Vastera Inc., a Dulles-based software firm that helps large companies manage shipments of goods across national borders, is expanding its global trade relationship with Ford Motor Co. in a four-year deal worth about $3.9 million a year.

"This gives us credibility," Vastera chief executive Mark Ferrer said of the deal, which was announced yesterday. "I would anticipate over time that it would clearly assist us with opportunities" in Europe.

Beginning next month, Vastera will manage Ford's global trade operations in Spain, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Vastera began managing Ford's U.S. operations in 2000. The deal was expanded to include Mexico and Canada in 2001 and will be worth $16.9 million next year.

Vastera said that Ford has extended the guarantee of its U.S. and Mexican agreement to August 2005.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, Vastera had revenue of $19.3 million, 25 percent of which came from Ford, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Vastera lost $4.2 million (10 cents per share) in the third quarter, compared with a loss of $9.9 million (26 cents) on revenue of $17.4 million for the same quarter in 2001.

As well as being Vastera's largest customer for the last two years, Ford is Vastera's largest shareholder, owning about 8 million shares, or 19.8 percent of the company's stock.

Ford executives were not available for comment.

Earlier this year, Vastera acquired other trade-management companies in Canada, Mexico and Brazil. This deal with Ford, Ferrer said, should help Vastera expand its offerings with the automaker.

"We've got a number of different projects that we're in discussion about," Ferrer said. "Now, with the strength of this relationship, we can go on and think about how we can expand that relationship."

Shares in Vastera rose as much as 3.6 percent yesterday morning after the deal was announced, before trading lower later in the day. The stock closed at $5.70, down 8 cents.