Nov. 3, 2021


Federico Hortet

Colombia

Federico Hortet

Director of Production, NortÚnel

Nortúnel sees a promising future in the tunnel construction sector in Colombia and is making investments in its talent accordingly.

BIO

Federico Hortet is a civil engineer from EAFIT University, specializing in tunnels. He has worked as partner-manager with Incivilco in Colombia. In 2001, he worked in Spain as a civil engineer, and he joined Nortúnel in 2005 as production director. He has been the head of the Nortúnel delegation in Colombia since 2011.


Nortúnel has been involved in landmark infrastructure projects in Colombia, such as the Bogotá-Villavicencio highway. Why did the company decide to break into Colombia, and what has its experience been like?

Nortúnel has 20 years of experience, and in 2011 we decided to enter Colombia because we realized it was a market of notable potential. In terms of our experience, when we first started, we worked in conjunction with a partner company on the Bogotá-Villavicencio project. This particular company had no experience in tunnel construction, while we did. It was a strategic start for both of us. It showed us how to work in Colombia, because it is somewhat different from the way we work in Spain, and in turn we assisted the company with the technical side of construction. For example, we improved the systems and cycles to run the tunnel much faster and implemented techniques that had never before been considered in Colombia.

What are Nortúnel's current projects?

Right now, we are working on the Tunnel Amagá project in Antioquia, which consists of two parallel tunnels with a total distance of 7,200m. We completed the excavation four months ahead of schedule and are now working on the coating. Our goal is to finish its construction before the time that we stated in the contract with the client.

Nortúnel has invested over USD10 million in state-of-the-art equipment in Colombia. What are the advantages in Colombia of working with a leading innovation company?

The most recent machine was purchased in 2019-2020 and enables us to obtain soil parameters and getting a real in-situ classification of the tunnel. It also enables us to see the tunnel in 3D in order to follow up on project progress. Thanks to those machines, we optimize cycles, save time, and prevent tunnel construction from coming to a standstill. In addition, innovation in machinery offers many advantages. For example, for a possible project next year in Medellín, new machinery that runs on electrical energy instead of solid fuel will be used.

What are Nortúnel's short and medium-term objectives?

Currently, there are some interesting projects on the cards, such as the one in Toyo, plus several projects in the mining sector. Our aim is to invest in advertising to make Nortúnel known among construction firms as a solid partner company. Although we are a Spanish company, our team will be made up of Colombians. For example, among the 550 or so people working on the Amagá project, only nine are foreigners.

How is Nortúnel committed to Colombia's economic and social development? What is the company's influence at the labor level?

One of our strategies is rewarding our employees; they have to work harder and be more efficient, but they will be financially rewarded. This is a beneficial situation for us, our employees, and our customers. Likewise, the social and community side of things is crucial to us. We have to maintain good relationships and contribute whenever possible. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we made a financial donation to Amagá hospital. Finally, there is a great future in the tunnel construction sector in Colombia in order to optimize transportation.

What does Colombia mean to Nortúnel in terms of experience and learning?

Currently, 96% of the team is made up of Colombians, because there are many highly qualified people in the country. Our approach is to encourage our employees' talent. My aim is for 99% of the team to be made up of Colombians in the near future. The next Colombian government will be in charge of 5th generation roads (5G), comprising a total of 14 projects, including tunnels.

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