I was in charge of the development of the new container port terminal at Tanjung Priok Port, Indonesia’s gateway port. It handles over half the country’s total imports and exports, so expanding its capacity was a matter of urgency. The country’s continued economic growth depended on it.
To add to the challenge, the new port terminal was built from scratch on a freshly constructed artificial island. Mitsui was leader of the foreign consortium handling this key project. I became project manager in late 2015 just as construction was entering its final phase. Now that the port is open for business, I keep an eye on operations.
The artificial island is made up of a substructure and a superstructure. Our Indonesian counterparts built the deck-on-pile system that forms the base, while we installed the buildings and equipment on top. My job was to steer the whole project to a safe conclusion. Since I was acting as a bridge between the different contractors, I was actually out on site in Indonesia for at least half of 2016.
All sorts of niggling little problems surface when you’re about to go operational. Maybe there’s a problem with the electricity supply. Perhaps the water pipes are 30 centimeters out of position. Something really trivial like that can be enough to throw the schedule off. Here at Mitsui, we often find ourselves grappling with eleventh-hour setbacks as deadlines loom. I certainly had a ton of trouble-shooting to do. There was no one big catastrophe I can point to, just a whole series of little ones I had to nip in the bud. It was like playing whack-a-mole. Every single day of the week!
If you count the construction workers, literally thousands of people worked on this project. Each of them was responsible for their own particular job, but thinking of the bigger overall picture wasn’t part of their remit. They’ve got enough on their plates as it is. That’s why you need a project manager like me to take a more global view and keep things on track.
There are always going to be delays or mistakes. That’s as true for us as it is for our partners. When something goes wrong, finding someone to blame and telling them to sort out the mess they caused is a stupid attitude. No matter who messed up, the important thing is to offer constructive solutions that help the whole project move forward.