Germany and UAE innovate together

With more than US $4.2 billion worth of exports, and over 500 companies operating in the country, German trade to the UAE is second only to Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf. Zoe Naylor finds out why the region is a goldmine for German companies looking for construction contracts.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  March 25, 2006

|~|114intro200.gif|~|With skylines of high-rise buildings, Dubai and Frankfurt signed a co-operation agreement last year, effectively twinning the two cities.|~|Innovative engineering and technology, combined with a methodical execution of projects, has helped to establish Germany as a leading force within the construction industry worldwide. While its economy back home may be sluggish, German construction firms have wasted no time in turning their attentions to the booming economies of the GCC countries — many of which are fuelled by fast-growing construction sectors. In 2004, Germany exported goods worth US $4.2 billion (3.55 billion euros) to the UAE alone. Among these exports, 17% (worth $758 million) were mechanical engineering goods, with 14% of all international machinery exports to the UAE coming from Germany. Approximately 500 German firms are currently operating in the UAE (which is Germany’s second-largest trading partner in the Gulf after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). And in a move which is sure to strengthen relations between Germany and the UAE even further, in June last year, His Excellency Qassim Sultan Al Banna, director general of Dubai Municipality, and Frankfurt’s Lord Mayor, Frau Petra Roth, signed a treaty of friendship and co-operation between the two cities. This new partnership agreement effectively twinning the two cities is a strategic move: Dubai and Frankfurt not only share a skyline of modern high-rise buildings; both cities have also set their sights on becoming leaders in the fields of finance, commercial services, IT and media. Furthermore, discussions are underway between the Group Deutsche Börse, the Dubai International Financial Exchange and Frankfurt’s Goethe University to jointly develop an examination and certification system for stockbrokers at the DIFX Academy. In keeping with the strong trade relations between the two countries, Dubai’s German Industry and Commerce Office has organised another German-UAE Partnership Forum to be held in Munich in May. This is the third time such a forum has been held, and will see UAE-based companies travelling to Germany to discuss future projects for which they may need support from German partners. A cursory glance at the UAE’s list of construction projects that involve German participation shows just how keen Germany’s contractors, architects and consultants are to stamp their authority on this part of the world: Dornier Consult and DB Consult (a branch of the German railway company Deutsche Bahn) are currently working on a study on the realisation of a railway project in Abu Dhabi. Architects Gerkan, Marg & Partners (aka GMP International) are designing stadia and a hotel for Dubai’s Sports City. ThyssenKrupp has branches of several of its firms in the UAE — its escalator branch has equipped Dubai Airport with elevators, escalators and passenger bridges, thought to be the biggest single contract ever given to a company in this sector. And Peiniger RoeRo, another ThyssenKrupp firm, was involved in the construction of the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi by helping to weatherproof the walls of the structure. Elsewhere, consultant Tilke has been appointed on Sheikh Khalifa Sport City in Bahrain; and a consortium that includes Siemens is set to equip a 1,000km length of railway line between Dammam and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia with signalling and communications systems. Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and Siemens are also among the companies that form the nine consortia hoping to pre-qualify for participation in the tender process for the Saudi Landbridge project. The plant sector is also a traditional German stronghold, with the likes of Liebherr and Putzmeister cranes, Kaeser compressors and Bomag rollers visible throughout the region. Another sector in which the Germans are particularly strong, is formwork. For the past 10 years, Peri has supplied its formwork, shoring and scaffolding systems to many of the UAE’s biggest construction projects — most recently to the Palm Jumeirah’s underwater vehicular tunnel, which links the trunk of the Palm to the outer crescent. And while Hünnebeck is still a relative newcomer to the region’s construction scene, it nevertheless picked up one of the juciest formwork contracts going — to supply its systems to the Burj Dubai. Hünnebeck is providing the plan and materials for the wall, soffit and joist formwork for the five to nine-storey podium area — in addition to the soffit and joist formwork for the first 10 stories of the tower itself. For the soffit areas in the podium and tower alone, Hünnebeck is supplying 9,500m2 of Variomax wooden beam formwork, almost 5,000m2 of table forms, 900 ID15 frame supports and around 12,000 tubular steel props to the site. Power generation is another important sector for Germany, with Siemens Power Generation bagging two multi million-dollar contracts last year for the turn-key construction of power plants in Qatar and Dubai. Siemens’ power generation business is one of the market leaders in the international power plant industry. The Ras Laffan B gas and steam turbine plant that Siemens is building in Qatar will have a capacity of approximately 1000mW, while the gas turbine power station in Dubai will have an installed capacity of 400mW. One of the biggest highlights of the year for any construction firm looking to do business within the Gulf is The Big 5. This annual exhibition has been dominated by German firms over the years — last year’s show attracted around 240 German exhibitors representing almost 10% of the show’s overall participation and the biggest national group out of the 54 exhibiting countries. With such a diverse range of construction projects continually being announced across the region, German companies are well positioned to capitalise on their renowned engineering and technical skills. In this special supplement, CW profiles some of the leading German names in construction and finds out how they are making their mark in this region.||**||

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