The question that is increasingly being asked here is whether New Zealand engineers can be absolutely certain they have been supplied the quality of steel they ordered and whether we have systems in place to ensure standards are adhered to. The industry appears to believe the answers to both of those questions is “no”.
### stuff.co.nz Last updated 05:00 05/05/2013
Engineers flag concern over imported steel
By Rob Stock – Sunday Star-Times
The Institute of Professional Engineers (IPENZ) has secretly alerted the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of concerns about the quality of imported structural steel used in New Zealand buildings. The Institute admitted concerns about the quality of “materials and equipment including steel used in various industries – construction, engineering, and machinery” were relayed to MBIE just weeks ago, after being raised at the Institute’s annual forum in March. The Institute cautioned that the information received was “anecdotal” and “raised in a private members’ area”, adding “at this stage IPENZ is unaware of the scale of the issue, or whether they were one-off instances”.
Steel importers could easily find Chinese manufacturers willing to falsify certificates to pass off cheaper steel as high quality.
Less private, though, were two papers given at the Steel Innovations Conference in Christchurch in February, just before that March meeting, papers which for the first time publicly alluded to the issue. One paper delivered by three staffers of Australian steel company OneSteel called for the construction industry to only accept steel from manufacturers accredited by independent third parties. “In Australia, there have been some significant structural failures which have been due, either wholly or in part, to the lack of conformance of the product to the standard and the identification of its source. Unfortunately legal restrictions on the reporting of these failures means they cannot be readily identified or discussed in this paper,” the paper said. In other words, the steel was not what was ordered. Some might call it counterfeit. Evidence from the UK, the paper said, “undeniably confirms that the lack of product conformity and traceability is contributing to structural failures”.
“Engineers from quite different parts of the engineering family have realised that we all have this issue to some extent.” –John Hare, Structural Engineers Society
The second paper on the damage done by the Canterbury earthquakes to the 22-storey Pacific Tower in Christchurch, which has now been fully repaired, brings things closer to home. As one engineer familiar with the paper put it, there were instances of failure in some imported structural steel in the tower which should not have happened. “Some of the parts were damaged more than what was expected,” he said. The steel in question was imported from Singapore, and was found not to perform as well at lower temparature as New Zealand or Australian-made steel. The authors of the paper called for “rigorous traceability between mill certificates and the material used in the fabrication” for structural steel used in certain circumstances. “Steels of origins other than NZ/AU may not have the required toughness… to comply with the current New Zealand steel structures standards,” it said.
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr