UTS Library

Between Rock and a Hard Place

Client: 

Prime Infrastructure Management Ltd

PR Company: 

Phillips Group

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2004 D 3

Year: 

2004

Executive Summary: 

In a bid to showcase its key investment Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT), Prime Infrastructure Management Limited (PRIME) appointed Phillips Group to project manage the opening of the $115 million Stage 6 expansion comprising an additional berth and a shiploader to the existing facilities. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The launch was an opportunity to showcase Prime Infrastructure?s new management team, and one of the company's major assets to key financial media and analysts, and ultimately, the key audiences and wider public.

Despite numerous challenges including the potential threat of the prevailing weather conditions and the obscurity of the event's location, the program yielded significant outcomes for the client including:

  •  Securing Queensland Premier Peter Beattie as guest speaker. His support was crucial to building confidence in DCBT within political spheres
  • First-hand knowledge by the company's five key business analysts to support PRIME's investor relations activities
  • A strong and positive response from VIP guests and government representatives, resulting in 250 key business people and politicians accepting and attending
  • Management of media coverage that could have misrepresented past environmental issues associated with export coal terminals

Situation Analysis: 

Prime Infrastructure, an ASX 200 company established in May 2003, focuses on investing in quality infrastructure assets, as well as optimising existing infrastructure investments. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) is the foundation asset of Prime Infrastructure and is approximately 25 kilometres south of Mackay at the Port of Hay Point. The multi-user terminal serves the export requirements of the many coalmines of Central Queensland's <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />BowenBasin.

Prime Infrastructure had recently completed and commissioned the $115 million Stage 6 expansion to meet the current and future usage demands of its customers. Stage 6 comprised an additional berth and shiploader to the north of the existing facilities.

Successful commissioning of this new facility into the working operation of the already impressive DBCT was an important company milestone. From the financial market?s perspective it illustrated management's ability to project manage a significant capital upgrade within budget and time.

From a political perspective it confirmed the company's commitment to ongoing investment in the state?s crucial export infrastructure.

Locally, the expansion produced financial benefits to the community ranging from direct employment in service industries.  As the terminal borders three local communities, it is essential that environmental and amenity impacts are contained and managed.  Coal dust has been a spasmodic issue at various times with local residents and had the potential to escalate around the time of the event due to the high profile of the guests. Careful and ongoing liaison with the local community was required.

As such, an environment management plan was updated and steps taken to ease the community's concerns. 

Research: 

Research

To ensure the smooth execution of the event the following research was undertaken.

Primary research<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • Client meetings to determine expectations, goals and objectives, logistics and timeframes.
  • Liaison, planning and cooperation with local authorities
  • Liaison, planning and cooperation with terminal operator.

Secondary research

  • Map analysis of Mackay and surrounding areas
  •  Logistics research to help build local knowledge and co-ordinate suppliers
  • Analysis of proposed helicopter landing sites to ensure landing aircrafts could be accommodated in time allowed
  • Long-term weather forecasting
  •  Analysis of local caterers
  • Onsite research
  • Analysis of key financial analysts

Target Policies: 

From the client brief and research undertaken, target publics were identified and categorised into three groups, each important in achieving the company's goals.

Messengers (the media)

In the lead up to the event there was negative publicity with regard to DBCT environmental issues. It was important to communicate effectively and efficiently to prevent any negative impacts on the event. Local media were invited to attend to open up communication and allow direct contact with local community groups to control the threat of potential protests.

Investors (analysts, business leaders, financial community)

This group was integral to ensuring the ongoing investment support for PRIME.  The event was central to highlighting to the investment community's attention to the successful implementation of the new $115 million facility into the working operation of the already impressive DBCT.

Influencers (VIP guests and government representatives)

In order to create understanding of PRIME's work at DBCT, its investment contribution to the greater <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Queensland economy, it was important to secure some powerful allies in the business and government arena.

Communication Strategy: 

Communication Strategy and Implementation <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Publicly launching Stage 6 DBCT signified more than the extension of the coal terminal. The main thrust of the event was for PRIME to showcase the company?s substantial asset and significance as an industry force and contributor to the economic prosperity of local communities and the State.

The methods used to implement this strategy included:

Third-party advocate :The Premier, Hon Peter Beattie in the lead up to the Queensland State Election was chosen to open the facility. The resulting public support was beneficial to both parties.

Premier guest list: Guests were carefully selected to ensure the right mix of analysts, politicians, DBCT customers and key business leaders.

Showcase Event: A silver service, high quality, three-course hot lunch was organised for guests.

The location and the event  - between rock and a hard place

A site visit to determine the best way to achieve PRIME?s goal for the event.  The site, while offering scenic long distance views, was challenging -

  • An exposed, relatively flat escarpment bordered by a high vertical cliff face on one side with steep drops on the other three sides
  • Entry via a one-vehicle wide road leading from the terminal below
  • No electricity or water
  • Overlooking multiple stacks of coal awaiting shipment
  • An active and operational working site
  • No shade or cover
  • Exposed to off-shore winds and adverse weather

To stage the event, challenges were embraced and an oasis created on the escarpment combining pristine white marquees with palm trees.  White linen-draped round tables contrasting with chair covers in PRIME?s corporate colours were set with the ocean-facing side of the marquee raised so that guests looked towards the Stage 6 development.

