GaGE comprises a highly qualified professional group with extensive individual experience and a strong track record in delivering geotechnical and geo-structural solutions to complex multi-disciplinary projects.
We are dedicated to pushing the boundaries of professional knowledge to achieve extraordinary outcomes in engineering. Our staff are driven by the
work we do and clients value our deep expertise and new thinking.
Frans van der Merwe
BEng(Civil) GDE BEngHons(Geotech)PrEng(SA) MSAICE
Fernando has over 18 years of experience as a geotechnical, tunnels and materials engineer. His broad project exposure and specialist geotechnical and management experience makes him ideally suited to providing integrated and holistic geo-solutions to major infrastructure projects. Many of the projects on which he has worked represent visionary, technically challenging, infrastructure developments; such as the Gautrain Viaducts, NMPP Inland Terminal, Mt Edgecombe Interchange and Luanda Marginal. Here he has applied his skills as an analytical problem solver and conceptual thinker, to evaluate and mitigate the risks posed by ground conditions resulting in the production of quality projects on schedule and on budget.
Summary of Credentials
Summary of Credentials
Principal Geotechnical Engineer
Professionally registered ECSA, PrEng(SA)
NHBRC Registered Competent Person
Bachelor of Engineering (Civil),
Graduate Diploma in Engineering (civil),
Bachelor of Engineering (Hons)(Geotech.)
Lateral support & excavations,
Retaining wall design,
Materials utilisation and aggregates, Investigations,
Tunnels & underground works
Ghana, Kenya, South and Southern Africa (7 countries), Uganda, United Kingdom
Fernando is a registered professional engineer with over 18 years of experience as a geotechnical, tunnels and materials engineer. His broad project exposure and specialist geotechnical and management experience makes him ideally suited to providing integrated and holistic geo-solutions to major infrastructure projects.
Many of the projects on which he has worked represent visionary, technically challenging, infrastructure developments; such as the Gautrain Viaducts, NMPP Inland Terminal, Mt Edgecombe Interchange and Luanda Marginal. Here he has applied his skills as an analytical problem solver and conceptual thinker, to evaluate and mitigate the risks posed by ground conditions resulting in the production of quality projects on schedule and on budget.
Fernando has acted in the role of Geotechnical Design Leader for a number large projects including the N17 Freeway Link Project completed for the 2010 World Cup and for the N2 widening near the King Shaka Airport which included the prestigious 4-level Mount Edgecombe Interchange. Both projects are characterised by highly variable, poor ground conditions which required innovative designs for the consolidation and slip failure problems of high fills, as well as in the design of foundations of several large bridges and viaducts.
He has completed numerous investigations, analyses, designs and reports for various industrial, commercial, residential and multi-disciplinary infrastructural developments (such as railways, utilities, bridges and tunnels). His geotechnical experience extends to pile foundation, slope stability and retaining structure analyses and designs as well as the utilisation of soils for concrete, road and rail pavements and other building materials.
Fernando provides specialist input to the various foundation engineering aspects of projects this includes; pile design, pile damage, excavations, basements, retaining walls, ground anchors and lateral support, foundation/pile selection and optimisation, pile testing and quality assurance.
Fernando also has widespread experience in construction, as well as the production of tender and contract documentation for the various geotechnical and materials aspects related to infrastructure developments, such as retaining walls, earthworks and foundations.
Fernando is supported by a multi-talented team and is responsible for providing technical review and geotechnical risk assessment on projects, ensuring quality of work and strengthening technical capability.
Van Reenen’s Pass Feasibility Study, KwaZulu Natal, S.AFRICA (2017)
South African Road Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL)
Geotechnical and Tunnel Specialist – the project included the geotechnical investigation and evaluation of the feasibility for a potential alternative route for the N3 near Van Reenen. The route includes very deep excavations, tunnels (drill-and-blast and cut-and-cover) and several large bridges and viaducts.
Fernando was responsible for feasibility design of major cuts and tunnel sections. This included route selection and optioneering in order to reduce project costs and geotechnical risks. The design included the review of the drilling information, Finite Element analysis of tunnel and 40m deep cut sections. Design also included the evaluation of the suitability of ground conditions for drill and blast and cut-and-cover tunnels. Firm Fee: US$0.15million (2017).
Mount Edgecombe Interchange, S.AFRICA (2012-17)
South African Road Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL)
Geotechnical Design Leader – this prestigious 4-level interchange is the largest in South Africa, and includes its longest incrementally launched bridge (947m). The poor soil conditions (bedrock at 50m) combined with high loads from the sensitive structure made this one of the most challenging geotechnical projects undertaken in the country. Geotechnical works comprised the investigation, design and construction supervision of, cut and fill retaining walls and slopes to ramps and structure abutments, pile foundations to several bridges and ground improvement under high fill and MSE (retaining) walls. .
