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An article from Infrastructure and Economy magazine

Article from “Infrastructure and Economy” magazine No.2-(12) 

   St. Petersburg company “Kontinent” LLC is currently occupied with the “Bulk Liquid Cargos Terminal” construction project in Ust’-Luga Commercial Sea Port and “Passenger Terminal on Vasilyevsky Island” facilities in St. Petersburg. The story of a young, but well-known company in the construction industry of Moscow and St. Petersburg, is told by its founder and leader


Mikhail Panfilkin

    - “Kontinent” was founded in 2003 and began construction operations in 2004. Our first project was a tunnel construction for the St. Petersburg Belt Motorway in Murino. At that time we worked as subcontractor for “Kosmos-Most” LLC: a subdivision of “Kosmos” SPA. As we celebrated success there, it was decided to pursue our interests in the bridge industry. The next project was two expressway overpasses at Obukhovskaya junction, and as the last time, for “Kosmos” SPA. This time, it was installation of the roadway deck over a waterway, and finally, concrete casting for the overpasses and reinforced embankments. Large projects were not late in coming: the roadway deck of Zaporozhskaya St. at approach to the suspension bridge, the Industrial Avenue junction, the Complex of Protective Structures in St. Petersburg “Navigation passes C-1 and C-2”, “Morskoy Fasad”, the Western speed diameter, Lot No.3 of the South Beltway.


Some of our project were away from the city: insitu concrete works on the Bobsleigh and Luge Center in Dmitrov, construction of CHP station-21 for Mosenergo in Moscow, rehabilitation of the Sheremetyevo and Khotilovo runways, Container Yard and Oil Loading Terminal in Ust’-Luga. As we adhered to the strategy of meeting schedule and quality expectations, our contract was extended. The current task in Ust’-Luga is the construction of Mazut unloading rack for “Trust Koksokhimmontazh” JSC.

Although, we have never offered bids for major projects, what usually implies at least five years in business, considerable balance and agreement with a number of other conditions, to this day we keep gaining strength and confidence to compete for EPC construction and rehabilitation contracts of transport and hydraulic facilities. With its good name, known among the best construction companies, “Kontinent” is indebted by and large to the ability of meeting tight deadlines and high quality standards at the same time. And perhaps, the main achievement is a 100% growth in annual turnover. To this day concrete works have become the central tenant of our effort, as we are able to pour 18- 20 thousand cubic meters annually. It is worthwhile to underscore the quality aspect of these works that is very high.

 How is the company structured? 

- We are a comparatively young team and are proud to have 600 professionals including engineers and technicians, Production Engineering Department, four construction sites. With the current management structure we can to ramp up the staffing level to a thousand people; at least we are experienced in managing a team as large as this. We can assign up to 300 people to a single project. Each of the four sites has sufficing technical resources: most of our machinery is in the company’s possession, 30% are on lease. However, we pursue the idea of becoming 100% self-sufficient and plan to add more units to our fleet.

- What development trends do you see? Do you speculate on moving towards civil construction in the event of “infrastructure crisis?”

- It is very unlikely that we take the path of civil and industrial construction, as “Kontinent” was designed to play on the bridge and hydraulic construction market. This field usually implies very specific and mostly concrete-oriented tasks, for example, early civil work for complex industrial facilities. That is how we hope to win the contract for the package of foundation works and construction of oil refinery racks at the “LUKOIL” project in Nizhny Novgorod. Regular tasks, on the other hand, seem not as interesting to us. Transport works involve great responsibility, hence it asks for highly professional and diligent staff which we currently have. Moreover, the cost of such works is lower than transport works, which will not meet high salary demands of our specialists who earn their keep due to their aptness and ability to satisfy high expectations we set for them. Since our whitehats are bridge engineers in their collective capacity, they are able to build practically everything including civil buildings and facilities. But on the other hand, there we see no point in wasting our engineering potential on simple tasks.

  Besides, even if to assume there is a constant demand for work items of narrow application, we decide not to buckle down on them. For example, there has been no such demand in the cycle of piling works: we chose to hire subcontractors. In particular, we have invited specialists and equipment of “Mostotryad-34” to work with us in Ust’-Luga. Purchase of our own piling equipment will be considered only upon signature of a “big” contract away from St. Petersburg, where in the absence of such developed subcontracting market, it will ensure a higher profit. In the event of urgent need, we can easily master sheet-pile technology as we have such specialists. The same goes for any other special work.


