Three leaders behind the remarkable Panama Canal expansion project discussed their roles in one of the 21st century’s most challenging engineering ventures before hundreds of engineers at a North Carolina State University lecture event on Sept. 24.
The presentations by Alberto Alemán Zubieta, former CEO of the Panama Canal Authority; Michael Newbery, locks design manager with MWH Global; and Joseph Cazares, deputy program manager and locks construction manager with CH2M Hill, offered a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project.
The expansion adds a new set of locks at the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that will double the canal’s capacity, allowing more and larger ships to use the 100-year-old waterway. Construction is expected to finish in 2015.
The event, held at the Raleigh Marriott City Center in downtown Raleigh, NC, was part of the Paul Zia Distinguished Lecture Series in Civil Engineering and Construction, an annual NC State event featuring prominent engineers in the field. The lecture series is presented by the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, the Constructed Facilities Laboratory, and the NC State Engineering Foundation.
Many of those who packed the venue — the 800 people who attended were a record for the event — were NC State engineering alumni.
Alemán was the longtime administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, the autonomous agency that manages the Panama Canal and the expansion project. His 16 years of canal leadership included overseeing the 1999 transfer of control of the canal from the United States to the Panamanian government. He stepped down in early September to return to private practice in project management.
Newbery has worked on the Panama Canal expansion program for 13 years. Since 2009, he has been the design manager for the MWH Global-led design joint venture on the third set of locks project. He has more than 30 years of engineering and design experience, including more than 25 years with MWH Global. His work has included designing, managing and being the principal in charge for major lock and dam projects on four continents.
Cazares is deputy program manager for the Panama Canal expansion program and construction manager for the new locks portion of the contract. He is a licensed engineer with more than 30 years of experience in the design and construction of billion-dollar public facility and infrastructure programs. His experience has included transportation, water-wastewater, and energy projects for both public and private organizations, and he specializes in large-scale program management assignments involving complex schedule, contractual, funding, and project phasing elements.
The Zia Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 2002 to honor the accomplishments of Dr. Paul Zia, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at NC State. Zia is a leading figure in the fields of concrete and structural engineering and served as head of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at NC State for nine years. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
Previous Zia Lectures have featured Leslie Robertson, who led the structural design of the former World Trade Center; David Goodyear, the chief engineer behind the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge; and Bart Riberich and Lee Slade, who helped develop the technology behind some of North America’s most advanced retractable-roof sports stadiums.