Frank Rebel. Managing Director DSCT
“It’s my job to ensure our day-to-day business runs as smoothly and effectively as possible,” says Frank Rebel (51). Born in South Africa, he was the first son of a Dutch couple that emigrated from Amsterdam to Johannesburg in 1957. Frank has studied, worked and lived in the Netherlands for a large portion of his life, but presently he and his wife Karin, their daughter Marilyn and their son Julian live in Cape Town. Frank likes mountain biking, hosting a ‘braai’ (the South African term for a BBQ), playing golf and enjoys researching and sampling South African wines.
Since Frank became Managing Director in 2008, Damen Shipyards Cape Town has grown, especially so in the past two years, when employee numbers doubled from 100 to 250. “Hiring and training a young workforce shows we have faith in our future, right here in South Africa. I sincerely hope we can set an example for other companies and that we will be able to train and educate many more apprentices in our Apprentice Training Centre.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
“I enjoy many aspects, but one which gratifies me most, is the fact that we are able to deliver quality Damen products right here in South Africa with a great team. As a growing organisation we are facing quite a few challenges but we’ve identified them and are tackling them one by one. Fortunately, some things are made easier due to the backing of a multinational parent company – Damen Shipyards Group. Because of this we are able to invest and expand here in the way we want to. For example, the Group’s support in building a new production hall translates locally into more business and jobs. We could do it by organic growth, but not at this pace; in five years’ time we’ve built 26 vessels of 12 different types!
There’s also a technology transfer of modern shipbuilding techniques – once that knowledge has landed, so to speak, you can really see our organisation growing. Also, having access to the Damen global customer base is good for local business – it generates serious benefits.”
Can you give an example of the yard’s commitment to growth?
Yes, of course. It’s true that we have the commitment and the means, so we achieve results. Our stockpile management is an example of that commitment: by building vessels for stock we are able to maintain a constant workflow, which means constant levels of local employment.
Why is DSCT’s Apprentice Training Centre so important to you?
“Because delivering high-quality ships, closing the skills gap and developing the yard is important. Our in-house training centre for welders and boilermakers opened its doors in 2010. Recognized by MERSETA, the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority, the aim of the centre is to bridge a skills gap within South Africa. This is achieved via the delivery of qualified artisans. Those going through our Apprentice Training Centre receive a minimum of 3 months theory and 3½ years practical workshop training. Once an artisan is qualified they may go on to do other training courses required for the workplace.Currently, 39 apprentices are trained; 8 women and 31 men, each of whom can be offered a job at DSCT upon successful qualification. To date, 14 graduates of the centre have gone on to become Damen employees. This year 21 apprentices have applied for trade tests which will be completed by June 2014.
Amongst the female apprentices is Lee Anne Andrews, who is the first qualified female boilermaker in the Western Cape region of South Africa. Upon completing her education Lee Anne took up a Damen apprenticeship, completing many challenges, amongst which was an AutoCAD course. More recently Lee Anne has also been appointed as a Junior Draughtsperson at Damen Shipyards Cape Town. She has a message to other women contemplating their future career paths: “To all females that wish to embark upon the path of becoming boilermakers, nothing is impossible. If I can do it, then you can do it too…Be the best and show the men how it should be done!”
“I feel the Centre really contributes to the yard and plays a positive role in the local society”, says Frank. “Ask Dederick, our Training Officer.” Dederick Ross supervises the Training Centre. He is a qualified ship welder and old hand in the shipbuilding industry. Dederick has always enjoyed his career and is known for his contagious enthusiasm. He is held in high regard by his pupils and says of his relationship with the learners. “I am strict with them, but I am also very proud.” He is convinced of the importance of maintaining a flow of apprentices into Damen. “The flow of apprentices improves the flow of work; pupils can focus on the smaller elements, thus enabling the artisans to fully concentrate on the bigger parts,” he says. “Furthermore, we need to develop ourselves in order to remain competitive.” Frank: “I couldn’t agree more.”
What is your favourite Damen vessel?
The FCS 5009 with its distinctive Sea Axe bow; it´s an innovative design with a great appearance and proven performance. And we are building two in Cape Town right now. My favourite sailing vessel, by the way, is a classic J-class sailing yacht, like the 1933-built Velsheda – she’s a real beauty.
Frank Rebel – abbreviated resume
1981 Studies shipbuilding in Belgium and the Netherlands
1988 Fulfils several functions at Boelwerf Temse (the largest Belgian yard at the time, specialised in LNG tankers)
1992 Moves to South Africa with wife Karin to take over his father’s electro-technical installation company, together with his two brothers. Soon, however, Frank moves to super yacht builder Oceanco, first in South Africa, later in the Netherlands
1996 Starts at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem as Project Manager, often bringing him to Poland and Russia
2002 Appointed as Logistics Manager at Damen´s HQ, later becoming Production & Logistics Director
2009 Damen asks Frank to become Managing Director at DSCT – he’s now lived 25 years in Europe and 26 years in South Africa