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Interview: VSL's Dominique Droniou & Stephen Burke

CW speaks to VSL Middle East's Dominique Droniou and Stephen Burke

VSL Middle East GM Dominique Droniou and deputy GM Stephen Burke
VSL Middle East GM Dominique Droniou and deputy GM Stephen Burke

VSL has been an active player in the Middle East construction market since the 1970s, and that influence grew further when it opened a UAE office in the mid 1990s. VSL was responsible for precasting and erecting the 60km-long viaducts of the Red and Green Lines of the Dubai Metro, as well as raising the pinnacle on the Burj Khalifa.

Driving VSL Middle East forward today are GM Dominique Droniou and deputy GM Stephen Burke, who talk about “green shoots” reappearing.

“Projects which were on hold are now starting to re-energise,” says Burke. “We are remobilising a number of projects, especially infrastructure such as bridge projects in the UAE itself, so that is good to see. A number of private developers are now kick-starting their building projects, so we have been engaged with them to restart on those.”

Droniou describes VSL’s approach to 2012 as “tender time”, consistent with the fact that he sees growing opportunities in the region. “We want to improve and enlarge our footprint and our network and get in contact with contractors involved in the tender process. We really believe that, in 2013, we will pick up even more jobs and grow further in the region.”

“Rail is very much on our radar,” adds Burke. “We were in Riyadh recently where an extensive metro network is coming on-line. Various consortia are getting together and starting to price this.

This is one of our targets as well for next year. This is where we can bring some added value from our experience locally. We are waiting now for the Doha Metro to take shape and the World Cup stadia … we are expecting that to come out at the beginning of next year,” predicts Burke.

“We have a foundations division called Intrafor. It is currently following the subterranean package for the metro in terms of specialist foundation techniques, diaphragm walling and some micro-piling. It is fairly busy tendering to various consortia for that project, while Ashghal has got a big programme to upgrade the existing ring roads and expressways.

Droniou points out that VSL will also be looking to get a slice of the action when the Eithad Rail project advances. The scheme envisages a network of up to 1,200 km stretching across the emirates, with the railway connecting the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the West and Oman via Al Ain in the East.

VLS is also involved in numerous high-profile projects in the region. In Dubai, for instance, it is working on the high-visibility Salini-led project for the RTA, which will connect the West Parallel Road to Sheikh Rashid Road both by constructing new roads and bridges and by improving the existing roads. VSL is carrying out post-tensioning work and expects to have this finished by the end of next year.

In Oman, which is committed to a five year $78bn infrastructure spend, VSL is working on the Batinah Expressway as a subcontractor for Galfar, reinforcing soil walls, and also the Batinah Coastal Road.

In Qatar, it is working on the Doha Expressway, again carrying out post tensioning of bridges and reinforcing soil walls, and the same goes for Lusail where it has been since the start of the year with Samsung.

In Saudi Arabia, it has just built eight Ericsson communication tower tubes at Princess Noura University, with all of the prefabrication work done in the UAE and shipped to Riyadh.

Burke says: “We see what is good for us as a bellwether. We see a lot of main contractors now positioning themselves in Doha and Saudi; they are renting office space. We know the consultants are very busy, which is always a good sign for us. In a nutshell, we are optimistic for the region.”

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Construction Week - Issue 753
Nov 09, 2019