Organisation was planned and executed using detailed project lists, responsibilities and timelines so that, at a glance, the team knew what had been ordered, from whom, delivery and pickup times and site arrangement.

Three large marquees, tables, chairs and other equipment were hired, albeit it from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Cairns rather than locally as all Mackay equipment was being used for Melbourne Cup day and was unavailable for any other function. Caterers provided a menu from which a three-course silver service luncheon was selected.

The main marquee served as the dining area and was linked by a fully enclosed hallway to the catering marquee to assist in the quality of service.  A mobile kitchen including on-site cooking, refrigeration and cleaning facilities was hired and set up in the catering marquee.

Food quality and safety was maintained by use of the enclosed kitchen adjoining the main marquee with meals being served from beneath silver dome platters directly to guests.

Extensive liaison with media prior to and during the event, occurred. Media relations were managed  to ensure a high level of both electronic and print coverage by arranging interviews and photographic opportunities.

Key messages

The program's key messages were:

  • The Stage 6 expansion of the Dalrymple Bay Terminal would satisfy anticipated customer demand
  • The new expansion will increase the nominal terminal capacity by about 22 per cent to 55.5 million tonnes per annum
  • The new facility has been quickly and successfully implemented into the working capacity of the DBCT being constructed both on time and within budget
  • The State Government supports Prime Infrastructure and the Dalrymple Bay Terminal project
  • The expanded terminal would increase economic advantage to all stakeholders.

Challenges

In terms of managing the event, the project experienced several challenges:

Weather

The event was rescheduled three times. Weather conditions were considered a potential threat to the function because of extreme heat and wind associated with a tropical location.  Adverse winds can also create potential environmental issues which could impact on the venue considering its location within the terminal and proximity to exposed coal stockpiles.

Location

The location initially proposed for the event was on the DBCT wharf where the Stage 6 expansion could be showcased, but, following a site reconnaissance this was abandoned due to safety issues (15m drop from the wharf face to sea level) and insufficient time to transport guests to and from the wharf, 3.85 km from the terminal.  Timing the trip to the wharf revealed a 40-minute return journey using a 20-seat coaster along the one-vehicle wide one-way jetty. Logistics, limited shelter on the wharf and the possibility of extreme weather conditions meant this first choice was not an option.

Consideration was given to hosting the event in a Mackay restaurant but this removed the impact of showcasing the $115 million extension and terminal.  The third alternative, a relatively flat escarpment with a sheer drop overlooking the coal stockpile area below, but with a view of the Stage 6 expansion and a panorama of the Coral Sea and offshore islands beyond was ultimately decided upon. 

While challenging from an event management perspective, it met PRIME's criteria of being on land it owned, a secure and safe site, one which was in proximity to the new expansion and where an event could be creatively staged.

Queensland Premier

Timing was critical. The Queensland Premier, Mr Peter Beattie, was in election mode and under pressure to attend several events on the same day within 300km of the terminal although in the region. Prime Infrastructure made it clear the Premier's attendance was paramount to the success of the opening and the event was staged to ensure his attendance.

Special arrangements were made with air traffic control and harbour masters to permit Premier Beattie?s helicopter and the accompanying media helicopter to have landing access near the function site, an escarpment above the DBCT coal storage facility. Phillips Group liaised with all authorities and the Premier?s pilot to ensure the aircraft could land safely.

Guests

As the majority of the 250 guests were flying from Brisbane or Sydney it was essential to time the event around these flights. Because of limited airlines services to Mackay, Phillips Group considered a charter flight.  Costs, however, were prohibitive and arrangements were made to hold a number of seats for guests who were offered information on the available flights as they responded to the invitation.

Security

Every guest, subcontractor and their staff who provided services for the event, was personally identified prior to the event and details cross-checked against a master list before entering or leaving the site. All guests were directed to a carpark outside the PIML property and were taken by coach through security controlled gates where each was signed in before being transported up an internal road to the escarpment area.  This process also eliminated concerns about potential protesters and ensured the safety of guests in a fully operational working industrial environment.

Implementation: 

Results: 

Results Messengers OBJ1 exceeded

PRIME's event resulted in no negative publicity from local media outlets regarding environmental issues. Since the event the local media has become a supporter of PRIME and its management plan to contain environmental issues and facilitate protection of the local environment.

Investors OBJ2 satisfied

All five analysts invited to the event attended. PRIME's share price has seen a steady increase over the past eight months from November 2003. See appendix A (charting graph)

Influencers OBJ3, OBJ4 and OBJ5 exceeded

More than 250 industry and business leaders attended the event which was seen as a major networking opportunity for PRIME's management team and board. Additional invitations were printed as 'Influencers' and 'Investors' were contacting PRIME requesting invites. See appendix A (guest list) From a security perspective the event passed without incident and the safety of all guests was preserved.

Evaluation: 

Evaluation

The program's success was evaluated against the following:

  • Content analysis of media generated
  • Analyst support reflected in PRIME's shareprice movements
  • Event attendance exceeding original estimates
  • Client and stakeholder feedback
  • No incidents/accidents

With a successful event and powerful government support as its foundation, PRIME proved its position as a significant contributor to the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Queensland economy and important role as a major employer in the local community.