4 December 2000

Source: ENR by Sherie Winston

Although two U.S. construction firms signed contracts during President Clinton’s historic trip to Vietnam November 17-20, the floodgates are not expected to open for new U.S. firms. Companies that already have done business there may be the ones with a leg up.

Cutterhead dredges will be used to restore irrigation canals Shown above is 1 of 2 4000HP dredgers delivered 4 years ago by Ellicott® International to Vietnam

“To be successful in Vietnam you need lots of patience, active support from your government, a Vietnamese representative who understands both the western and local ways of doing business and a bit of luck,” says Ellicott® International Representative.

Ellicott® International has designed and built dredges for over 100 years and has a long history of delivering dredging equipment to Vietnam. During Clinton’s visit, the firm signed two contracts with the Ministry of Transportation for two cutterhead dredges, spare parts and training. The combined contracts are worth $3 million. The dredges were purchased by two operating units of Vietnam Waterway Construction Co., Vinawaco, a government dredging and construction company under the jurisdiction of the transportation ministry.

The two “DRAGON®” dredges (Series 1170, 14 inch [355 mm]) initially will be used to rebuild irrigation networks in the Mekong River Delta destroyed by recent flooding. The contracts provide for a transfer of technology to Vietnam so that the dredges can be completed there under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation and delivered to Vinawaco in early 2001. Ellicott® International provides all of the machinery.

Clinton’s visit reinforced the potential for a stronger economic relationship between the two countries stemming from their July 13 bilateral trade agreement. But U.S. firms are not the only ones looking for a piece of the pie. With much of the investment in Vietnam financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, the competition for work has an international flavor.

“The Vietnamese appreciate the technical support we provide,” says Fred Berger, a vice president with the Louis Berger Group Inc., East Orange, N.J. but that does not mean a lion’s share of the work will go to the U.S. Berger contends that the competition from other countries is already stiff. “The Japanese are competing extremely aggressively,” he notes.

The Berger Group and Stanley Consultants Inc., Muscatine, Iowa, along with Vietnam’s Transport Engineering Design Corp., won a contract last month to provide detailed design and construction supervision services for the Asian Development Bank-financed Vietnam East Transport Corridor in Quang Tri province. Berger is also working with the U.S. Federal Highway administration on a World Bank-financed effort to improve infrastructure around Hanoi. The ongoing project, which targets about 17 sites around the city, includes upgrading highway interchanges and road work. -end-

Reprinted from ENR

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