COMPETITIVE EDGE

Colombia 2015 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eleuberto Antonio Martorelli, President of Odebrecht Colombia, on the company's role in the Magdalena River project, PPPs, and the nuances of some of the country's largest infrastructure projects.

Eleuberto Antonio Martorelli
BIOGRAPHY
Eleuberto Antonio Martorelli graduated with a degree in civil engineering and later obtained a Master´s degree in Finance and an MBA in Brazil. He has more than 20 years of professional experience, working on and managing major infrastructure projects in Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. With 23 years in the Odebrecht Organization, he is currently the Executive Director of Odebrecht Colombian Branch.

What is the role of Odebrecht in the Magdalena River project, and how did it collaborate with Valorcon to bring about this project?

We are a global company, so when entering new countries, we always select local partners. This enables us to better understand the communities in which our projects are based. For the Magdalena River project, we identified a partner that had broad experience in the execution of infrastructure projects, as well as knowledge of the area in which we were going to operate. For example, we chose Valorcon, which is from Barranquilla, to develop projects such as the Cartagena-Barranquilla highway.

What are the synergies between your two main projects in Colombia, the Ruta del Sol and the Magdalena River schemes?

The structure we put in place for both projects is the same, despite the radical differences between them. We could even have used the same office location in Barrancabermeja to reduce costs. Yet there are other elements to note, such as the fact that we will manage these two projects for some 13 years, and that both are infrastructure projects of importance in boosting Colombian GDP. This is both a challenge and responsibility for us that we are more than happy to assume.

How will the Magdalena River project contribute to making Colombia a more competitive market?

It will reduce transport costs significantly. Some studies show that the transport sector will save up to $200 million annually thanks to the Magdalena River project. It will also contribute to the reduction of carbon gas emissions, and many companies will opt to transport their goods on the Magdalena River. Additionally, many towns along the river will also benefit from such a major project. All in all, Colombia will improve its competitive edge as a result of the project. In fact, the impact of this project will not only be economic, but also social. It will generate job opportunities for local communities, and will contribute considerably to their development.

What differentiates this project from other PPPs?

The assigning of risk in this project has been well defined and apportioned between the state and the private sector, which has encouraged more applications for the tender. We must comply with several requirements to win this project, but I believe that potential social and environmental risks have already been mitigated. The state will not be financially involved in the project until all completed functional units are delivered. It has done a great job and all the rules have been clearly set out. In this context, Odebrecht's technologies and capabilities give us confidence with regard to the fulfillment of our responsibilities in this historic venture.

What have been the main challenges facing the projects Odebrecht has already completed in Colombia?

We are about to start executing work on the Magdalena River project. One of the main advantages of this project is that all of the considerations related to environmental and social licenses have already been resolved, whereas in projects such as the 4G-highway between Cartagena and Barranquilla, we faced numerous problems due to these issues. The main challenges we have faced in this country so far have concerned licenses. Of course, every project has its own particularities and in each you learn new lessons that help you to avoid problems in future projects.

What are some of the projects Odebrecht has targeted for the near future in Colombia?

We have analyzed certain private initiatives and targeted public sector projects in the water treatment sphere, and also regarding Bogotá Metro, a project that in my opinion requires private sector participation. We are also looking at certain urban highways in Bogotá and other cities. However, the Magdalena River is one of the largest projects for Colombia over the coming four years, and it is an honor for us to be part of a national project of such importance as we strive to complete our responsibilities as soon as possible and guarantee the unparalleled effect it will have on Colombia's economy.