ENR 6/20/16 p. 10
Leader restored a sense of teamwork among members of the fractured project team, making the final push to complete the Panama Canal’s third lane.
When Giuseppe Quarta arrived at the Panama Canal in spring 2014, the $5.4-billion expansion project was in dire straits. Work had just barely resumed after a two-month standoff between the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and contractor consortium Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC) over disputed cost overruns that had threatened to derail the whole project. Just two weeks after Quarta took the helm as GUPC chief executive officer, the project was further impacted by a nationwide worker strike.
“People were discouraged, and the future was not so clear,” he says.
Despite these delays and challenges, Quarta persevered, leading the Panama Canal team across the finish line this past June to deliver the new set of locks, designed to provide safe passage for larger Panamax ships.
Quarta’s “arrival and leadership were pivotal in re-energizing the GUPC team to make the final push to complete the project,” says Michael Newbery, executive director of the design joint venture and vice president of MWH Global, now part of Stantec. “He refocused the team and used his leadership skills to make progress happen. He led by example, routinely spending time both at the two lock sites and in the office.”
At peak, more than 13,000 workers labored at multiple jobsites. Quarta credits his multilingual skills and multicultural background with helping him to diffuse the previously confrontational atmosphere and focus the team on collaboration and organization.
“He was very dedicated, thorough and analytical,” says Ilya Espino de Marotta, executive vice president for ACP. “His ability to structure the remaining phases of the project were crucial to not delay the project any further.”
While arbitration continues between GUPC and ACP on several remaining contractor claims, Quarta has since relocated to the U.S. as executive vice president for Lane Construction, where he will lead the firm’s expansion into new market sectors and integration into Salini-Impregilo, which acquired Lane in 2015.
“My experience in Panama will be very valuable to help produce these changes in Lane,” he says.