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Aurecon farewells retiring Hugh McKay

Hugh McKay

19 September 2013 - Hugh McKay will end a stellar 38-year career at Aurecon with his retirement on 30 September.

From design engineer to technical director, Hugh has completed bulk materials handling and storage projects worldwide on every continent.

In 2009 he was named in the inaugural listings for Australia’s Top 20 Bulk Handling Engineers by the Australian Bulk Handling Review. In 2007 he received the prestigious Australian Society Bulk Solids Award in recognition for an outstanding contribution to the field of bulk solids handling.

Additionally, over his career, nine projects under his leadership have won a total of 14 Engineering Excellence Awards including an ACEA International Gold Award for the Lagan Cement project in 2003 and an ACEA Gold Award for the Rolleston stacker in 2006. Most recently, the Abbot Point X50 expansion project won three awards including the prestigious Consult Australia ‘Project of the Year’ for 2011.

In an interview with Australian Bulk Handling Review in 2008, Hugh said he was always destined to be an engineer. Growing in an environment of engineering, his family moved from Wales to Australia when Hugh’s father, an engineer, accepted a university appointment, and he never thought of doing anything else.

Commenting on Hugh’s retirement, CEO Paul Hardy said: “Hugh McKay is one of the best proponents of project leadership that I have seen in my career. He was exercising client experience and project management skills well before they became fashionable. When Aurecon has needed to put its best foot forward I have regularly turned to Hugh.” 

Hugh’s career at Macdonald Wagner and Priddle began in 1975 where as a young design engineer, he cut his teeth in the booming sugar industry; spending three years designing major expansions in Bundaberg, Lucinda, Mackay and Mauritius, before taking an 18 month stint in Mauritius as resident structural engineer on the USD 60 million new bulk sugar terminal.        

His return to Australia in 1979 coincided with the emergence of the booming coal industry and Hugh was soon involved playing major design roles on the original stages of the Dalrymple Bay and Abbot Point coal terminals including the design of shiploaders at both terminals, and the Queensland Bulk Handling (QBH) Coal Terminal at Fisherman Islands.

1983 saw the start of Hugh’s involvement in the cement industry where he established Aurecon’s international reputation for design innovation. He has successfully led Aurecon on major cement projects around the world, such as the AUD 200 million, 1.6 mtpa clinker plant for Queensland Cement Limited at Gladstone completed in 1997, as well as projects in Singapore, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Mauritius, Colombia, Ireland, New Zealand and Qatar. He has also appeared as an expert witness in international court cases in the industry.

During 1987-1988, in a brief respite from his cement work, Hugh played a significant role in the design of a USD 300 million grain terminal at Bahia Blanca in Argentina, being responsible for the design of the outloading facilities and shiploader. He was also involved in the design of the Mackay Grain Terminal and export facility. The project included the innovative design of 4/5,000 tonne concrete silos at Mackay, developed as an alternative to the steel bins proposed, and won an award for excellence from the Concrete Institute of Australia in 1989.

Following the maturity of the cement industry in Australia, Hugh’s focus returned to the coal industry where he has been involved in iconic projects such as Xstrata’s Rolleston coal handling facility and the billion dollar staged expansion of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal.

A proficient author, having published or co-authored 16 technical papers during his career, Hugh attracted attention in 2006 for his article and paper, “Abbot Point – The Forgotten Coal Terminal”.

Speaking of his work at Abbot Point, where he was involved in the original terminal design in 1980/81, Hugh says: “It was quite a strange feeling going back to Abbot Point in 2005. I felt like my career had done the full circle.”

Over the next six years, Hugh oversaw the largest project of his career, the terminal’s AUD 1 billion expansion from 15 mtpa to 50 mtpa.

One of the many legacies Hugh will leave with Aurecon is his development, with the late Mal Josey, of the widely acclaimed ‘A’ Frame long travelling, luffing shiploader. Many examples of this machine now exist around the world.

Hugh has agreed to support the Aurecon business in a part time role over the next few months while he transitions into the next chapter of his life.

He says: “I will miss the challenge and excitement of the big projects and I will miss my colleagues and clients who have become friends through our working together, but with the current downturn in the cement and coal industries, the time feels right to pursue my other interests.”

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