The firms’ respective strengths in markets, particularly water and wastewater design, and in geographies, allowed for little redundancy. Since then, the company has had to shrink staff by about 1,000, reflecting weakening market conditions, says Oostwegel. It also has had to realign contract positions on 25 projects because of conflicts of interest, says van der Sanden. In
partially withdrawing from those contracts, “of course we had to disappoint somebody,” he says.
The merged group adopted Haskoning’s strategy of operating with global business lines, each run by a head office director. Until then, DHV had been “far more geographical,” says Oostwegel. DHV’s van Ee initially chaired the merged company’s board but bowed out to Oostwegel in early 2014.
The son of a small engineering contractor, Oostwegel is a mechanical engineering graduate of Delft University. Rather than return to the family business, he joined a small Rotterdam consulting engineer that Haskoning later acquired. He became Haskoning chairman in 2011.
In the Netherlands, huge investments in flood barriers in the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta created a buoyant market for Dutch design firms after floods in 1953 caused nearly 2,000 deaths. A 1995 flood scare that forced the evacuation of 250,000 people led to the current $1.6-billion-a-year national dike repair and upgrading program, says Roelof Moll, director of HaskoningDHV’s advisory group for rivers, deltas and coasts.
With the dike system weaving through communities, the Dutch upgrade program “requires creativity and social skills,” notes Ben Broens, program director at Rijkswaterstaat, the government’s infrastructure organization. HaskoningDHV’s contribution to the effort is “valuable,” he adds.
For the future, HaskoningDHV expects to expand most in countries where all of its services are available, including Mo- zambique, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Turkey. Apart from continuing operations in countries with modest growth prospects, such as Russia, the firm will target projects opportunistically around the world.
Internationally, climate change and urban drift are major global trends creating demand for skills garnered at home, believes Bhojaran. In Indonesia, for example, the firm has been developing projects to counter dual threats to Jakarta of rising sea levels and sinking land.
Bhojaran’s unit also is engineering an estimated $450-million scheme to limit water and sediment flows in Colombia’s colonial-era Canal del Dique, which runs for 120 kilometers from the Magdalena River and spills into the sea at Pasacaballos. The project includes Colombia’s first two ship locks, says Moll. HaskoningDHV’s coastal work extends to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and flood-prone Bangladesh, where the firm is designing and will manage construction of hundreds of kilometers of dikes to enclose 17 low-lying areas totalling 1,000 sq km.
Even the U.S. has sought Dutch help. Following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans in 2005, “we had a team of five or six staff there for six years supporting the Army Corps of Engineers,” says Moll. During the $16-million assignment, “we did huge hydraulic computations to forecast possible impacts of upcoming hurricanes,” he adds. More American work followed Superstorm Sandy’s assault on the East Coast in 2012. HaskoningDHV supported a Rotterdam-based team in winning a slice of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s “Rebuild by Design” program.
HaskoningDHV has no plans to expand in the U.S. beyond a small business providing high-level aviation advice. “We have been reluctant in the states because of all the liabilities,” says Oostwegel. “But, personally, I don’t see that [as a reason] for not being there.”
The firm’s global coastal and river work earned around 10% of sales last year, matching the business-line contribution of its work on port engineering, says Simon Harries, its U.K.-based maritime and waterways director. His 650-person team is spread throughout Australia, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Turkey, Europe and Peru.
“Africa is starting to come on quite strongly, [as is] South America,” he says, although Europe is still a market. In June, the firm landed from France’s waterways authority a 12-year program management contract for an estimated $5-billion, 107-km-long navigation canal link, with more work possible, says.
HaskoningDHV’s infrastructure group covers non-water-related projects, but immersed tube tunnel (ITT) design has become a growing niche, says van der Sanden. As home to the first and largest number of European ITTs, the Nether- lands is a big global provider of the technology. HaskoningDHV benefits from that legacy through its permanent joint venture Tunnel Engineering Consultants (TEC), which “has had some involve- ment with all the ITTs in the world in the past five years,” he adds. The venture continues the Haskoning and DHV link with Dutch designer Witteveen+Bos Raadgevende Ingenieurs B.V.
Among current TEC projects is the 5.6-km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau tunnel—now in construction—and the even longer, planned Fehmarnbelt tunnel between Denmark and Germany. In 2013, Spain-based architect Santiago Calatrava tapped TEC to review the tunnel section of the planned 12.6-km Sharq Crossing in Qatar that was to include a 5.2-km ITT. The firm is working on construction bid documents, but the future of the project is not yet certain, says van der Sanden. His team also landed work on a proposed tunnel at Brazil’s Santos port, the country’s first project of its type.
In China, officials in Guangzhou recently invited van der Sanden to discuss two proposed tunnels, and the firm is bidding for tunnels in India.
HaskoningDHV’s aviation business, Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO), contributes only about 6% to group sales. But by leveraging broader civil work on projects, “its impact is much larger,” says Prins. Being linked to some of the world’s most prestigious airports is raising the firm’s profile. NACO contributed to the conceptual design of Beijing International Airport in a team led by London-based architect Foster & Partners.
More recently, NACO helped design the new terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport and now is supervising its construction.
Among new projects is Mexico City’s $9-billion, 5.9-million sq-ft planned airport, set to become one of the world's largest when finally completed. NACO was invited by a Foster team to join in its bid-winning design for the facility, part of which is set to open by 2018.
“We have a history of working with them,” says Roger Ridsill Smith, Foster’s senior partner in charge of structural engineering.
In winning work abroad, HaskoningDHV faces its traditional western and Far Eastern rivals, with little competition from firms in emerging markets themselves—for now. But, says Oostwegel, “they are getting better skilled by the day.”
The firm is banking on new technologies, such as its aerobic granular bio-mass system for wastewater treatment that the company claims greatly cuts energy and land use. HaskoningDHV hopes its link in June with the Dutch Water Authorities, an umbrella of 23 regional water agencies with global ties, will widen its footprint.
“The trick is to stay ahead [by] focusing on being innovative,” says Oostwegel.