Website Banner. John Monash: Engineering enterprise prior to World War 1.

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Marine and Riverine Projects:
Ocean Steamers' Wharf (Port Adelaide).
Unsuccessful tender.

Summary.

In 1906 the Harbours and Jetties Branch of the South Australian Engineer-in-Chief's Department prepared a design for a reinforced concrete replacement to the timber Ocean Steamers' Wharf at Port Adelaide. Monash was asked to give his comments, and a quotation for construction by SARC. Negotiations over the structural design and price were inconclusive, and the matter was dropped.

In 1908 SARC contracted with the Department to build a type of breakwater to protect the harbour at Glenelg. The Company manufactured almost 300 reinforced concrete piles, and assembled reinforcement and other materials for further production. However, when driving of piles commenced it became apparent that the structure would not be able to withstand storm waves, and work was abandoned. Negotiations for a financial settlement included a proposal that the Company be given a contract to rebuild Ocean Steamers' Wharf utilising piles made for Glenelg.

Conflicting design proposals for the Wharf shuttled back and forth between Monash and the Department. They differed initially over the best way to prevent the ground behind the wharf from sliding forwards towards the river (Fig.1 below). The Department favoured driving sheet piles into the soil edge-to-edge to form a subterranean wall. Monash considered this impracticable and proposed to dig a trench and build the wall from horizontal reinforced concrete planks. Keen to keep the price down and competitive with timber, he pared his structure to the minimum, consistent with providing an adequate factor of safety. The Department favoured a more robust construction, and demanded deeper beams, a thicker deck, and a reduction in spans. Over ensuing months it elaborated the design further, and Monash eventually quoted on a scheme that was three times as expensive as the original. At this point, a newly-elected Labor State Government decided that it was obliged to call public tenders.

Negotiations dragged on, complicated by concerns about the passage of the new Government's Loan Bill, and its plans to nationalise the wharves. Finally, the Government offered a settlement of the Glenelg contract that made no reference to Ocean Steamers' Wharf. Monash and his colleagues hoped that SARC might still be given the wharf job, having entered the lowest price for reinforced concrete; but after further delays it became clear that the Engineer-in-Chief was opposed to the idea. Some 18 months of professional work and nervous energy expended on the Ocean Wharf proposal by Monash and his staff had proved fruitless.

In 1911, the S A Engineer-in-Chief returned from an overseas study tour impressed by the procurement system in Britain where, he reported, firms designing under the Considère and Hennebique franchises were willing to supply drawings for construction by others. SARC's Resident Engineer found the reference to the Hennebique system ironic, noting that Monash's designs were almost identical, although marketed under the Monier brand.

The Story.

Initial negotiations, 1906-1907

In November 1906, South Australian Government engineers prepared a design in reinforced concrete for replacement of the timber Ocean Steamers Wharf at Port Adelaide. Chief Engineer A B Moncrieff asked Monash, as Engineer to the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company, to give him an idea of the probable cost. He added: "As the designing of such a wharf is really special work, I look upon the sketch submitted as suggestive only, and as you doubtless have had experience of similar structures in other places, any alternative design which you may feel disposed to submit will be acceptable."

Fig.1. Refer to main text below.

Fig.1. Government concept for the Ocean Steamers' Wharf, November 1906. Lateral frames of the type shown here were to be spaced at regular intervals along the wharf.

The government scheme (Fig.1 above) consisted of a row of piles along the front of the wharf, a row of sheet piles behind them to hold back the earth bank, and a cross-braced reinforced concrete structure supporting the deck. The rear sheeting was to consist of flat piles 8" (203mm) wide and 30 feet (9.1m) long, driven in contact with each other to form a wall. The sheet piles were to be joined by two longitudinal beams tied back to land anchors to resist the earth pressure tending to push the wharf forwards.

Monash was placed in a difficult position. His business mentor, F M Gummow, had warned that Moncrieff might dangle the prospect of future contracts only to extract specialist knowledge and apply it himself. On the other hand, Monash was keen to break into the wharf-building industry in South Australia and deflect the possibility that Government engineers might shoulder the task themselves, or hand the contract to the rival Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia.

The cost of a concrete wharf would have to be competitive with that of a timber alternative, so he asked his SA contacts to make discreet enquires about local experience. Despite his appeal for discretion, timber interests were soon aware that he planned to compete with them. He also called on C H Evans, an old acquaintance now captain of a local dredge, for advice on tides and other local conditions.

