An Operations Day on The Arabian Peninsula


It is the day of heat and sand in Oman. The air is painted in yellow by dust and sand, blown by mild winds. I check the temperature on my overheated smart phone, which keeps shutting down automatically because of the extreme heat. It shows 113 degrees Fahrenheit. I know this phone is not waterproof, and obviously not heat-proof either – are you going to do something about that Apple? I know that I am sweating, but my clothes are dry because of the heat. The sweat must be vaporizing before contacting the fabric. It just feels like I am in a dryer.

I see a truck, delivering cold water to our staff on site. Like ants around a piece of bread, we, a staff of twenty or so together with contractors surround the truck to grab a bottle to quench our thirst. Then I see our 10-axle modular transporter, pulled by a 4 axle truck carrying our cargo, a large reactor weighing over 70 tons, covered in white plastic wrapping slowly moving towards the installation point located in the heart of this very large factory. It looks like the scene from a movie I do not remember which, where the bride rides a horse, slowly towards the groom who waits for her on a beautifully designed wooden stage for the ceremony.

It was about sixteen months ago, when we held a meeting at clients’ office in the United States, on a cold December. The engineers were showing us the technical plans of the two identical reactors for the first time. They were about to start building these reactors and the question was: can you guys move these pieces from our factory to Oman? What we saw on the papers were two big and heavy cargoes. It was clear that a through route survey would have to be engaged not only at the origin but also at destination, here in Oman. And today is the day we are about to deliver the first reactor after over a year of hard work, detailed planning and engineering.

My feet are at their melting point inside the gigantic safety boots and it is not pleasant to walk.

As I am half way through my bottle of water, now I see that the block is about cross one critical section of the three stage operations in one mile distance within the facility – to which I have recently started calling “green mile” with no single green in sight, that consists of up and down slopes, narrow passages, that come with height and width restrictions. Would it pass? A moment of silence but there is no doubt, as I know that we did our homework with two different site surveys going through all dimensions, clearances, slope angles, weight restrictions, and even maneuvering spaces for the very long trailer through sections that the whole cargo block can barely fit. I hear our port captain telling the truck driver to take that turn widely and slowly. From the ground level, I see that the roof of reactor, as high as 166”, is about to touch that air-duct on top where it resides on cargo’s route, with a downward curve, but I know that we measured it at least twice, and we should have a minimum of 21” clearance.

It is through! I glance at the project manager of the facility who seems to have just released a ton weight from his shoulders, smiling at me. I tell him “do not worry, you are in good hands”.

It is past 6pm, local time in Oman.

The sun is about to set behind the sandy hills. It is strange that how quickly the temperature drops down as soon as the sun disappears. I see our 300ton crane lifting the rectifier. Soon the white beauty will be on its final place of rest where it will be installed to add an additional line of power to the factory increasing production rate. Our team is proud to have delivered another promise after a lot of hard work. It should be 10am in Philadelphia and I am thinking of my wife and newborn son. I will call them as soon as I get to the hotel, possibly with a cold beer in my hand. A small celebration is well deserved, with tomorrow’s agenda on my mind, to deliver the second rectifier.