Fernando was responsible for all aspects of the geotechnical investigations and design including overseeing, checking and reviewing logging, laboratory testing and the production of the factual geotechnical report. Design Manager overseeing design and analysis, including checking and review as well tender documentation and drawings for pile foundation, retaining walls, soil nail walls, high fills, ground improvement (dynamic compaction) and materials utilisation (earthworks). Specialist advice relating to quality assurance and contractor changes/non-conformances during construction. Project Value: US$90million Fee: US$5million (2015).
Huguenot Tunnel, Western Cape, SOUTH AFRICA (2015-16)
Client: South African Road Agency Limited
Geotechnical and Tunnel Specialist – for input under the appointment to conduct ongoing monitoring and inspections of both the operational 4km lined freeway tunnel and the unlined northern emergency tunnel. The work comprises visual inspections of rock and soil stability within the tunnel as well as monitoring of geotechnical instrumentation within the tunnel including extensometers and convergence studs.
Fernando was responsible for undertaking a full review of the monitoring and instrumentation programme and developing a new programme which was more appropriate to the tunnels age and risk profile. The effectiveness of the existing program, which was used since the tunnels completion in 1988, was found to have diminished given the tunnels age and many of the parameters being monitored were no longer relevant. The new monitoring programme was aligned with the latest technology and industry best practice. Fee: US$0.5million (2016).
N2 widening Mdloti to Tongaat, S.AFRICA (2011-14)
Client: South African Road Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL)
Geotechnical Design Leader – the project included the widening of the uMdloti dual viaducts. The sites is characterised by very poor soil conditions with bedrock at 50 to 60m. Geotechnical works comprised the investigation, design and construction supervision of, cut and fill retaining walls and slopes to ramps and structure abutments, pile foundations to several bridges and ground improvement under high fill walls.
Fernando was responsible for all aspects of the geotechnical investigations and design including overseeing, checking and reviewing logging, laboratory testing and the production of the factual geotechnical report. Design Manager overseeing design and analysis, including checking and review as well tender documentation and drawings for pile foundation, retaining walls, soil nail walls, high fills, ground improvement (dynamic compaction) and materials utilisation (earthworks). Specialist advice relating to quality assurance and contractor changes/non-conformances during construction. Project Value: US$30million Fee: US$2million (2014).
Stabilisation of Franschhoek Pass, Western Cape, SOUTH AFRICA (2013-15)
Client: Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works
Geotechnical Lead Engineer –unseasonably high rainfall over the latter half of 2013 resulted in a number of slope instability cases along the pass. The pass, has significant historical value attached to it, as well as providing a vital transport link between Franschhoek and the Overberg. Remediation measures, to reinstate the safety of the route and mitigate the risk of future instability-related problems were provided.
Fernando was responsible for the team undertaking investigations, design and construction documentation. The project is highly visible and recognisable, and the design involved the use of a number of innovations in order to effectively mitigate a proportion of the risk associated with the frequent failures at a reasonable cost with due consideration for the environment and road user. Project Value: US$3million Fee: US$0.5million (2015).
New University Mpumalanga, Mpumalanga Province, S.AFRICA (2013-15)
Client: Department of Higher Education DHET and Wits University
Geotechnical Lead Engineer – This will be the first new university to be constructed in the country since 1994, the 20 year master plan comprises the construction of over 100 academic buildings, lecture halls, residences and associated infrastructure. Detailed geotechnical and road pavement materials investigations were undertaken which included geophysics, test pitting, rotary core drilling and laboratory testing on a 150Ha site.
Fernando was responsible for the geotechnical and materials investigations including factual and interpretive reports and specialist input during construction. Project Value: US$300million Fee: US$0.4million (2012).
Jeffery’s Bay 140MW Wind Power Project, Eastern Cape, S.AFRICA (2011-13)
Client: Mainstream Renewable Power
Geotechnical Engineer – for the Geotechnical Investigation for one of the first and largest Wind Power Facilities in the country, comprising 60 Towers. Extensive investigations were undertaken to characterise ground conditions for foundations, civil and electrical engineering works, on a site situated on highly fractured and folded rocks of the Cape Fold Belt.
Fernando was responsible for leading the geotechnical team undertaking the investigation and production of a factual geotechnical report for contractors. Interpretation of the results as well as specialist advice with respect to foundation, concrete, road pavement design, including the use of crushed stone from the site was also provided to the client. Fee: US$0.4million (2012).
Ballito Drive MSE Wall, Kwazulu Natal, SOUTH AFRICA (2011-13)
Client: KwaDukuza Municipality
Geotechnical Lead Engineer– for the widening of the MR445 Ballito drive two retaining walls of 12m and 5m height, covering a total length of over 400m and 2000m2, were required. The Tensar TW1 system, which comprises a high density uniaxial polyethylene strip, specialised connector and concrete block façade was used in one of first and largest applications of the system in South Africa to date.
Fernando was responsible for undertaking the detailed investigation, stability analysis, design and preparation of tender documentation and drawings. This including ensuring the compliance of the system to local design codes and best practice. Project Value: US$8million Fee: US$0.7million (2012).