The Ferro-Concrete Company had already established a reputation for wharf construction in New Zealand. Earlier in the year, Moncrieff had invited it, as well as SARC, to submit private tenders for the proposed Victor Harbor Railway Bridge.

After inspecting the site with Evans, Monash returned to Melbourne to prepare his design in response to the Department's scheme. He deemed driving the rear wall of sheet piles with edges slotted into each other, to be "practically impossible" on the basis of experience with the Glanville Wharf. Instead he proposed a row of individual piles driven vertically, matching those at the front (Figs 2 and 3 below). Each lateral frame, consisting of a front and back pile plus the X-bracing between them, would be 20 feet (6.1m) distant from the next. To form the retaining wall at the back, reinforced concrete panels would span between the rear piles, reinforced by horizontal beams.

To obtain typical dimensions of piles and pile shoes, and to calculate the weight and number of blows required to drive them, Monash relied on his "Notes from Prof's lecture" (Professor W C Kernot) which contained Wellington's formula.

Monash suggested two options for the wharf structure itself. In the first, the outer row of piles would be set back from the edge of the wharf, so that it would not be subject to direct impact from ships. He estimated the cost of this alternative at £15,500, compared with £20,560 for the South Australian Government (SAG) scheme. In the second option, as in the SAG scheme, the outer piles would be at the front edge of the wharf, protected by vertical timber fenders and the cost would be £17,500.

Fig.2. Refer to main text above. Spacer. Refer to main text above.

Fig.2. Monash's preferred proposal, January 1907.
Fig.3. Monash's alternative proposal, Jan 1907.

Monash urged adoption of Alternative 1. It was cheaper partly because the front piles could be more slender, being protected from impact. To compensate for the fact that the lateral frame would have less leverage to resist overturning (because the front and rear piles would be closer together) he designed the deck of the wharf as a horizontal beam, to share impact forces between several frames. Another advantage of the set-back was that longitudinal cross-bracing could safely be inserted connecting the piles in the front row, thus bracing the wharf in that direction. Monash noted that several wharves overseas had been built in this fashion, and cited the new pier at Atlantic City, NJ.

To safeguard his intellectual property, the drawings Monash forwarded to Moncrieff showed only the concrete outline, giving no details of the size or placement of reinforcement.

The live load assumed for both designs was 350 pounds per square foot (16.8 kPa) and the factor of safety was "about 4½". Piles were to be driven until a 40 cwt (2 tonne) monkey with a drop of 6 ft (1.83m) caused a "yield" (or penetration) not exceeding ¾" (19mm). Monash suggested a time frame of 12 months.

Moncrieff effectively dismissed Monash's proposal in declaring that he preferred Alternative 2, but with sheet piles at the rear, driven right down to the limestone strata to retain the earth behind the wharf as in the Department's original scheme. He added that he had had much experience in the area, and knew what he was talking about. Monash reluctantly accepted the modification, and prepared a renewed estimate. The basic cost came to £19,478, and a margin of £7522 brought the price to £27,000.

A week later came news that Moncrieff thought this too high. Monash took a sheet of paper and wrote at the top: "to reduce price undertake a close and minute redesign of whole structure". He adopted a slightly reduced live load of 3 cwt per square foot (336 psf or 16.1 kPa), and arrived at a "net working cost" of £16,035. Allowing for administration, engineering supervision, and a margin for general contingencies, the new price became £21,350.

By this time, SARC's Managing Director, E H Bakewell, and Monash had decided that the Ferro-Concrete Company was fully occupied in Auckland and presented no danger of competition, though Bakewell thought they might put in a tender "merely to keep other Companies out". Meanwhile, F M Gummow reported that J B Labatt, Moncrieff's Engineer for Harbours, had visited Sydney to enquire about a patented trestle system for wharves designed by W E Adams. Gummow wrote that he had seen the S A Government design for Ocean Steamers Wharf and considered it "decidedly amateurish". He advised: "You cannot quote against it - let them build it by day labour and see what happens. Reinforced Concrete is only for experts."

At this point, negotiations over the proposed reconstruction of the Ocean Steamers' Wharf seem to have lapsed for several years.

