Improving Living Conditions for Royal Navy in Bahrain

Tetra Tech collaborated with the Bahraini Defence Force (BDF) to provide project management services to the Joint Force Command (JFC) and oversaw delivery in a culturally different working environment.

A better living standard for the British Military

The UK Naval Support Facility (UKNSF) is the first British Navy facility built east of the Suez Canal in more than 50 years, supporting Royal Navy operations in the Gulf, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean. Previously, the British military had limited facilities comprising of the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC), the neighboring engineering support facility for UK vessels, and living accommodations procured via the local housing market.

The UKNSF (gifted to the UK by the King of Bahrain) gives the military its own dedicated facilities to increase its presence in the Middle East. Personal living facilities offer the added benefit of easing security concerns, improving morale, and reducing operational costs.

The new technical accommodation comprises three large quayside hangars to allow the engineering support facility immediate refueling and maintenance access to the ships. It also serves as an administration hub with a dedicated police and medical section and a central focus for visitors to the UKMCC.

The living quarters can accommodate 550 persons, including 200 full-time staff, with the remainder available for visiting ships, personnel on training exercises, and allied forces.

Game-changing living conditions

To improve operational capability and Royal Navy staff retention, all rooms are air-conditioned and more open than the cramped, uncomfortable, and stifling hot conditions typically found on ships.

Further improvements are felt in the welfare facilities, including the dining, relaxing, and social areas, and a studio for British Forces Broadcasting Services. The direct impact can be seen by occupants who have responded positively to the presence of internet, TV, sport, two gyms, welfare bar, coffee shop, cinema, and game rooms.

Managing Innovation

Unlike standard design and build projects, the client managed the timescale and budget while we ensured compliance with UK and Ministry of Defence standards and regulations, while reflecting local business practices.

This required an entirely different approach to stakeholder engagement, problem solving, conflict management, and project control. Addressing discrepancies could only be achieved through total transparency and consistency in our communications and advice to manage expectations.

Our approach to risk mitigation proved key to delivery and information management. We developed our own change control techniques, including a tracker of all the changes raised for reporting back to the JFC, and kept a robust, audit trail.

Through our construction expertise, we identified early issues on the program’s’ critical path, advising the client team accordingly and working with our hosts to mitigate and plan positively for delays caused by inclement weather.

Some UK compliance measures were easy to resolve, such as installation of UK Building Regulations handrails, while others proved complex, such as fire stopping requirements. Our positive working relationship with the BDF meant we made judgments as to when we could reasonably ask them to make allowances and where it would be unreasonable.

Challenges Overcome

While we had to account for anticipated difficulties, such as differences in regulations and standards, we also overcame unforeseen supply chain challenges. To meet UK standards, the specification of material needed to be exact. In some cases, material could only be procured from the UK, which affected delivery times and required the reprogramming of planned work.

To overcome the anticipated challenges, we adopted an informal mentoring approach to explain the importance of particular standards and regulations. We observed work so we could test and adjust accordingly, minimizing abortive works.

Unforeseen challenges were overcome through continual engagement with BDF, contractors, and the JFC. Through program monitoring and UK budget oversight, we identified needs and mobilized requirements. While tracking issues and needs, we reminded parties of requirements to either source material or arrange funding, minimizing program risk and managing expectations for all parties.

Results and Benefits

That the UKNSF now underpins the military capability in this part of the Middle East is a testament to Tetra Tech’s and the JFC’s abilities, skills, and knowledge. A hugely beneficial outcome is a core team of people now able to apply best practices to other projects, having absorbed a deeper understanding of working overseas and interfacing with different practices and cultures.