Doing business at WTC BangkokJun 2012
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
Gathering the WTC (World Tunnel Congress) in Bangkok focused attention on a part of the world that is destined to generate a new wave of intense tunnelling activity. The emerging nations of Southeast Asia all need extensive infrastructure investment for national, international and urban transportation, energy supply, and public utilities and water services. All demand underground construction and tunnel excavation.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invites ITA support for Rio+20 conference
Presentations by keynote speakers, as well as within the technical programme of the WTC, explained the planning of new infrastructure projects. Strong delegations of government officials and decision makers from the region, including from the mountain nations of Nepal and Bhutan, were particularly appreciated by the companies that had stands in the industry's technical exhibition.
Of particular significance for the ITA in Bangkok was a personal video address from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As a recognised NGO (non-governmental organisation) of the UN, the message from the Secretary-General came with an invitation to the tunnelling community to support the UN conference on sustainable development, Rio+20, which is to be held this month in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June.
The conference also relates specifically to the ITA's Committee on Underground Space (ITACUS) that is working with UN partner organisations UN-HABITAT and its International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) and other associated organisations to ensure the underground option is considered seriously in efforts to respond to rapid urbanisation and the effects of climate change across the globe. The three-year programme spearheaded by ITACUS went into its second year of activity in Bangkok and will culminate at the WTC in Geneva next year with the presentation of a policy white paper to be considered for adoption by the UN. The programme this year was supported by the organisation ISOCARP (the International Society of City and Regional Planners) and its Vice-President, Shipra Narang Suri contributed to the proceedings.
Prof Fritz Grübl at the podium
Thailand, as a founding member-nation of the ITA (International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association), has positioned itself as the industry's hub into Southeast Asia linking its connections with member-nation neighbours Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and, with Malaysia and Singapore, into the wider global community. Its historic ties with neighbouring Myanmar were of particular importance in encouraging the formation of a Myanmar tunnelling society and successful application for member-nation status at the Association's General Assembly in Bangkok.
Joining Myanmar as new member nations in Bangkok are Costa Rica, Ecuador and Macedonia, bringing the number of ITA member nations to 68 (Table 1). There are also 190 corporate members (15 and 23 of these with Prime Sponsor and Supporter status respectively) and 115 individual members.
The Sir Alan Muir Wood Memorial Lecture, this year delivered by Prof Fritz Grübl of the University of Applied Science in Stuttgart, Germany, described the particular criteria of concern in the design of precast segmental linings for tunnels of large diameter, and used the design of the lining for the proposed 18.65m o.d. TBM bored tunnel for the Orlovski highway project under the River Neva in St Petersburg to illustrate the points. A copy of the paper is published in a volume of conference proceedings, comprising nearly 1,000 pages, as well as on a DVD. It will be available also as a pdf download and presentation on the ITA website.
Next year, Dick Robbins, President of The Robbins Company, and so well known within the international tunnelling community, will present the Sir Alan Muir Wood Memorial Lecture in Geneva.
In 2014, after Geneva, the 40th ITA General Assembly and WTC will be held in Iguaçu Falls in Brazil, from 9-15 May. Following that, in 2015, the General Assembly in Bangkok accepted the invitation of member-nation Croatia to host the event from 22-28 May in Dubrovnik.
Table 1. The ITA now has a total 68 member nations
United Arab Emirates
United States of America
Croatia was a clear winner from the three invitations extended also by Munich, Germany, and Copenhagen, Denmark. Taking the ITA and WTC programme to Croatia provides an opportunity to focus on another important and emerging market of the world. Croatia and its neighbours in Southeast Europe have ambitious programmes for new national, international and urban transportation expansion, and underground works for energy generation and public utility services.
The exhibition of the WTC in Bangkok presented an array of industry specialities and expertise; from technical developments and supplies, to engineering services, local client organisations of Thailand as well as local Thai contractors and tunnelling association pavilions by member nations. Several of the major equipment suppliers to the industry including Herrenknecht, MAPAI, Normet, Robbins and BASF Meyco, are members of the ITA's committee on technical development. Under the chairmanship of Daniel Ruckstuhl of BASF Meyco, the purpose of ITAtech is to advance the introduction of new technology and overcome reluctance in some markets to try new methodologies.
Scope of ITAtech
All of those managing stands in the exhibition had decided to be in Bangkok specifically because of its location within the Southeast Asia area of the international marketplace, and each was pleased with the traffic and quality of visitors to their stands. During the event, TunnelTalk interviewed some of the managers on video, with each taking the opportunity to express their thoughts, their particular expertise and their appreciation of the event in their own way.
After such a successful time in Bangkok we are all still working on the follow-ups before we convene next at the NAT in Indianapolis in the United States, and after that in Geneva in May next year. The TunnelTalk team looks forward to meeting everyone again there and then!
Exhibitors at the WTC exhibition spoke of the importance of the WTC as a shop window to the industry and of South East Asia as a important market for company expansion and business
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