DISCOVER Magazine #7

Damen’s man in Brazil

Published in category: Dredging & Marine Contracting

Walter Herchenhorn Damen DOP

Walter Herchenhorn
Endratech Engenharia e Equipamentos de Dragagem Ltda.,
Dredging Agent of Damen in Brazil

Walter Herchenhorn is Damen’s dredging agent in Brazil as well as a distributor of Damen DOP pumps in the country. Besides this, he also works with Damen colleagues delivering seminars, presentations and project evaluations to the dredging industry across Latin America.

Rooted in dredging

Walter’s association with the sector is deep-rooted. “My father worked in dredging for many years. When I was young he used to take me along to projects, where I would sit and fish while he worked.”

Walter’s father worked for the Companhia Brasileira de Dragagem, fulfilling a number of positions in the course of his career, including Project Manager and General Manager. The company, part private and part public sector, operated four hopper dredgers and numerous cutter suction dredgers. It carried out dredging work on ports and inland waterways, not only in Brazil.


Iconic projects

“The company was able to export its work. It took part in some large-scale projects outside of Brazil – including work on the Suez Canal. Within Brazil, they worked on some very important sites, including Copacabana Beach and Rio International Airport – the iconic locations that really define Rio,” says Walter proudly.

When his father left Companhia Brasileira de Dragagem he went on to work with IHC, setting up a programme to build dredgers in Brazil.

“There was a lot of demand for dredgers at that time, enough to make a domestic production line feasible. There were many infrastructure projects taking place. My father built many dredgers. When I joined the company at the end of the 1990s, this cycle was coming to a close; there was still demand, but it made more sense to build the dredgers in the Netherlands and export them to Brazil.”

Aligning technical & commercial understanding

It was logical that Walter would follow in his father’s footsteps and become involved in the dredging industry. Not only had he gained an affinity with dredging through a lifetime of exposure to it, his education also prepared him for a role in the sector.

Walter graduated from the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro as a mechanical engineer, before gaining an MBA in finance from the same institution. His education, he says, positions him well for work in the dredging world.

“Because of my education I am able to discuss projects in detail with clients in addition to understanding the financial side. My studies represent an alignment between the technical and commercial.”

Transcending international boundaries

Before taking responsibility for sales in the country, Walter first moved to the Netherlands to develop his dredging product knowledge. His career in dredging sales saw him first working for eighteen years for IHC before becoming an agent focused on maritime and civil construction projects. In 2017 he met Damen Sales Manager Rutger Dolk and his relationship with Damen began.

“I already knew of Damen – it’s good to know your competition,” he says, smiling. “As I got to know the culture, I found a vibrant company, keen to develop the market, ambitious in its sales and focused on the quality of its products.”

Damen’s culture, Walter states, is an important factor in its ability to go global.

“It’s not easy to transport quality, reliability and, perhaps most of all, your ability to build relationships around the world; there are so many different cultural factors to take into account. But Damen has the flexibility and they’ve managed it.”

Damen has a long history of standardisation, and this helps, he states.

Standardisation is good for crossing borders. And, especially when there’s a will to be versatile, standardisation can be easily adapted to suit all needs. Particularly when it draws upon reputable suppliers with a steady supply of replacement parts.

Quality shipbuilding – quality dredging

Naturally, culture only gets you so far; international awareness and client focus might open doors, but, at the end of the day, it’s all for nothing if the product is not good. Here too, according to Walter, Damen succeeds.

“In Damen dredgers you see the quality of the group’s shipbuilding heritage. The same quality you find in Damen tugs, workboats, ferries and offshore vessels amongst others. Damen dredgers are robust. A lot of attention is paid to the main features; there’s a powerful cutting system with strong winches, heavy anchors and a large width of cutting.

All of which, he explains, adds up to greater operational efficiency when compared to similar machines.

These features combine to offer better use of time. And, with Damen’s philosophy of building for stock we are able to mobilise very quickly, too.

“Furthermore, we have much better tooling to build outside Holland than anyone else. Damen’s track record with the Damen Technical Cooperation programme of building on location at non-Damen yards around the world is unrivalled – including numerous successful examples in Brazil. The market appreciates our product, the quality and efficiency. Then there’s price, that’s also important. Damen’s offering combines competitive CAPEX and low OPEX.”

This is a common theme to be found running throughout the Damen portfolio, fulfilling the company’s goal of offering its clients low total cost of ownership throughout the lifetime of its products.

Spacious comfort & Dutch expertise

“Damen dredgers are also a very operator-friendly place in which to work. They are spacious and comfortable and are very desirable for operators.

“Plus, Damen has the knowledge about the dredging industry to assist its clients with training and project evaluation. This is something that Dutch companies really can make a difference with in other countries; the Netherlands’ experience with land reclamation over the years adds considerable value to the sale of a dredger or dredging equipment.”

Brazil can fly

But what of the market for Damen’s dredgers in Brazil? Walter is also positive in this regard.

“At the moment, Brazil is in a very special place with regards to dredging. The country used to have a large fleet, but many of the old dredgers are no longer in action. The remaining fleet is insufficient in size to deal with the demands of a growing country. I have great expectations for the market.”

He’s expecting the country’s abundance of resources to give impetus to the industry.

“For example, we are a large exporter of grain, and a lot of the transportation of grain needs to take place on the waterways. For this to succeed the rivers and the ports need to be maintained. And if we are to have a keener focus on private enterprise, there will need to be more civil construction projects. It’s a big market for cutter suction dredgers with opportunity for small hoppers too.

The potential for growth is huge. Brazil can fly.

Damen DOP pump at work

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