Belgian friends have long-term vision in Viet Nam

The current strong growth of the Dinh Vu Industrial Zone (DVIZ) in northern Hai Phong Port City is a success story illustrating how perseverance and collaboration between a dynamic Belgian company and the city’s authority turned a dream into reality.

Over two decades ago, back in 1994, Filip Martens visited Viet Nam with a mission to find new business opportunities for port-related industrial development. He travelled throughout Vi?t Nam and China to a number of cities and provinces from north to south. Martens then met the American Insurance Group (AIG) team in Ha Noi, which had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnamese government to transform a peninsula called Ðinh Vu in Hai Phong City into an industrial hub. AIG requested Filip Marten to join the project, which he accepted, finally going on to become general director of DVIZ.

Filip Martens

With his expertise and experience in developing ports and industrial zones in different continents from the mother group Rent A Port, Filip Martens saw huge potential in this region for industrial development, to become an industrial hub with logistic focus to domestic destinations and to international markets through a deep sea port. The project team then started the dream of transforming this peninsula into a 1,000ha modern economic zone. At this time exactly 20 years ago when DVIZ team first initiated the concept of an industrial zone, very few people believed in their dream.

But fortunately at that time, DVIZ received tremendous support from the leadership of the city, who had the necessary momentum and the ambition to look far ahead, even though they were aware the way forward would not be easy. DVIZ took its responsibility to heart and was committed to the strategic plan to lead the city into a successful century.

In 1997, Dinh Vu Development Joint Venture Company, today known as the Dinh Vu Industrial Zone Joint Stock Company (DVIZJSC/Deep C), was established to develop an economic zone in this area.

Millions of cubic metres of sea sand, which were exploited somewhere in the sea 30km away from the peninsula, were transported and hydraulically pumped to elevate and reclaim hundreds of hectares of front water land. Thousands of metres of sea dyke were built to protect the land from floods, erosion and typhoons. DVIZ at the same time also built roads, power, water and waste water treatment facilities.

The 164ha first phase of the industrial park was developed with consistent hard work and determination. Following two years of construction, in 1999, DVIZ welcomed American investor Chevron Lubricants to become the first tenant of the zone. DVIZ then launched its second phase, increasing the total area to 541ha. Since then, Marc Stordiau, DVIZ’s chairman of management board, has continued to actualise the vision of DVIZ/Deep C.

Marc Stordiau

 In 2007, when AIG left the Dinh Vu project, its share was taken over by the Belgium government and by IPEM, a group of private investors with reclamation know-how. The majority of the share remained in the hands of Rent A Port Belgium.

The hardship in the early days of development was paid back by the recognition of the world class Detailed Master Plan of the DVIZ approved by the Vietnamese government's Ministry of Construction in 2010. The industrial zone is supported with the development of the Dinh Vu Port, the expansion of the Cat Bi Airport, the new expressway connecting Ha Noi and Hai Phong, together with other expressways leading to Quang Ninh, China and other coastal provinces. Most importantly the Lach Huyen Deep Sea Port is being constructed, and will soon become the largest port in the north of Viet Nam. The Dinh Vu /Deep C Industrial Zone is located right at the centre of these mega-infrastructure developments, linking the city centre and hinterland industries to the gateway port, which opens up the north of Viet Nam to the world.

With contribution of the Belgian government in the development of the project, the visionary team of Rent A Port has since then acted as a bridge connecting the governments of Viet Nam and Belgium, making DVIZ a symbol of the strong economic ties and friendship between the two countries. This close relationship has been celebrated by visits of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai to Belgium in 2002, Belgian Prince Philip's visit in 2012 to Viet Nam, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit in 2014 to Belgium.

Rent A Port is not only doing business in Viet Nam, but is also concerned about cultural exchange. The social and cultural ties between Viet Nam and Belgium have also been tightened by various cultural exchange activities, such as the annual Belgian beer festival and the performance of Belgian artists in Hai Phong City in 2015.

This year, DVIZ is marking its 20 years in Viet Nam with an anniversary celebration in April. The event will mark an important milestone on the company’s path to carry forward its founder’s legacy. It also reflects the passion and love of those Belgian men for Viet Nam, where they will further forward their expertise in other respects besides industrial zone development.