DAMEN Magazine #5

Coen Boudesteijn reflects on 40 years of tug building

Published in category: Harbour & Terminal

Well-known industry figure Coen Boudesteijn reflects on 40 years of tug building on the eve of his retirement

Not many people get the chance to see literally thousands of vessels launched in their career. However, Damen’s well-known Product Director Tugs and Workboats, Coen Boudesteijn, is an exception. Since 1977 Coen has been involved in one way or another in the launch of close to 2,000 tugs!

To say he lives and breathes tugs is no exaggeration. But after 40 years with the company, Coen will retire at the end of this year and he looks back on the evolution of the Damen tug family and the many highlights of his career.

Graduating as a naval architect in Dordrecht. Coen began his early career at another Dutch shipbuilder, IHC, where he worked in the design department. He stayed with IHC for five years but admits he was always much more interested in what was happening at Damen Shipyards. “I was fascinated by Damen’s entrepreneurial way of doing business and how our Chairman Kommer Damen developed series building and standardisation well before any other company had started to look at it. A vacancy came up. Unfortunately I failed the first time but was lucky on my second attempt!”

Coen began in the drawing office in 1976 when Damen’s current headquarters in Gorinchem had just opened. In those times Damen was headquartered in Hardinxveld. The drawing ‘office’ was a mixture of temporary wooden offices. “It was freezing in winter and boiling hot in the summer,” Coen laughs. There were perhaps 15 people in Research and the Central Engineering offices and around 200 people in the whole organisation, compared to the 9,000 strong workforce – including 600 Research and Engineering people – of today.

Dredging industry presence

“When I started Damen was really dominant in the dredging industry as a supplier of auxiliary vessels such as Pushy Cats, Stan Tugs, Multi Cats and Poly Cats. These were quality vessels, built in a series, with basic hulls for stock.”

And even then Damen was busy with worldwide sales. There were already five sales areas, Coen emphasises. “Damen started with a very big sales organisation. Mr Damen is a true entrepreneur and always invested in sales.” Coen himself says he has travelled to close to 100 countries during his career.

The ever popular Pushy Cat 42 and Stan Tug 1 were the best sellers in the seventies and since that time hundreds have been built. Alongside this Damen was building the bigger vessels such as the Stan Tug 4 – a 22 metres boat – which ultimately led to the development of the standard Stan Tug 2600. This could also be lengthened by 4 metres to a 30 metres length.

Overall Damen sold 12 standard tug types in the eighties and all of them had conventional propulsion. In those days the Damen ‘standard’ had not really started in earnest. It was possible to have a wide variety of different forward superstructures and a complete range of engines. “This seems unbelievable today. The first ‘standard’ Stan Tug 2600 was sold in 1978. We sold about 100 Stan Tugs 2600 + 2600L with many different superstructures and eight main engine choices previously. Today, we have pretty much one main engine.

Today there are also fewer engine makers. Most tugs have Caterpillar propulsion, a small number have MTU main engines and the smaller vessels have Volvo engines. The Caterpillar 3500 family with 2000 kW dominates and for smaller vessels, the Volvo Penta D 12 has proven much more successful.

Middle East success in shiphandling

In the period 1982-1995, Damen really started to make a mark worldwide and this was particularly the case in the Middle East. “We won many tenders for dedicated shiphandling tugs in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Up until then many of our vessels were related to the dredging industry, but this was a different world.” Larger Damen Stan Voiths, with Voith Schneider propulsion and a 40 tonnes bollard pull, and Stan Tugs with conventional twin screw DMC nozzle propulsion and a bollard pull of up to 100 tonnes were favoured. These twin-screw, tugs ranged between 30 metres to 50 metres and were often built in a large series. “These were dedicated shiphandling tugs. They were handling the giant oil tankers of 300,000 dwt. This is real ship assisting!”

motors boats, interview with Damen Shipyards Product Director

When not building tugs for Damen, Coen can usually be found on his own classic motor yacht Bruiser, which he built himself some 20 years ago. From the keel laying to the trials, Coen and his wife Nel were fully involved in the construction process. Coen travels the waterways of the Netherlands, Belgium and visits the Dutch Wadden Islands. “Sailing on the Dutch rivers and canals, between inland cargo vessels and pushers, is always a pleasure – Bruiser is built for it!” Coen says.