The project revived November 1909

In 1908 and 1909, the South Australian Engineer's Department and SARC were involved in a futile attempt to build a permeable breakwater to protect the harbour at Glenelg, facing Gulf St Vincent. The idea was to drive a row of closely-spaced piles into the sea bed, rather like a picket fence. Their tops were to be connected by a beam, and the whole was to be propped against the force of oncoming waves by raking struts. About 280 reinforced concrete piles were manufactured in readiness, but as soon as erection commenced, it became apparent that the piles were not strong enough to resist the force of the waves. Work was abandoned in June 1909. [Story]

The S A Government and SARC negotiated at great length to reach an equitable partition of the financial loss, and to find a use for the many reinforced concrete piles made ready for the job. During this process, Graham Stewart took over from A B Moncrieff as Engineer-in-Chief. A possible solution was to award SARC a contract to rebuild the Ocean Steamers' Wharf, and in mid-November 1909 Monash drafted a proposal to this effect.

At the end of December, Stewart replied that he had received political approval to obtain a design and estimate from SARC assuming use of the piles prepared for Glenelg, but without prejudice to the rights of the Government regarding the Glenelg contract. His "Harbours and Jetties Branch" issued a specification and sketch drawing. The latter, unlike previous drawings, indicated the thin layer of limestone that would have to be penetrated by the piles (also shown in Fig.4 below).

Monash's new design for Ocean Steamers' Wharf

SARC's new Resident Engineer, H G Jenkinson, noted that the specifications were "very stringent indeed". Monash was extremely busy when he received them on 4 January, 1910. "I find myself with a mass of accumulated business over the holidays, and it will be at least another day before I can give these papers serious consideration. As I am going to the Seymour Military Camp on Monday next, it is almost a foregone conclusion that I cannot advance this matter very far in the three days still left me."

Jenkinson was asked to explain this to the Department and make a preliminary reconnaissance. He visiting the site in the company of Labatt and reported that Ocean Wharf was the most northerly of the Port River wharves, handling steamers up to 10,000 tons. SARC would be expected to build a northerly extension 150 ft long, and would then be given possession of 400 ft of the existing wharf at a time until the full 1800 feet had been reconstructed. The Department was considering alternative alignments and deck levels, making four possible configurations.

It was not until 31st that Monash attempted to tackle the job. On 2 February he informed Bakewell: "I have been very much inconvenienced during the past week or so with a clash of urgent matters, some of a legal nature, which together with broken appointments and a number of the usual annoying business distractions, have seriously interfered with my steady progress … it will be at least another two days before I can map out a definite program and let you know definitely on which date to expect me [in Adelaide]." Bakewell protested: "Dear Sir, I have been hoping for several weeks that you would be able to visit us." It was a month since Stewart had sent the documents and negotiations on the Glenelg problem were held up. "We cannot do anything without you, and therefore the sooner you can come and deal with it, the better it will be for us all."

Monash countered that the task before him would normally represent a "couple of months' " work, but that this case was complicated by the need to find a use for the Glenelg piles. He had to have all technical matters thoroughly worked out before leaving Melbourne, because "the many distractions of other business" in Adelaide, and the absence of his usual working facilities, made it hard to do detailed work there. "I have pondered over the problems many days and many nights. Sometimes in work of this kind, one flukes at an early stage upon a satisfactory solution, but upon this occasion I am already working upon my fourth proposition .." However, he was confident that his latest scheme would "let us out of the Glenelg job without any loss at all, and … secure us a decent working profit …" In the meantime, Gibson would be coming to Adelaide and would be able to discuss the financial side of the project with Bakewell.

Fig.4. Refer to main text below.

Fig. 4. Monash's proposal for Ocean Steamers' Wharf 4 Feb 1910. Diaphragm walls with arched openings replace the cross-bracing.

A pencil drawing dated 4 February 1910 shows the scheme above and carries a note in Monash's hand: "Designed JM Feby 1 to 4/1910". Traced onto linen by J A Laing, it was issued on 8th with the stamp of "The S. A. Reinforced Concrete Co Limited" and signed "John Monash M.Inst.C.E.". It shows the 'crust' of weak limestone that bedevilled marine and river works in the area, and the old sloping sheeting (now decaying) that kept back the earth behind the existing timber wharf. Each pair of piles would be joined by a reinforced concrete diaphragm wall containing arched openings. In line with the rear row of piles, a vertical wall would hold back the imported earth that was to fill the gap between it and the old sheeting. The thickness of the wall would increase with depth, and it would go down only as far as the bottom of the lateral diaphragms. Below this level, the earth would be retained by a series of reinforced concrete planks, spanning horizontally across the backs of the rear piles. As usual, the whole structure was to be tied back to anchor-plates.

