SRI AMAN: The Pan Borneo Highway will be a game-changer for the state's economy and the people's mobility, as there will finally be a highway connecting Sarawak from Telok Melano down south up to Miri in the north.
Various companies are involved in the construction of the mega project, with one of the contracts from Lebuhraya Borneo Utara Sdn Bhd going to Naim Holdings Berhad (Naim) and its joint venture partner Gamuda Berhad (Gamuda) in July last year.
The RM1.57 billion contract is for the Phase 1 works package (WPC 04) to upgrade the stretch from Pantu Junction to Batang Skrang - a total length of 91.1km - from R3 standard to R5, which includes cutting works, ground treatment, slope protection, and drainage works.
R3 refers to the Public Works Department's Design Standards and Road Classification. The current classification covers the existing route and is suitable for local traffic flow. The R5 roads, however, have higher geometric standards and are good for intermediate to long-distance travel. Travelling speed too, increases with the standard.
The package will also include the construction of nine river bridges and a flyover. As of July, the project is at 7.07 percent - 1.05 percent ahead of the scheduled progress rate.
With 400 machines on site, and over 700 workers, including subcontractors, the project is on schedule for completion by Nov 30, 2020.
The Borneo Post spoke to three Naim Gamuda staff, who are all Sarawakians, on their experience working as part of the mega project.
For 23-year-old Bachelor of Science (Civil Engineering) graduate Gabriel Wong Siong Tung from Kuching, his role as an engineer in the operations team is his first actual job after completing his engineering internship at the Klang Valley MRT (KVMRT) Line 1 project in Kuala Lumpur.
Wong, who is a Gamuda scholar, was directly recruited into the Pan Borneo project as he had the relevant experience and skills sets gathered from his stint at KVMRT Line 1 project.
"There are pros and cons of working here. I don't have to travel to work, and what is more important is everyone is really supportive, especially my supervisors. I just have a quick chat with them when there are any issues. There has never been a dull day for me here" said Wong.
"When you work here, reality hits you hard. You will see people bathing in the river, driving is a big challenge and there are some areas with no water and electricity. The experience, in a way, taught a lesson in life.â€
Wong said the Pan Borneo Highway project is not just about changing the roads and improving mobility, but also transforming people's lives.
"From economic boom, property development, and employment opportunities, there are all sorts of possibilities and it is definitely good to see these changes come to Sarawak" he added.
Michellie Chan, 24, described the opportunity to work with Naim Gamuda for the Pan Borneo Highway project as an eye-opening experience as she has travelled on the existing road from Kuching to Sri Aman.
Chan, who is from Bau, said the road conditions were bad in the past and this made her realise the importance of the project.
"Being a site safety supervisor, I am empowered to guide and educate my fellow colleagues on aspects concerning safety and health. It is tough to have this cascaded down to the subcontractors and general workers, and they lack knowledge on safety" said Chan.
She pointed out that her role as safety supervisor became more meaningful when Naim Gamuda recorded a million safe man-hours in August and is aiming to achieve the next million for the WPC 04 package.
"Safe man hours basically refers to the number of hours worked without any lost injury time due to accidents or incidents, which could possibly lead to injuries, losses, fatalities and property damage" she explained.
Chan added that being a female in a male-dominated industry has its own set of challenges but her opinions and professional development have never been sidelined by the management.
Mohd Tarmizi Taha, 22, who is an assistant quantity surveyor, said joining Naim Gamuda was one of the best decisions he has made in his life.
"I am glad to be part of the team, moreover this is my first job after graduating from UiTM (Universiti Teknologi Mara) with a Diploma in Quantity Surveying" said Tarmizi, who is from Kuching.
He said every fresh graduate would be anxious about his first job but upon joining Naim Gamuda, he learned a lot in just a year, thanks to the on-the-job training and mentoring culture.
Tarmizi manages the claims of a subcontractor, checks on their work progress, and makes payments according to the percentage of work completed. This has expanded his skills in quantity surveying works and provided exposure in contract management.
"Naim Gamuda has an encouraging ambience and this role has definitely helped me gain invaluable experience. It turned me from zero to a hero.â€