Top executives at Baha Mar’s main contractor voiced fears they would “be laughed at by the world” if the mega resort’s target 2015 opening was missed while admitting to multiple “shortcomings and deficiencies” in its construction.
E-mail exchanges between Ning Yuan, China Construction America’s (CCA) president, and Guocai Chen, its general manager, revealed that the Chinese state-owned contractor was - exactly two months from Baha Mar’s agreed March 27, 2015, completion - privately praying for a miracle this target would be achieved.
The never-before-seen correspondence, filed in the New York State Supreme Court at the weekend in the $2.25bn fraud and breach of contract battle between CCA and Baha Mar’s original developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, reveals CCA’s concern that all construction work had to be completed within 19 days if the project was to stand a chance of passing code inspections by the Ministry of Works and be able to receive paying guests.
The e-mail exchanges, which took place on January 27, 2015, as Mr Izmirlian and his team sought to race Baha Mar’s construction to completion, saw CCA executives concede that “every minute and every second counts”. A paper, which Mr Yuan said had been prepared for Mr Chen ahead of a meeting later that day, called on CCA to request multiple additional workers from its affiliates and other Chinese contractors.
To achieve the February 15, 2015, target for construction completion, and enable Baha Mar to obtain the crucial temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) that would allow the resort to pass all Ministry of Works inspections, the document recommended that vacation leave be suspended and all workers work until 10pm every day in an effort to finish the project on time - an effort that ultimately proved futile.
CCA executives, though, fretted at the impact this would have on worker morale and productivity as it coincided with the Chinese New Year celebrations. They even suggested that such onerous working conditions could cause “trouble” among the Chinese workforce.
Mr Yuan, in his e-mail to Mr Chen ahead of an “all-party meeting” to discuss Baha Mar’s progress, or lack of it, appeared to concede that meeting the March 27, 2015, opening - which had been agreed with Mr Izmirlian and Baha Mar’s financier, the China Export-Import Bank, just two months previously in mid-November 2014 - was a near-impossibility.
“When I went back for the meeting, I had talked with several companies separately, and my impression was that everyone was daunted by the difficulties and was counting on a stroke of luck, knowing that if there were no additional workers it was impossible to catchup with the progress of work,” he wrote, “yet being worried that workers might snake trouble or there might be enforced idleness due to poor organisation of work during the Chinese New Year holiday.
“There is no need to blame whichever company any more now, as the entire situation and honour are at stake. There is no way but to fight.” While Mr Yuan’s e-mail represented something of a CCA rallying cry intended to boost morale, it provides firm evidence that CCA knew it had virtually no chance of meeting its November 2014 completion commitment to Mr Izmirlian and Baha Mar.
The attached paper, headlined: ‘At the time of a decisive battle, make sure to go all out’, added that Baha Mar had “arrived at a decisive phase for winning the victory where every minute and every second count”.
It continued: “In the 19 days from today to February 15, it will be decided whether the project we have been working on so hard for nearly four years can be completed as scheduled, whether China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) will end up as a winner and be praised in the industry or become a loser and be laughed at by the world.”
CSCEC is CCA’s parent company, and the document added: “This has become an issue that has gone beyond that of a simple financial interest. Why is February 15 said to be the bottom line after which the back door will be shut forever? That’s because everyone knows that March 27 is the date when the project is to be open to business to the general public.
“In order to achieve this goal, we must complete all the work in the scope of planned business operations in all aspects by February 15 as well as apply to the local government department in The Bahamas (Ministry of Works) for acceptance inspection and the permit for residential occupation (TCO).
“In other words, our work must be basically completed by February 15 instead of being able to linger on till March 27. This point must be clarified, and time and tide wait for no man.” CCA thus apparently recognised the urgency required, and that a monumental effort was needed to meet Baha Mar’s opening target - especially given the self-admitted defects in its construction work.
“Looking at the convention centre we have just handed over for completion acceptance inspection, it can be seen that our work still has quite a few shortcomings and deficiencies which refrained us from smoothly passing the acceptance inspection by the local government department,” the CCA paper admitted.
“These issues must be fully resolved before the acceptance inspection of the main building starts on February 15. At present, there is still a lot of remaining work on the main building that has not been completed. In order to make sure that the set progress goal be fulfilled within the coming 19 days, all sub-contractors as well as-the general contractor’s collaborative units must carry out the following tasks to the letter.”
These included the end to “selfish departmentalism” and a focus on the greater picture. “Although it is extremely challenging to complete all of our construction tasks by February,15, we still believe that as long as everyone can put aside their own individual interests, stay united and consistent, go all out for the fight, make every possible effort, leave nothing to regret, miracle will be achieved through our hands,” the CCA document added.