Monash travelled to Adelaide by the night train on Friday 11 February 1910 and returned to Melbourne on 15th. He left a draft letter to be forwarded to the Engineer-in-Chief over Bakewell's name. "The whole superstructure is designed as a monolith, with practically solid diaphragm construction, in both horizontal and vertical planes, both longitudinally and transversely. Each tier of piles, at 15 ft [4.57m] centres, is capped by an almost solid transverse vertical diaphragm, 18' × 12' [5.49 × 3.66m], so arranged that the shock of any impact is transferred by it direct to the solid earth backing, without putting any strain upon the piles. Moreover, as these diaphragms are bound together by a continuous monolithic deck, this latter acts as an enormous horizontal girder, capable of effecting extensive longitudinal distribution of any impact received at an isolated point. The back plate is also monolithic, extending continuously 12 feet high for the full 1800 ft [549m] length of wharf, thus providing for complete longitudinal rigidity. The rigidity and inertia achieved by such massive construction are considered to be so desirable that the additional cost seems more than justified, as compared with a system of articulated bracing in which individual members are subject to intense local stresses. A further result achieved by this form of design is that the wharf, from the point of view of its stability, may be considered as a complete whole. Investigation will show that the stability moment is much greater than the overturning moment due to the pressures of the earth backing. The land anchors, while strictly unnecessary, are however introduced as an additional element in the factor of stability."

Bakewell submitted prices on 15th for only two of the four alternatives. Tender B was for a wharf 1800 feet long, at the same level as the existing deck, and with its face about 4'-9" (1.45m) in front of the existing line. The price would be £12-16-0 per foot run of wharf (£23,040 for 1800 feet). SARC would owe the Government £4820-15-0 in settlement of the Glenelg contract. Tender BB was on similar terms, except that the deck would be three feet higher, with the height of the transverse diaphragms increased accordingly. The price would be £13-17-0 per foot run of wharf (£24,930).

The design live load for the deck was 3 cwt per square foot (16.1kPa). The prices included: removal of 1650 feet of existing timber structure at Ocean Wharf; dismantling of remaining work at Glenelg; transport of 121 front piles and 121 back piles from St Leonards; and placing and driving the piles. If it proved necessary to lengthen the piles, this would be done in place, at scheduled unit prices.

The Engineer-in-Chief's modifications

Once again, Stewart's Department responded with its own drawing of the wharf, proposing major changes to Monash's scheme - although the diaphragms were retained. The piles had to go deeper to allow for possible dredging of the river, and they had to be driven to "a proper refusal". The sheeting at the rear had to be carried down to the limestone layer, preferably by driving sheet piling (which Monash had stated was impracticable). The size of structural members was to be increased, including the deck, which was to be thickened to 4" (102mm). The spacing of the frames was to be reduced from 15 feet to 12 feet. Stewart asked SARC for a revised design and price "as early as possible". Jenkinson pointed out to Labatt that the changes would mean a significant increase in price, and was told it would be no problem, as SARC's price was well below that of the timber alternative.

Monash wrote to Jenkinson: "I make no comment on the banality of further increasing superstructure [sizes] in spite of the reduction of spans from 15 feet to 12 feet". However, the increase in concrete sizes, and the decrease in spans, might give SARC a chance to argue for a reduction in reinforcement. The Department appeared to have underestimated the thickness necessary for the sheet piling, and it might be possible to "base a claim for a good extra payment on this account". Monash's final recommendation was "Quote an increase of £1/15/0 per ft of wharf = £3150."

Monash sails for Europe

Monash's ship, the Otranto, would be calling in at Adelaide on Good Friday, so he sent his original notes and calculations ahead for discussion with Jenkinson. "This is by far the largest proposition we have ever tackled. It is … the largest work you are likely to have to carry out for a long time. Hence it must be approached by you in no light spirit". Jenkinson should double-check the design, and work out the financial implications of any errors he might find. Enclosed was a draft covering letter for Bakewell to forward to Stewart with the tender. Monash doubted that the Department would "cheerfully face an enhancement of price of nearly £10,000". He explained: "That is why I have put the quotations in a way which will give them a chance of withdrawing some of their silly requirements". If the opportunity arose, Jenkinson should try to persuade the Department to accept a spacing of 15 feet. However, he must not give them a chance to pin responsibility for the design onto SARC.

