Concordia Damen. What’s in a name?
Chris Kornet and Simon Provoost talk collaboration and the future Of Global Inland Shipping
Chris Kornet and Simon Provoost, the driving forces behind the new Concordia Damen joint venture, both know a thing or two about the inland waterways market. Chris, previously a captain on an inland waterways vessel, founded the Concordia Group back in 2001. The group quickly made a name for itself across Europe in brokerage, shipping and salvage, before turning also to shipbuilding.
Simon’s career to date has included a stint as Managing Director of the Bodewes Millingen shipyard – then a part of Damen – in the east of the Netherlands. He has led Damen’s Inland Waterways Transport Product Group since its inception in 2013.
At the heart of the matter
Based directly across the River Merwede from where Damen first began in 1927, Concordia Damen’s ultra-modern, Werkendam-based glass office is located in the heart of inland shipping country.
“It’s an important factor, for sure,” begins Simon. “There’s a community here. You see that in the businesses all along this part of the river, in the skills of the people who live hereabouts, but also in the local infrastructure; there are schools here that provide boarding to pupils during the week when their families are on the river.”
Such a strong relationships between the industry and its location helps to create a sense of belonging, a common culture unique to the inland shipping market.
“We don’t necessarily plan meetings with our clients, or communicate with them by email – at least not the local ones – they just drop in when they’re passing for a coffee and a chat about things.”
Common ground to start from
It was the social nature of the inland sector that served as the initial catalyst for the Concordia Damen joint venture.
Simon explains: Once we’d got the Damen Inland Waterways Product Group off the ground we identified that Latin America might be an opportune region. We weren’t alone in seeing the potential though – I kept seeing Chris at all the exhibitions I was attending and we soon ended up in conversation.” Laughing, he continues, “Initially I think we were pumping each other for market information! But we soon realised we had much in common.”
Concordia brings to the table a lot of knowledge and a well-established network within the inland shipping industry.
Crucially, both parties were looking to expand internationally, and Chris soon realised that Concordia and Damen working together could form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. He explains this neatly by drawing a triangle. At the first two points he writes ‘50%’. “This is Concordia and this is Damen,” he says, indicating left and right. Drawing lines, he brings the two together in the final point, adding ‘150%’. “And this is Concordia Damen.”
“Concordia brings to the table a lot of knowledge and a well-established network within the inland shipping industry,” elaborates Simon. “While Damen has an international sales network and shipyards located all over the globe – ideal for international growth. The two companies complement each other perfectly and equally for a partnership such as this.”
That being the case, Simon set up a meeting between Chris and Kommer Damen in April 2017. After that, things moved quickly.
Chris: “I wanted to make sure that I would be working with someone who was equally committed to what I was planning – that’s why I stipulated that any venture must be equal. The other thing that mattered to me was growth; I could see there was potential for growth and I wanted to make sure that our joint venture was part of that.”
It was a vision that matched Damen’s entirely. Simon put pen to paper and developed a business plan. On December 15th, 2017, Chris and Kommer Damen signed the contract that would see Concordia Damen effective as of January 1st, 2018.
Things have continued to move quickly from there. “Since the joint venture began, we’ve already sold two dry cargo barges and two chemical tankers,” says Chris.
“And we’ve also supplied a pontoon (122 x 36 metres) in China, which will be used to transport our hulls from Asia for outfitting here in Europe. This is the most cost-efficient means of building and transporting our products – something that will be of benefit to our clients,” adds Simon.
Going forwards, Latin America is still very much a focus for the partnership, as Chris explains. “We see huge potential in the region. If you consider the distribution of resources on the planet, overwhelmingly mineral resources are to be found in the middle, while the Southern Hemisphere produces an abundance of foodstuffs. And, in South America, given the size and number of rivers, inland shipping is the logical solution.”
The joint venture is also looking at new markets and has developed an exciting new River Cruise Vessel. The very nature of the vessel, as a passenger carrying leisure boat, is completely different to inland shipping vessels.
However, the design of the River Cruise Vessel focuses on the development of something that crosses the boundaries of all sectors – sustainability.
Sustainability is very high on Concordia Damen’s agenda. “We are looking closely at electrification and other technologies to help our clients to achieve a bright, clean future,” says Chris, once again demonstrating the synergy between Concordia and Damen – both of whom are characterised by their long-term view.