We told him that we don't do 'implosive demolit ion', we just blow buildings down, ' says Mr Williams.

Explosive demolition is a small market, and a difficult one in which to get sufficient training.

Mr Williams learnt the trade from his father, who was self-taught. 'Even after he retired he would still ring me five minutes after every blast, to ask how it went, ' he says.

Mr Green came to the trade by a different route. After years in the army and serving as an officer in Bosnia he decided it was time to leave and got a job with Controlled. He found the transition a steep learning curve.

'In the army they just want you to blow things up. Here you want to blow it down. It's not a science, it's an ar t. The cou rses I've been on have been crap ? you need to be t rained on the job.' Mr Williams agrees. 'A structural engineer can tell you what will and won't fall depending on what you blow, but the amount of explosives you use and the blast ratios ? all that is just the information you carry around in your head.' He worries that there are few young people moving into the t rade.

'It's difficult to find the right people to train up to be explosives engineers.

'They need a bright engineering mind, but also not mind getting up on a freezing morning and laying charges.

'Then there's the people side of things ? dealing with clients who are nervous, and with the press. It's a tall order.'