When negotiations were complete, Jenkinson should sit down to make an entirely fresh estimate to guide him in administrative and financial matters, should the contract be won. An "entirely fresh drawing" should embody all agreed alterations. SARC's specification should be written loosely, so that if they were obliged to work to the Department's "over-generous dimensions", they would be able to reduce the strength of the concrete and the reinforcement accordingly. For the Department's modifications, with 12-foot bays, the extra price would be £5-10-0 per foot run of wharf. If Monash's recommendation of 15-foot bays were adopted, the extra would be £3-11-0. Monash's draft covering letter noted: "While not in any way presuming to criticise the proposed modifications, we feel it our duty to draw attention to the fact that many of them are very extensive and very costly".

Formal tenders sent to PWD which yet again modifies the design

Formal tenders for two configurations were submitted on 4 April 1910, after Monash had sailed. SARC's drawing shows a wharf structure almost identical to Fig. 4 (above) except that sheet piling has been substituted for the planks favoured by Monash. As had happened on every previous occasion, the Department's response was to formulate a counter-proposal, along with its own specification and drawing. Initially, these incorporated the lateral diaphragms proposed by Monash; but early in May the Department reverted to cross-bracing as shown in its original scheme (Fig. 1 above). P T Fairway argued through Jenkinson that Monash's had been "a particularly fine design", but without effect.

In Monash's absence, Gibson took responsibility for technical as well as financial matters, advised by Fairway.

On 18 May, following consultations with Fairway and Gibson, Jenkinson submitted revised prices of £50,308 and £52,288. He told the Department: "The adoption of the open bracing system occasions considerable executive difficulties, especially as dodging tides are very prevalent in the Port River, and we are so convinced of the advantages to be gained by having both timbering and concreting as simple as possible that we are prepared without extra payment to substitute entirely solid diaphragms 12" thick for the longitudinal and transverse bracing shown …" The diaphragm would act as a self-supporting girder, so there would be no need for the 18" thick additional girder which the Department had insisted should 'support' the diaphragm.

A new Government calls public tenders

In June 1910, there was a change of State Government, following elections. Negotiations with SARC were held up while the new team settled in. Gibson wrote to Monash (still overseas) "I do not anticipate any trouble, but one never can tell what politicians will do". In July, the new Government decided public tenders should be called for Ocean Wharf, and SARC's tender was set aside. Stewart issued drawings both in reinforced concrete and in timber. The former showed the scheme as worked out so far, but with the rear piles and sheet piles penetrating to a significantly greater depth, and sharply pointed.

The limestone 'crust' had presented a problem also at Glenelg. Monash had consulted F M Gummow, who had experience of construction in the Port Adelaide region, and referred to von Emperger's authoritative text. Both sources recommended that relatively blunt pile toes would be best to break through the crust. However, the Department's engineers thought the additional disturbance of the soil caused by a blunt toe would reduce the skin friction between pile and soil, and thus reduce the carrying capacity of the pile.

Jenkinson concluded that SARC would not be able to use the piles prepared for Glenelg. His estimate for the reinforced concrete wharf had now reached £86,750. In preparation for Monash's return, he calculated the basic cost of the timber version at £61,396, allowing some leeway to recoup SARC's losses on the Glenelg project, but assuming that contingencies would not be as great as for a concrete wharf. To cover looming labour troubles and profit he added a 15% margin, bringing the estimate to £70,596. To this he added a 10% 'allowance' to arrive at an "Approx Quote price" for timber of £77,656.

Monash returns and takes over

Monash was now nearing Brisbane, having crossed the Pacific after a journey through North America. Gibson wrote with details of latest developments, and on 29 October, Monash wired from Brisbane that he wanted Jenkinson ready to meet him in Melbourne with all relevant documents. By letter he commented: "If Mr Jenkinson's rough estimate … is even wildly near the truth, this seems a pretty hopeless proposition as against timber. Is the Department friendly or do they want to bump us out of the business?" Gibson asked Bakewell to ascertain as soon as possible whether the Government "would be prepared to pay £7000 more for a wharf that would last for all time" and if it was "genuinely desirous to settle up the Glenelg Breakwater trouble in this way". There could be no comparison between the two forms of construction in the matter of durability. It would be ideal if Stewart could be persuaded to accept Monash's original ideas, which would make the concrete wharf competitive with timber on capital cost alone.

