Breakbulk NextGen – John Rapacki

Charter Manager, Bechtel Global Logistics

Nominated by:
An executive for a leading engineering, procurement and construction company.

Reason for nomination:
“Merchant marine with experience at sea and heavy-haul on shore … leading Bechtel Global Logistics now.”

How you chose this industry:
I grew up on Long Island, so being around the water was a way of life. When I was a kid, I was hooked on reruns of the documentary series Victory at Sea. World War II-era maritime history really inspires me, and this had a big impact on my interest in going to sea and working with ships. After finishing graduate school, I had the opportunity to move to Houston and work with semi-submersible ships; something I had never considered until a recruiter contacted me. Once I started building a network in the project cargo and engineering, procurement and construction community, I knew I’d made the right choice.

Industry significance, from your perspective:
Our work in the breakbulk sector helps shape our physical world in meaningful ways. We contribute to the projects that deliver power to households and industry, refined products to consumers and infrastructure that improves the quality of life for people around the world. We also work with some remarkable equipment that is managed by very talented people in a global breakbulk community.

A mentor or industry leader who greatly influenced you:
I have always admired Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, U.S. Maritime Administrator and a Kings Point 1979 graduate. When I was a midshipman at Kings Point, he would often visit the academy and spend time with the students. He was always very gracious, approachable, highly informative and very encouraging. His career as a military officer and maritime leader sets a very high standard; one worth learning from and following in respect to public service, commitment to a mission and advocacy for the maritime industry and its people.

Professional background:
I graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and started my professional career working at sea. I sailed as a third mate for two years and then completed the MBA program at Fordham University. After graduation, I moved to Houston and started working with semi-submersible ships. Over the next 10 years, I held positions that enabled me to conduct business around the world and develop my commercial, technical and communication skills. I also experienced first-hand the increasing role of large-scale modularization, the maturation of the semi-submersible, heavy-lift market and the impact of market forces in reshaping that segment. I joined Bechtel in 2018 and spent my first year assigned to a large-scale petrochemical project, where I managed the transport of heavy-lift cargo from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the project site by inland tug and barge. In 2019, I joined the Bechtel global logistics team.

Management style:
I think if you were to ask my current and former colleagues, they would describe me as a mission-focused team player; someone who communicates a vision with purpose and direction, and empowers people to perform at their best.

Long-term professional goals:
My goal is to positively influence change in organizations and build teams that pursue ever-increasing levels of impact on industry and society, and produce well-earned economic rewards for all involved.

Role as a developing industry leader:
One word: Leadership. As an industry, we manage our way through market cycles, risk, customer needs, and all the tasks that enable our day-to-day business activities. I think the long-term winners will be high-performance teams that can adapt to constant change, bring a high degree of energy and creativity to new challenges, communicate the value of what we do, and align strategies with ever-changing customer demands and market conditions. Building teams of this caliber can only be done with visionary leadership that inspires individuals to break through their perceived limits and successfully collaborate toward common goals.

Most important industry issue:
Finding, developing and keeping talent. While all industries face common economic challenges, I reflect on the relatively small scale of our industry, and the size of the individual companies that participate. Most are small businesses, and when the industry gets squeezed, the ability to compete for and retain talent is limited. Our industry is not easy. We are a service industry built around physical equipment and work. For many of us, there is no 9-5 and forget it. If given the choice between an air conditioned office and working the Houston waterfront in August, I think the disparity is obvious. We need to show people – at all stages of their professional life – that we offer something fulfilling, something that is skill-building and something that is impactful.