John Boultwood draws extensive praise from clients, who identify him as "a very polished, unflappable and knowledgeable quantum expert who is a natural choice for high-stakes cases".
John joined Turner & Townsend in 1989 and has significant expertise in major infrastructure (aviation and rail) and natural resources (on and offshore pipelines) projects. John has testified as a quantum expert on numerous occasions in disputes related to quantity surveying, providing opinion on issues related to estimating; project budgets; termination valuation; cost and financial audits; preparation of final accounts; valuation of variations; re-measurement; inflation; and assessment of disruption/prolongation cost claims.
What qualities make for an effective expert witness in arbitration proceedings?
An ability to see through complicated positions and reduce quantum matters to an easily understood figure that assists the tribunal; and, ideally, to provide figures that relate to potential findings, giving the tribunal alternative figures (ideally, an agreed range of figures). As a quantum expert, the question will be around valuation matters and differences between the parties. In major projects, time-related claims for delay and disruption, and final account-related matters, can be assessed irrespective of the parties’ disagreements as to causation. The most effective experts I work with have a common objective to try to produce figures on both sides’ cases, and present permutations to assist the tribunal.
What do you enjoy most about your role as global head of contract services at the firm?
The opportunity to work as part of a great company such as Turner & Townsend, which is a truly global business. This brings with it common systems, information-sharing, and an IT platform that allows data collection and understanding of costs across the world. I have worked in over 35 countries and it is always nice to be in familiar offices with a Turner & Townsend team of the same values and work ethic. Supporting the development of others through my 35 years of experience taken from a variety of projects and sectors and passing on that knowledge.
How does your experience as a quantum expert compliment your arbitration work?
My role as quantum expert stems from working for a firm that supports the largest projects and programmes around the world. I draw on this for my arbitration work generally, operating in major infrastructure and natural resource projects. If I am brought in at an early stage in the formal dispute process this can bring realism and potentially narrow the substantive issues. I have now given evidence in many significant arbitration matters; experience gained from over 160 expert reports means I have often seen quantum topics on previous cases.
You have experience working across several jurisdictions. What influenced your decision to relocate to Dubai?
Primarily my goal to grow the contract services business, and develop hubs in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. I was in the London office for the best part of 25 years and frequently travelled to the Middle East on assignment. In fact, my first expert appointment of significance was on a process plant in Jordan nearly 20 years ago. Hence it was more of a transition than simply a relocation, and I was already connected with a number of local law firms where significant cases inevitably meant that I would be in the region anyway.
What trends do you see currently emerging in the Middle Eastern construction market?
Because of the lump sum traditional contracting mode on a FIDIC contractual platform, more often than not brought against an incomplete design, there are inevitable post-contract variations and claims. While I see no change in regard to procurement, there is clearly a trend for contractors raising mid-project claim strategies; taking earlier steps to address project debt; and formalising disputes sooner. This should shift the mindset from a claims mentality that will not be good enough for arbitration. I have seen recent examples where the contractor’s claims lack particularity for formal dispute. Accordingly we still see many time-related delay claims, and disruption claims, based on a significant level of post-contract variation but the record-keeping needs to improve if there is a move towards earlier dispute resolution in the Middle East.
How do you prepare for complex cross-border arbitration proceedings?
Where the arbitration involves international parties from different countries there will be a need to establish strong lines of communication – particularly as the seat of arbitration and the arbitral panel may be of different nationalities and legal backgrounds. The communication will often require management-level interaction on key points and principles and regular dialogue. Once principles are established, teams can work in location and co-locate as necessary. I am used to working in a number of jurisdictions and one of the advantages of the Turner & Townsend business model is that I can draw on global staff to support clients on location. Having the access to the project information through appropriate document-control systems is key to being prepared. If this can be done by way of an electronic platform, much of the documentation can be reviewed and handled in advance.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
The next five years will build upon the strong capability that has been developed in the Dubai hub, which serves the whole of the Middle East. This capability can respond to international contractors coming into the region from Asia. Increasingly, the practice is developing in Asia and Africa as the hub development continues. Personally, my practice area is rooted in major infrastructure projects, particularly aviation, rail and major pipelines, and this will continue to be the type of casework I will undertake. I have undertaken many significant termination cases, and I expect this will continue to be a feature of the work that I take on. With the trend for use of the new engineering contract (NEC) in Asia, I can see that the experience of the NEC will also be an increasing factor in Asia.
Looking back over your career, what is the most memorable arbitration you have been part of?
All experiences are valuable and come in equal measure on both large and small cases, all of which have their challenges and are a learning experience. Major rail and aviation projects are memorable because such significant commitments can involve numerous report exchanges over a number of years. Termination cases are memorable because the parties always have a different view of the causation resulting in a wide range of valuation to reflect the parties’ alternative positions.