12:00pm Wednesday 19th February 2003
VAI UK has won a £2 million contract to upgrade aluminium rolling mills in Bulgaria.
Engineers from Dorset-based VAI UK will upgrade four aluminium rolling mills at a plant at Shoumen near Varna.
Aluminium producer Alcomet purchased the plant in 1995 from the Bulgarian government as part of the state's privatisation programme.
The site also includes a brewery after the owners sold half the brewery shares to Carlsberg to finance the capital expenditure on the rolling mills.
VAI UK's deal includes installation of automatic gauge control on all four mills and automatic flatness control on three of them.
Installation will take place between June and September of this year.
Engineer Lara Baker - now in the role of sales manager - is part of an eight-strong VAI UK team which has just returned from Bulgaria where they travelled for the project launch meeting.
VAI UK's engineers spent most of their four-day stay clambering over the mills taking measurements.
"This plant is run like clockwork and with the upgrade should be transformed into an extremely competitive aluminium producer," said Ms Baker.
"Throughout the 18 months we were bidding for this job, all visits to Bulgaria have been a pleasure as we were treated most courteously."
Future trips to Bulgaria would be "vastly improved" by the new Balkan Airways link to Bulgaria from Bournemouth Airport where VAI UK is based.
"So far, we've had to travel to Shoumen via Heathrow, Vienna and Sofia followed by a difficult, poorly-signposted 380km (236 mile) road journey on potholed roads often covered in ice and snow," said Ms Baker.
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