While in Melbourne, Jenkinson set about getting firm quotes for material for both the timber and reinforced concrete alternatives. Walter Morris was asked to quote on approximately 17,000 lineal feet (5181m) of Jarrah piles 65 ft (19.8m) long, also 200 lineal feet of 50, 40 and 30 ft long. All were to be 12" (305mm) in diameter at the toe. The S A Portland Cement Company was asked to quote for 10,000 casks of cement to be supplied over two years.

On Sunday 6 November, Jenkinson was back in Adelaide, accompanied by Monash. Their price for the latest Government scheme had been calculated as follows:

Net estimated construction cost£44,860
Allowance for likely increase in formwork timber prices£1051
"Loadings" 
   expected 15% rise in wages£2220
   plant depreciation£1000
   general works risks and dismantling£1500
Administration£2000
Margin for all other purposes  £10,000
Net tender price£62,631
"Provision" required by specification 10%  £6263
Total tender price£68,894

The estimate concluded with "Actual adjusted schedule £68,519." It envisaged that if the piles made for Glenelg were used, lengthened, at Ocean Wharf, SARC would owe the Department £4820, and this could be set against the initial progress payments. The final price of £66,033 for the timber version comprised: net cost £57,171; profit £2859; and provision £6003.

The covering letter urged that the fender piles required by the Department, worth £14,000, be replaced by protection of a type now used overseas, thus saving £8000. In justifying the greater capital cost of reinforced concrete, Monash claimed that the capitalized maintenance costs of a timber wharf amounted to half as much again (48%) as its initial cost. Reinforced concrete was claimed to be maintenance-free.

To arrive at this figure, Monash prepared a sheet headed "Amortization. To find the capital sum P which will yield @ r% per annum for x years an annual sum A, which if invested @ r% compound interest will in x years amount to the sum Q, and to find the ratio P/Q." Having developed a mathematical formula, he prepared a table showing P/Q for values of r = 3, 3.5 and 4; and for values of x ranging from 20 to 40 years. He found P/Q ranged from 1.26 to 0.20.

A check on the bending strength of a the 15" × 7½" sheet pile favoured by the Department showed there was no way it could be picked up from its casting bed without breaking, but Monash was content to leave this matter to be resolved later.

Word soon trickled out that SARC's tender was the lowest for reinforced concrete, but there was no hint as to how it compared with tenders for timber. Labatt said the cost was much higher than the Department had expected, but he thought the project would still go ahead.

Political and procedural complications

Monash felt that Labatt's reassurance was no guarantee. He reminded Jenkinson: "The proposition has still to pass the gauntlet of the Engineer-in-Chief, the Commissioner, and the Cabinet; and there is always a danger of it being thrown out for more reasons than one … The matter is important enough for a special conference by you with Mr Bakewell, if necessary at his house, with a view to exhausting every resource, commercial and political, to bring Pressure on the Cabinet in favor of going on with this Wharf and on permanent lines." Jenkinson assured him: "you may take Mr Labatt's opinion as that of the E in C in these matters".

Late in November, the South Australian Treasurer introduced a Loan Bill which included £80,000 for the Ocean Steamers' Wharf. Though encouraged, Monash inferred that there would no progress with the tender until the Bill has been passed by both Houses of Parliament. He told Jenkinson to depend on SARC's solicitor Young for privileged information. "In view of Mr Young's political touch with Public business, you should be able to gather pretty well what the position is. Naturally we are very anxious at this end to know the probabilities and will be glad of any comments you can furnish arising out of local hints picked up in the course of conversations with people in the know." Young assured Bakewell that the Government could accept SARC's tender as soon as the Bill passed the Lower House. His recent conversations with Premier John Verran suggested the Government wanted to settle the contract as soon as possible.

Negotiations continue

In the meantime, Stewart had continued to negotiate. He expressed surprise that SARC's tender was on different terms from its "former proposal". Monash drafted a reply pointing out that he had been obliged to base his tender "strictly upon the plans and specifications" issued by the Department. The Government's action in calling public tenders based on SARC's proposals, worked out an private negotiations, meant the Company had "entirely lost the advantage of special knowledge of the subject matter". Furthermore, the changes to the intended length, reinforcement, and toes of the piles made it impossible to use those prepared for Glenelg. All this had placed SARC on a par with other contractors and he had based his price on having to do all the work "de novo".

Monash suggested to Bakewell that it might be politic to omit the reference to SARC's specialist knowledge, as it hinted that the Department had acted in bad faith.

