MULTIPLEX claims it was forced into agreeing a prohibitive cost-plus deal with replacement steel firm Hollandia because Cleveland Bridge 'abandoned' the job, leaving it in chaos.
The pair are suing each other for damages and breach of contract after Cleveland Bridge (CBUK) left the site in August 2004. Over £50 million is at stake when the High Court case begins in April.
In its amended defence and reply to counterclaim, filed at the Technology and Construction Court last week, Multiplex says: 'By reason of CBUK's abandonment of the project, Multiplex did not have the opportunity to negotiate a fixed price with Hollandia.
'Once Hollandia commenced on-site erection and discovered the full extent of the disarray left by CBUK, Hollandia was unwilling to agree to a fixed price arrangement.' This disarray, Multiplex claims, was demonstrated by the fact that just over 4,000 tonnes of bowl steel was erected by CBUK between 16 February and 31 July 2004 when 'it should have erected more than 8,000 tonnes'.
It quotes emails sent by two of Cleveland's on-site engineers to their then deputy managing director, Brian Rogan, f lagging up problems the firm was having getting fabricated steel to site at the right time and in sequence.
On October 30 2003 engineer Steve Osborne wrote: 'We are still not receiving steel on site in the correct sequence or timing.' Two weeks later he added: 'Phase 15 is desperate. We have next to no tonnes in the system and it is totally reliant on fabrication quickly producing in the correct sequence.' A month later, on December 16, Mr Osborne wrote: 'I can't see it getting better until we receive 'full' and in 'sequence' S5, S6 and Raker deliveries because we have nowhere to go with erection and now have many tower cranes with nothing to do.' Ten days earlier engineer Andy Hall had written in his diary: 'PH 17 fin plates all wrong again. Is there no fucking end to this?' The problems, Multiplex adds, had still not been resolved in the new year.
In an email on January 12 2004 Mr Osborne wrote: 'We have never on this project to date received a delivery of steel in the order that we have requested.
'We can understand why the leaveout has been fabricated out of sequence.
But why has it been sent to site when we do not require it for months.' And in a diary entry on March 8 Mr Hall wrote: 'We are going absolutely nowhere.' By the end of July 2004 Multiplex admits the project was 86 days behind schedule ? although the firm says Cleveland was only responsible for 67 days of this.
Multiplex also dismisses Cleveland's claim that it was better placed than Hollandia to finish the steelwork: 'CBUK's supervision and site management had been unable to progress the project expeditiously since 15 February 2004 in that it had failed to achieve the erection of an average of 400 tonnes per week of bowl steel.' And it denies that Cleveland offered to finish the steelwork once the arch had been lifted for a £36 million fixedprice deal.
It adds that Cleveland considered it 'too hard' for the firm to provide a fixed price.