85 Years – 1 family
Damen was founded in 1927. Much has happened since then, especially since 1969, when Kommer Damen decided to start standardising designs and keeping vessels in stock. In the past five to 10 years, however, Damen has seen rapid growth, which in turn has encouraged all sorts of changes large and small: from a collection of ‘local yards’ to an international corporate group with a distinct identity; from a no-nonsense ‘man with a plan’ to a professional organisation with professional management.
Even so, “Our culture and values have broadly remained the same,” say Josien and Dina Damen, Kommer Damen’s wife and sister, who are both involved in the company in many ways and on many levels. “We’re a family-owned company, which is not the same as being one big family. But there is a strong sense of purpose, cooperation, and – for lack of a better word – ‘mutuality’ throughout the company.
“Our monthly drink with the employees at the Gorinchem yard originally began in the nineteen-thirties with Jan and Marinus Damen, who would pay their workers’ wages in cash. Nowadays, it’s a social occasion that plays an important part in creating cohesion at the yard. Every last Thursday of the month, one of the directors talks to the group about the month’s turnover, new and ongoing projects, developments at other yards, and so on.”
Damen Shipyards Gorinchem, today
The Staff Association (PV) was founded 40 years ago and is flourishing. It organises events regularly, from bingo evenings and motorcycle tours to groupwide parties.
“We also have our annual traditions,” says Dina, “including our pea soup meal in December – pea soup is a traditional Dutch dish – and the company barbecue. The Damen Band takes to the stage and makes sure the dance floor is filled. I am glad that the Staff Association is flourishing and that its members are enthusiastic about organising well-attended events and activities.”
“Many of our colleagues work abroad”, says Josien. “There’s nothing special about this in itself, but we think it’s important that they feel connected, that they’re part of Damen, even in remote areas. I think that the commitment is mutual, because many of our employees remain with us for a long time. Some of our employees describe Damen’s corporate culture as being ‘like family’ and that’s a big compliment!”