1 Jul 2016

Steel supplier has issued fake quality certs

12:02 pm on 1 July 2016

The Chinese factory that made the steel strand for the Waterview Connection roading project has provided test certificates for other steel that are fake.

The factory, Ossen Innovation Materials near Shanghai, made about 600 tonnes of the strand for bridges and highway ramps on the $1.4 billion West Auckland project.

The steel used in the Waterview project passed independent testing by multinational firm SGS and has been installed with no problems.

But the Transport Agency has refused to say what due diligence checks were done on Ossen.

RNZ News has obtained certificates which Ossen said showed independent tests done on other strand, in 2014. They bear the title of the Shanghai Research Institute of Metals (SRIM), an official stamp and are signed by the "Vice Chief of SRIM"

The Shanghai Research Institute of Metals has told the Chinese National Accreditation Service that these are not its certificates.

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Photo: Wikicommons

RNZ News checked out Ossen's certificates given there have been multiple warnings that fake or wrong test certificates out of China are a growing problem for builders in New Zealand and around the world.

In March, the Australasian Certification Authority for Reinforcing Steel and Structural Steels (ACRS) said a trickle of complaints about them was turning into a flood.

At the same time, International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) said all 20 steel certificates it had investigated over 12 months after complaints had fallen short.

Ossen provided the certificates and its own factory test results for steel strand when asked to show its credentials for exporting New Zealand and Australia.

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One of the fake certificates obtained by RNZ News. Photo: supplied

It also sent the two certificates it said were from independent testing. They are three pages long, in English and Chinese, bear SRIM title, an official stamp, and signed by the "Vice Chief of SRIM".

The certificates give results for what is called a relaxation test and say it shows the strand complies with the Australasian Standard 4672.

RNZ News had these certificates checked by the Chinese National Accreditation Service (CNAS) - China's equivalent of IANZ - which accredits their testing labs.

Shanghai Research Institute of Metals told CNAS the certificates were not theirs.

These tests date to 2014. The steel strand for Waterview's bridges was made some time before that.

Waterview steel tested independently

There is no question that samples of the Waterview have been put through through independent testing.

This was carried out via SGS New Zealand in a Taiwan laboratory and done to an American testing standard.

Fletcher Construction and Easysteel specified only the first part of the Australasian standard AS/NZS4672 when the product was ordered, and not the second part, which lays out a rigourous testing regime.

Under this full Australasian standard, any independent tests are meant to be backed up by tests, at the factory, by Ossen. It is meant to test every three-tonne coil and 15 percent of coils are randomly sampled for independent testing.

RNZ News does not know what testing the factory did because the full standard was not specified. Nor is the quality of any testing equipment known because the factory not certified by ACRS, which would give it a very strict audit every year.

It is known that Australian importers of steel strand for use on main roads there also send their own inspectors into approved factories, and it can take them months of auditing and testing samples before they agree to use a factory as a supplier.

The lack of ACRS certification would bar Ossen from supplying steel to main roads in Queensland.

An industry insider said it appeared New Zealand buyers were "relying too much on somebody else's word" that the steel is satisfactory. They said that while China had world-class steel makers, for every good factory in China there were "probably five terrible ones".

The Transport Agency would not say what due diligence checks of Ossen were made by anyone on the Waterview project, before it was awarded the tender to make the steel strand.

In a statement it repeated its position that the strand passed independent tests, then went through pre-stressing at Waterview, with no problems and no failures.

The steel strand may well be fine. But the risks about sourcing critical products for roads and buildings in this way have not been addressed.

The agency has turned all RNZ's other questions into Official Information Act requests - which means a wait of at least a month for an answer. Yesterday it delayed for another 15 working days the questions about Huntly Bypass steel failures.

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