ASTT welcomes newest councillor – Nabil Issa

In this latest instalment of our ASTT Councillor profiles, we speak to the newest council representative, Nabil Issa in New South Wales.

Nabil – also known as Bill – began his involvement with Trenchless Technology and the ASTT in 1992, when the senior management of Ausgrid (formerly Sydney County Council/Sydney Electricity/EnergyAustralia) identified Trenchless Technology as an emerging technology that could be of value to the organisation, and one that should be developed for the benefit of the industry.

Being responsible at the time for policy and procedures associated with underground distribution cable installations, Nabil was given the responsibility to learn more about Trenchless Technology, and explore its potential applications for Ausgrid. Nabil attended the ASTT conference, which provided an excellent opportunity for new entrants to the industry to quickly learn about the principles behind the technology, and the potential applications and limitations for the power industry.

Ausgrid joined the ASTT as a corporate member in 1992, and has been a financial member since then. Nabil has been Ausgrid’s ASTT representative since then, and he currently holds the position of Manager – Street Opening Policy and Standards at Ausgrid. In his early years, Nabil devoted a lot of his time to trialling and promoting the technology, and addressing technical and procedural issues that were identified as a result of those trials. Today, Trenchless Technology is an accepted practice within Ausgrid for installing underground power cables where it is more economical than open trenching, and where for technical, operational or environmental considerations open trenching is less attractive or impractical. As far as Nabil knows, Ausgrid was the first power distribution company in NSW to embrace Trenchless Technology, and is the only company that has developed an internal specification for such work.

Nabil has served on two past ASTT conference organising committees, and has proactively promoted the technology within the NSW power industry.

ASTT and industry growth

The Trenchless Technology industry is relatively new and is still evolving in
Australia in terms of application/utilisation of the technology, standardisation and certification. Nabil believes the dependency on trenchless techniques will further evolve as regulation catches up with environmental, economic and societal concerns and needs.

“The ASTT is the mechanism for providing much needed leadership and facilitation in cohesively promoting and developing the industry to its fullest potential in all areas of infrastructure development and maintenance to meet future needs,” says Nabil. “The ASTT’s role as a conduit between the trenchless industry and other industries and regulatory bodies cannot be underestimated.”

Nabil believes that the last five to ten years have seen a reasonable level of growth in the industry, with some consolidation happening in the later years. However, he notes that existing gaps in education, training and accreditation in the industry are of major concern to many industry stakeholders. Fortunately, the ASTT has been proactive in developing training material for this purpose which will form the foundation for the next phase of implementation and certification.

Looking ahead

Currently in Australasia, unprecedented utility infrastructure development and renewal programs are underway, which are expected to continue for several more years.

Nabil said “Trenchless Technology is extremely important for the successful development and maintenance of utility infrastructure in Australia from an economic, environmental and social responsibility perspective, so I see the industry expanding in the future”.

“Trenchless Technology is underutilised for the installation of new power cables, and to my knowledge, it is not used at all for renewal work. Opportunities exist for trenchless service providers to team up with power companies to develop the technology for replacement work which could open up a new market for the industry.”

Nabil also thinks that a formalised training and accreditation program is an important step in the future growth of the industry. “The development and implementation of a proper framework for training and accreditation of trenchless operators is now a priority for service recipients because of the concerns they hold over the risk of damage to existing infrastructure,” he says. “An effective training and accreditation scheme will revitalise the industry.”

Nabil currently chairs a state-based organisation known as the NSW Streets Opening Conference (SOC) whose major stakeholders are the utility service providers (telecommunications, power, water and gas) and road authorities in NSW. A primary responsibility of this organisation is the co-ordination of major works in road reserves. Nabil is particularly excited about the SOC’s proposal to develop and implement a web-based works co-ordination mapping system for NSW to maximise the effectiveness of its co-ordination efforts. This system is intended to capture basic details of proposed major road works for the purpose of identifying opportunities for coordination to ensure that disruptions to road users are minimised, our resources are used more effectively in utilising the road corridor for installing utility services, road restoration costs are minimised, and the integrity of our roads is maintained by reducing multiple and uncoordinated road works. This proposal has generated a lot of interest from local stakeholders as well as national and international parties with similar needs and aspirations.

A word of advice

When asked for some words of advice for new entrants into the Trenchless Technology field, Nabil focuses on the importance of asset management.

“Proper lifecycle asset management is absolutely essential for successfully managing infrastructure of whatever type. Asset owners are under extreme pressure to optimise the value of their deliverables within limited resource constraints.

“New entrants to the trenchless industry should be focussed on how they package the value of their services to asset owners and how they plan to differentiate themselves in order to be successful. Cost is important but should not be the only consideration. Quality, safety, reliability and responsiveness will also enhance the ultimate value to the client.”

Outside the world of trenchless

He lives in the magnificent Illawarra region and has done so for 37 years, since migrating to Australia from the village of Kafarhilda in North Lebanon in 1974. Nabil has been married to his beautiful wife Lola since 1995, and the couple have three children, Remona (15), Nicholas (12) and Nathan (11). Nabil says that his leisure time is very limited, and it is balanced between family needs and social events.

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