New Multi-Products Pipeline, Inland Terminal, Gauteng, S.AFRICA (2008-11)
Client: Transnet Capital Projects
Geotechnical Engineer– the project involved the geotechnical investigation for the proposed Inland Terminal for the R13 billion, New-Multi Products Fuel Pipeline from Durban to Johannesburg. The Inland Terminal near Heidelberg comprises 20 - 20ML fuel storage tanks, and associated infrastructure, pumps, pipelines, control rooms and access roads. The investigation included a detailed study of geotechnical conditions and construction material sources as well as a detailed study on undermining.
Fernando was responsible for overseeing the investigation and providing foundation recommendations for the new fuel terminal. The 30m high tanks were designed to accommodate a maximum of 10mm of differential settlement; all tanks underwent water tests and the actual maximum differential settlements measured amounted to 6mm. Fernando was also responsible for investigating commercial and other borrow material sources as well as a study of the risk related to past and future undermining near and below a new fuel terminal. Project Value: US$900million Fee: US$0.3million (2008).
N17 Nasweto Freeway Link, Soweto, SOUTH AFRICA (2008-10)
Client: Group 5 Construction and SANRAL
Geotechnical Lead Engineer– for the design and construction of the N17 Link Road between the Soweto Highway and Nasrec Road, including the upgrading of Nasrec and New Canada Roads before the 2010 World Cup. The 4,5km section comprised a four lane, single undivided carriageway, with 5 bridges, spanning the Klipspruit River, New Canada Road and the N1 Freeway as well as a large jacked tunnel underpass bridge under an operational railway line.
The road alignment cut through existing tailing deposits which subjected the design to a number of technical constraints, due to the unconsolidated nature of the tailings, and given that this type of construction had not attempted through such a facility in SA before. The design thus required special consideration and intricate geotechnical detailing. Fernando was responsible for all aspects of the geotechnical investigations and design including overseeing, checking and reviewing logging, laboratory testing and the production of the detailed design, analysis, and construction drawings. Project Value: US$62million Fee: US$4million (2009).
Gautrain Rapid Rail, Gauteng, SOUTH AFRICA (2008-10)
Client: Bombela Consortium JV
Geotechnical Engineer –for the final detailed design of 7 viaducts on the southern section of the project, including a 1.5km long viaduct at OR Tambo Int. Airport, for the 80km rapid railway between Pretoria and Johannesburg. The work package comprised some 4,5km of bridges including the geotechnical investigations, designs and interpretative geotechnical reports.
Fernando was responsible for the planning, supervision and management of the final detailed geotechnical investigations, scheduling of testing, inspection of drilling and investigation crews. Fernando also assisted in the review of interpretive geotechnical reports and foundation recommendations for the viaducts. Project Value: US$3000million Fee: US$3million (2009).
Mamelodi Sewer Tunnel, Tshwane, SOUTH AFRICA (2003-07)
Client: City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality
Geotechnical and Tunnels Engineer –Investigation and design of a 3m diameter, 760m tunnel through the Magaliesberg in Pretoria. The tunnel was required as the existing sewer line capacity needed to be quadrupled and the line passed through a narrow gorge. Extensive core drilling (holes up to 120m deep) and laboratory testing was carried out to investigate the geotechnical conditions and rock mass characteristics for the tunnel design.
Fernando was responsible for contract management and supervision of drilling contractor, detailed core logging and completion of the final report including analysis of laboratory results and geological and rock mass conditions. Fernando also assisted the tunnel design team in developing the tunnel design including the tunnel support classification and delineation. Project Value: US$5million Fee: US$0.5million (2005).
Testing of Screwed-In-Casing Augered Piles using the Osterberg Load cell at the Mt Edgecombe Interchange
van der Merwe,F.H and Pequenino,F.P. Sept 2014. Proceedings of the 8th YGE Confrence SAICE.
Technical paper discusses the design and design verification of Screwed-in-Casing Augered Piles (SICAP) for the Mt Edgecombe Interchange at Umhlanga, Durban. In oder to optimism the pile foundation design and verify design assumptions and expected pile behaviour, full-scale pile load tests were undertaken on three test piles using the Osterberg load cell (O-cell). In addition to confirming the ultimate design parameters the results of the load test provided valuable insight to the load settlement performance exhibited by these piles and enabled the design to be adjusted accordingly.
Geotechnical investgations for upgrades to N2 from Mt Edgecombe to Tongaat Toll Plaza
Pequenino,F.P. and Van Haute, S.C. 2011. Proceedings of the 7th YGE Confrence SAICE.
Technical paper discusses the geotechnical investigation and design of various aspects relating to some of the geotechnical constraints encountered for the upgrade and widening of the N2 freeway between Mt Edgecombe and the Tongaat Toll Plaza including: Settlement and consolidation of approach fills to the uMdloti Dual Viaducts, Pile foundations to Umhlanga River Bridges and uMdloti Viaducts and Lateral support to various cuttings and structures along the route.
Completed masters degree in engineering geology at the University of Pretoria from 2014 to 2016 and assisted as a stand-in lecturer and tutor during this period. Since Jan 2017 has been supervising the geotechnical and drilling investigation of the N3 Keyridge realignment.