On 5 December Bakewell tried to break the impasse with a proposal that would leave SARC as "considerable losers over the Breakwater Contract", but would win them Ocean Wharf. An early decision was called for, as SARC's suppliers had placed time limits on their quotations, and the financial terms would apply for only another week.

Details of the proposal were that 127 of the Glenelg piles would be used at Ocean Wharf, though reaching to a depth less than that specified by the Department. SARC would pay £1700 for these piles and £600 for other construction material stored at Glenelg; and would dismantle all existing works there. In return, the Government would be expected to cancel the Glenelg contract, return SARC's deposit, and allow use of the Glenelg pile shoes at Ocean Wharf. The Government would thus recoup £2300 out of the £4820 advanced as progress payments at Glenelg, and would acquire the remaining 132 piles for use on other projects.

Monash and Gibson waited "in a state of great anxiety and impatience" for the reply, "wondering what is now in the wind to block an early decision". On 15th Jenkinson reported: "Mr Young tried to make an appointment with the Premier this morning, but the Premier is too busy with Strike matters, which are very serious." Monash replied "I would ask you to press this matter very strongly under Mr Bakewell's notice, with a view to taking some further step to precipitate a decision on the part of the Department. Whether in the nature of a direct approach to the Premier or the Engineer-in-Chief or otherwise … Please keep us advised at this end of any developments or rumors of developments, because a rumor may suggest an immediate course of action which might otherwise escape attention."

On 16 December, Stewart proposed a settlement for Glenelg that made no mention of Ocean Wharf. SARC would retain all plant at Glenelg, but hand over all materials, including piles, stored there. The Department would retain SARC's deposit and would use the piles on projects that were less "important" than Ocean Wharf. Bakewell thought this was close to SARC's own proposal of 18 November 1909, and was ready to accept. However, he was assuming that SARC's deposit on Glenelg would be returned, and that they would eventually be given a wharf contract. Although the 'Wharves Repurchase Bill' had unexpectedly failed to pass through Parliament "The Chief told Young that he hopes that we shall next year get a contract to build some wharves at the Port and possibly more than the Ocean Wharf. He says that this settlement will be a friendly one and there would be no ill feeling in the matter."

Jenkinson happily noted that the scheme would free SARC "for ever from the incubus of make-shift piles, rusty steel etc". It might even be worth losing the deposit, "as we would start de novo on a fine new job with good prospects". "As to Ocean Wharf, we shall just have to wait now, I suppose, until tenders are called for again next year." A hand-written footnote reads: "Mr Young considers that the latest reason put forward for non-acceptance of tender is genuine".

Gibson and Monash wired back "As last resort give The Chief all he asks."

SARC lose the contract, but hope springs eternal

Just after this came a bombshell from Jenkinson. "I regret to have to report that … Mr Young, after much trouble, managed to see the Premier this morning for a few moments only. In reply to Mr Young's query as to when the Government intended accepting our tender, the Premier replied: 'we're not going to accept any'. He thereupon showed Mr Young the docket which contained much to his surprise an adverse recommendation from the Engineer-in-Chief. The Premier then had to hurry away leaving Mr Young with the Chief who was present. The Chief said that the Company's last proposal could not be entertained for one moment and continued: 'Where would I be with my Auditors if I let the Company have stuff at less than what was advanced thereon'. Mr Young is inclined to think, that had we adhered to our former proposal, the tender would have gone through. The Authorities look at the matter in this light: the calling for public tenders was merely done to satisfy what the new Government thought was the proper procedure to adopt in the case of Government Contracts, and they did not anticipate any departure by us from our former scheme."

Young was not dismayed, and advised that the refusal of SARC's tender was not irrevocable. The Government would probably take over all wharves, and it would be policy for SARC to "get a leg in in construction work even at the expense of climbing down a little this time". Jenkinson added: "The City thinks and talks of nothing else but strike, and I am afraid there is no hope of a settlement of the contract before the new year."

The Glenelg Breakwater Contract is finally settled

Then followed some "petty" haggling over whether the Department would return one third or two-thirds of SARC's Glenelg deposit. Monash told Bakewell: "While regretting that the wharf job will not go on, we concur heartily in accepting such a settlement and wiping off the Glenelg matter for good and all. With regard to the wharf tender, it is satisfactory to know that our tender is declined not on financial grounds, but purely on grounds of policy, and that there is a good prospect of the same or similar work going on next year." In an accompanying sheet, he set out the financial position created by accepting the settlement.