   - What other “strong suits”, besides concrete works, could be of great advantage? For example fitting and installation works, welding, fabrication of rebar cages? Engineering?..

   - As for engineering, we really plan to grow in this direction. Meanwhile, we are in the middle of collecting all essential licenses and are proud to have the key personnel of several engineers so far. We understand that this task is a long way from being simple and will take a while. Nevertheless a wholesome experience of working with “Mostotryad-19” shows how important it is to employ efficient thinking, complete and coordinate drawings with a “task-oriented” designer. Regular design institutes are tied to considerable volume of work, no wonder the detailed design they offer is not flawless.

   As for other scopes you mentioned, they are clearly represented, meaning we have specialists competent in framework fabrication. We also have several cranes with high probability of adding more powerful units. Welding is another area we feel confident about and hope to take on more nonstandard projects (among others) with eager anticipation. That is how we decided to give a shot to butt-resistance welding on a motorway deck, what proved to be a great thing to do. So I feel sure it will play out and develop just fine at our hydraulic construction projects. 

   Talking about rebar cages, we prefer to produce them in situ, largely out of convenience. Back in Sheveremetyevo, we used fabrication tables to produce all necessary elements. Ordering cages from a distant fabrication yard would have involved the transportation issue, for instance try to imagine a delivery of 12x8 meters structures.

   Generally speaking, in order to provide the client and the general contractor with a full scope of transport construction services with large demands of concrete works, we plan to develop further in those spheres we traditionally choose to operate in. How did we make it to “KXM”? As they explained the conditions at the meeting we named our price and promised to get the job done without further questions.


   - How did “Kontinent” fix the procurement issue around the construction of racks in Ust’-Luga? Your colleagues describe it as anything but simple…

   - Owing to great leadership of the general contractor and proficiency of the design institute, issues are addressed very fast: every proposal is discussed, coordinated, furnished with documents, and more importantly, costs are reimbursed without further ado. As for difficult tasks, I would not say that in contrast with bridge construction we have encountered something special here. The main challenge is the deadlines, which we fit well into. Judging from our experience, really difficult projects were the Complex of Protective Structures St. Petersburg “Navigation passes C-1 and C-2”, “The Third Lot” of Predportovaya street for “Mostotryad-19”, or the Beltway exits to Sofiyskaya street. Here it largely depends on effective planning.

- How was it planned then?

- Round-the-clock, in two 11-hour shifts with 1-hour lunch break. Workers had hot meals, uniforms. To this day we already ensured mixed-use residential clusters for four hundred people.

- What strategy should be used to enhance growth with such mode of operation? Mechanization, number of people, discipline?

- In my opinion, the growth strategy is largely determined by job engineering and professional growth. Rather than simply adding more people, it is vital to focus on management. Simultaneous work of a thousand people is a big challenge, even if to assume the staff is highly competent. We pay a lot of attention to the standards of labor and put our site managers in charge of safety, work planning and procurement. Every site can function independently with its own Production Engineering Department, Land Survey Office, Procurement Service and equipment. This makes us mobile and helps to contain bureaucracy and keep things simple. For example, there is no need in running to the Head Office PED to get a paper signed. The only form to be necessarily signed in the Head Office is M-29: quarantine of materials. All other workflow exchanged goes via e-mail, though sometimes our sites do not have access to telecommunications and electricity. 

- How is the team formed?

- Our team is made of people from all over the country: almost no workers from St. Petersburg, just several, to be perfectly honest. The overwhelming majority of our engineers, on the other hand, are from St. Petersburg. When St. Petersburg residents come to us for a job, we make it clear for them, they are likely to work away from home.

- What was done to establish procurement of your main material - concrete? 

- We work with the local batching plants: “Obyedineniye 45”, “Peterasphalt” and others. We are motivated to sign up for the complete package of services, namely: production, delivery and pumping. There is no interest in purchasing this equipment, as we believe it would be feasible to stay focused on QA&QC issues, pouring technologies, and etc…


- Do you have to teach or get workers through supplementary trainings?

- For example, tradesmen such as riggers, fitters, welders are educated and certified on a regular basis according to the established procedure. Since we started with hydraulic facilities, all our engineers passed the advanced training program.

- You have mentioned a possible large industrial project in Nizhny Novgorod. How soon do you think you can assign the “tactical unit” for this job?

- It is all ready: we plan to delegate our Moscow division, which has worked its way to become off-line.