An Overview of Sweeping in Kuwait
by Phileas Fogg and Ranger Kidwell-Ross
Editor's Note: Because we have purposefully kept spelling consistent with usage in that part of the world, you may find words that are spelled differently than you are used to.
Kuwait might not have the same image as Abu Dhabi, Oman, Qatar or Dubai, but it is a bustling city of 3.5 million and slowly shaking off its 'poor cousin' image. At least the constructions cranes in Kuwait City all seem to be working, which is more than you can say for cash-strapped Dubai.
In the following interview, Mr. M.P. Jagdish, manager of the engineering department of National Cleaning Company, the largest cleaning contractor in Kuwait, discusses how his organization copes with the extremes of climate.
There is nothing easy or ordinary about sweeping in Kuwait, a country where strong winds in June and July can blanket everything in quite deep sand drifts. Imagine this sweeping problem: Cleaning up miles of highways outside of the city that are frequently covered up to 15" deep in dry, gritty, machine-destroying sand!
Situated on the Arabian Gulf and bordered by Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Kuwait City has beaches, a number of excellent resorts, shopping malls, a marvellous old souk (open market), good museums and a fish market/marina that has a stunning range of flip-flopping fresh fish and plenty of restaurants ready to serve them. No alcohol, but you will find that doesn't hurt you.
Like all Gulf cities, Kuwait has some serious street sweeping problems, though most can be summarized into one four-letter word: sand. Kuwait has strong winds in June and July, and these can cover highways outside city limits with well over a foot of sand at any time. This is not only difficult to remove, but it also is extremely tough on any machinery used to do the job.
In this interview with M.P. Jagdish, manager of the engineering department of the largest cleaning contractor in Kuwait, National Cleaning Co., we learn how this difficult task is accomplished in such an extreme climate. Driving through the outskirts of an industrial area there are many dusty, untidy and seemingly chaotic depots (equipment storage areas) and machinery yards.
National Cleaning's depot was similar, Jagdish says, until he took charge and decided that was unacceptable for the company's image, as well as for the usability of the property. Although surrounded by sandy, dusty yards, the National Cleaning depot and workshop are now neat, clean, and suffused with an air of brisk efficiency. Uniformed workers move about with purpose, and the company's equipment is lined up, tagged and ready for repair.
On the way to Jagdish's office was a "clean room" where hydraulic parts were serviced. Mr. Jagdish is a tall man with a thick handle-bar moustache that betrays his Indian army background. Here's what he had to say about the difficulties the Kuwaiti climate places on fleet maintenance.
WORLDSWEEPER: How many pieces of rolling stock do you handle?
M.P. Jagdish: There are 2,000 items ranging from heavy trucks to cars, sweepers, compactors and everything in between. We have 300 garbage compactors and around 60 sweepers ( Nilfisk, Ravo, Elgin and Broddway) water tankers, sewerage vacuum trucks, tippers and other general vehicles. The workshop runs 24 hours with a workforce between 160 – 175.
WORLDSWEEPER: That must take a lot of organisation!
M.P. Jagdish: Everything is on programmed maintenance which is why we have to operate 24 hours. In our hot climate daily garbage collection is essential for public health so the compactors must be out on the road every shift. I find that regular maintenance and daily inspections reduce breakdowns, but of course something always goes wrong.
WORLDSWEEPER: I see a large number of buses parked in the front yard, do you maintain them as well?
M.P. Jagdish: They are our own buses to move our labour force. The company has extensive cleaning contracts and employs several thousand cleaners all over the city in offices, malls, factories. They are all foreign workers from Bangladesh, Philippines, Pakistan and India, some are accommodated here in barracks and the rest in housing camps around Kuwait. It is a major logistical exercise to get them to and fro and we run 100 buses just to get our fellows to work.
WORLDSWEEPER: What are your biggest problems in fleet maintenance?
M.P. Jagdish: Two really, heat and sand. In summer we can have weeks on end with 45 — 50 deg Celsius (113F — 122F) so radiators, hoses, hydraulic systems and fuel lines have to be in good condition. We often have to modify European equipment to cope with the heat. Fortunately most of the sweepers and compactors run at night, but it can still be 35C — 40C. Daytime road surface temperatures can get up to 65 C (148F) tyres take heavy punishment and are a major operating cost.
The dust is a continual problem, it is so fine we have great difficulty with electronic equipment in machines, I prefer anything that is simply hard wired. Of course sand and dust build up on engines and coolant packs adds to the overheating problems. We have to keep a very close eye on keeping all breathing areas clear.
WORLDSWEEPER: How do your sweeping contracts work?
M.P. Jagdish: Kuwait Municipality calls tenders for all of the services, sweeping, garbage, sewerage etc every 3 or 5 years. The contracts are broken into 17 districts so the tender is really a combination of 17 tenders. There are about 25 cleaning companies on the City's register who are eligible to submit tenders. The City usually sets specifications about the equipment to be used.
WORLDSWEEPER: I noticed your sweepers working around the place, but also saw some manual labour. What are each used for?
M.P. Jagdish: For the most part, we use manual laborers to cover difficult areas where parked cars prevent the sweeper from reaching the kerb. Wherever we can, we use machine sweepers to handle the job.
WORLDSWEEPER: What would you say are your biggest sweeping problems?
M.P. Jagdish: There is no question about that: sand, sand and sand. The wear effects are particularly severe on suction fans and elevators. After strong winds, most of the highways will often have miles of sand drifts up to 12" deep. The only way we can remove it is by front-end loader, then our sweepers.
Because of these extreme conditions quite a number of our sweepers are actually snow removal units made by Broddway, which is a Swedish company. Designed for snow removal, the unit is towed behind a tipper with a large broom. It also utilizes a pickup elevator and conveyor to dump the sand into the tipper. Although this method is quick, it creates a big ambient dust problem and at times a traffic hazard.
With the high amount of building works in the city we also have a problem with illegal dumping of demolition material. The City authorities try to trace and prosecute dumpers, but it is not easy and is a growing problem. That's one of the areas we hope will eventually get solved.
National Cleaning Company was established in 1979 with the purpose of providing a professional and dependable waste management service in Kuwait. Since a humble inception with a couple of dedicated and enterprising individuals, the company has grown into a major share-holding company with a multinational workforce exceeding 7000, and equipped with over 1500 specialised vehicles to support the business. Along with its three fully owned and managed subsidiary companies, N.C.C. is a major contractor with Kuwait Municipality for waste management and city and indoor cleaning.
Mr. M.P. Jagdish, M.I.E, is Manager of the company's engineering department. He is located in Kuwait City, Kuwait, and may be reached via email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The National Cleaning Company website is http://www.ncc-kw.com/.
Phileas Fogg is an intrepid and voracious traveler with an abiding interest in the power sweeping industry. He has agreed to, from time-to-time, provide the WorldSweeper.com reading audience with interviews and other information from countries he finds himself in. You may reach Mr. Fogg via email sent to email@example.com.