"Glenelg Proposed Settlement. On our last Balance Sheet we placed the following valuations upon this Contract:"

Plant£442  
Materials£660  
Deposit£724  
Total Asset£1826  
Less Suspense provision made by Directors £350 
   £1476
For this sum we will get Plant which cost originally £1351, which it will be reasonably safe to value speculatively at half this amount, or, say:£674  
But from this sum we must deduct the estimated cost of removing works at sea and landing the plant, say:£182  
giving a net value to the plant of: £492 
Add Deposit: £724 
   £1216
Net additional loss to the Company over and above losses fully provided for:  £260

Monash was willing to leave the offer in the hands of the Government for up to a year. When it was ready to go ahead, some slight adjustment could be made for increased labour costs, or either side could decide to pull out. "It is possible that the Government may have a sufficiently friendly feeling towards us to put us on this footing, and if they can be induced not to take the step of formally declining our tender, it would give them an excuse, if they are so minded, of refraining from again calling for tenders when they are ready to go on with the work."

He had not closed the envelope, when a wire came from Jenkinson: "Young had interview advises us best probable settlement we getting two thirds deposit and interest otherwise same as stated. Shall I agree. Reply urgent." After consultation with Gibson, Monash wired back "We consider deduction one third deposit very paltry but concur your accepting if these are best terms possible". He added a last-minute footnote to his letter. "Some of my above remarks and [the financial] statement which accompanies this letter are now not quite apt to the latest circumstances. We can hardly conceive of anything so paltry as an attempt to squeeze us to the tune of £180, and if it were not for our feeling that a fight with the Government would mean the expenditure of a lot of nerve power and lead to irritation and much annoyance, we would be very disinclined to accept this position, not for the sake of the money involved, but because of the very improper pressure which the action now proposed involves."

Jenkinson replied with further details of the haggling. "The Chief originally wanted to keep back all the deposit. After some discussion, he came down to £400. After he had gone out of the room, the Premier turned to Mr Young and said 'You write to us proposing Government to keep one third of deposit. I think that will be all right.' " He reported that Bakewell did not think there was "the slightest possibility of arranging anything in this regard immediately". It would probably be "well into January before the Government definitely make up their minds".

Postscript

A year later, on 15 December 1911, the Adelaide Register published a summary of a Report by Engineer-in-Chief Graham Stewart on the lessons he had learned from a study tour of civil engineering in Europe and America. Wharf construction in England was largely in reinforced concrete, mainly employing the Hennebique and Considère systems. These were represented by companies in London who prepared designs and, if desired, found contractors to carry out the work. The advantage was that "all the designs are prepared by specialists in the work". Stewart had, therefore, "obtained from the Considère Company, London, a preliminary design for rebuilding the Ocean Steamers' Wharf, Port Adelaide. This company would supply complete working drawings and the machinery necessary for carrying out the work and, if desired, find a working foreman accustomed to the work." Stewart had also obtained "a design and estimate of cost from Messrs Mouchel & Partners, London, who would be willing to tender for the work on the 'Hennebique' system."

Bakewell immediately wrote to Monash, that Stewart's recommendation represented "a method of working antagonistic to our Company" and that SARC must use every means in its power "to stop this class of public works construction being introduced". While Stewart's report implied he had discovered something quite new in the 'Hennebique' system, Bakewell understood that it was "practically the same system" that Monash had been using in all his designs. He continued: "The present Government may not be favourable to the introduction of outside labour when we can prove to them that there are people here competent to carry out the work and also willing to give a price for the work. In the method suggested by the Engineer in Chief there would be no limit to the liability of the Govt, the intention being to carry out the work by day labour. I think the best thing to be done is for you to address a letter to Mr Graham Stewart and ask him when he could see you to discuss the proposals. If necessary we might also write officially to the Comr of Public Works saying that we have already designed and are prepared to carry out this work and that we are addressing the Engineer in Chief on the matter."

Jenkinson also wrote to Monash. "It seems rather strange that Mr Stewart should by his recommendations practically admit that the recent Government design for Ocean Wharf was not in accordance with best practice. I suppose it would be useless to tell him that our own low-priced designs were to all intents and purposes reinforced on 'Hennebique' system."

In October 1913 Jenkinson informed Gibson (with a copy to Monash) that the Wharves Bill of South Australia, which provided for the Government to take over all Wharves in the State, was expected to be passed by the end of the year, so that the question of Ocean Wharf might be re-opened shortly.

There is no further information in the RCMPC files up to 1915.