Moving on to 1990 Coen remembers travelling with the Damen Stand to ITS in Halifax. “Here you could start to see the transition when Damen started to develop into more of a shiphandling tug builder rather than a workboat builder largely focused on the dredging market. And now our shiphandling tugs – which are a true world standard – are seen from Panama to St Petersburg!”

Moment of pride – the ASD Tug

In the 1990s came the industry contribution that Coen is most proud of. As Damen started to develop the true shiphandling tugs, traditional rudder propeller propulsion led to the now renowned Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) Tug.

Coen enthuses: “We had to come up with a new name. ASD was actually developed by the Damen team and now it is a world standard!” In 1993, the first Damen ASD Tug was actually 31 metres and had a bollard pull of 50 tonnnes.

Undoubtedly the birth of the ASD Tug is Coen’s career highlight. “When we started with the new ASD Tug 3110, it was a multi-discipline approach – a team with the Tugs Design and Propulsion guys, Damen Research, the CE drawing office, shipbuilders and mechanical engineers. I think it took at least two years to develop. Damen always likes to go for perfection.”

Built on functionality

“The design may not have been ‘fancy’ but it was built on functionality, the windows in the wheelhouse gave a good view on the winch, the rubber fenders and the fore deck, they were tailored to work under the flare of container vessels, extra strengthening and a heavier construction was used in the pushing areas, at the sides. We looked for production friendly details and it had to be corrosion friendly – round corners making it easier to paint them etc.

“We optimised the underwater round bilge hull design and the skeg, giving them really excellent sailing characteristics. Even today I am surprised ASD Tugs from the competition are still built with lousy steering handling. Damen’s ASD Tugs can handle a course correction of 30 degrees and the tug comes back again with no problems when she is sailing astern.”

A huge amount of input from customers was also vital, he stresses. Operators like SMIT, Cory Towage and Howard Smith, Wilson Sons, Svitzer, Scafi…“We learned a lot from the operators. Working closely with our customers the standard tugs were improved. We were always optimising by making small steps.”

Damen has improved on them generation after generation and today has built more than 600 new ASD Tugs. And although Coen loves each and every tug, if pushed he admits that the ASD Tug 2810 is his real favourite. Production started in 2002 and the 2810 is now the most popular Damen ASD Tug with more than 210 built. “Fourteen years ago the ASD Tug 2810 heralded new standards of comfort and reduced emissions considerably.”

And now the Product Team is working on the 2811 – the next generation. This will have an increased bollard pull, more accommodation and increased levels of comfort.

Coen’s first yacht Vrouwe Adriana some 45 years ago, when he started his watersport hobby.

sailing boats

Reverse Stern Drive Tug

As well as the Tractor Tug, ATD Series, another milestone development is the Damenpatented, Reverse Stern Drive Tug 2513. “We have been working on a compact RSD Tug of 25 metres that has the performance of a tug of 32 metres. Because of the innovative twin fins it has 50% more efficiency during escorting, resulting in an extremely long line pull. The Damen RSD Tug is the only shiphandling tug in the world designed for always sailing forward because she has two bows. I think it will be the commodity of the coming decade!” This new shiphandling tug will be built with diesel and gas engines and presented at ITS 2018 in Marseille.

“These days with the huge increase in handling speeds of container vessels and mooring speeds, so better performing tugs are vital. For tug operators this gives the highest performance at an extremely reasonable price.”

And of course, a major development not to be overlooked is the revolution in propulsion. “In the coming decade the engine room will change significantly. In my 40 years of tug building it has nearly all been about diesel propulsion apart from the last five years when we have seen the emergence of hybrids with electric propulsion and gas.”

Engine room revolution & Automation

Automation too is an increasingly important factor in the tug sector. The next step – which is already being taken – is the development of a fully electric autonomous mooring tug, which is remotely controlled by a pilot. Studies into an unmanned automatic mooring unit, the Damen AMU Tug 2513, have been underway including trials with real ASD Tugs. “I think we will see the first prototypes coming years. It is a logical step. Automation is changing our world and shiphandling!”

We worked hard. And we did it together.

Opportunities to innovate

Coen reflects on Damen: “Today, ASD Tugs are built from the GA Plan to the finished product in just 12 months! For most of the standard Series we can deliver immediately and this even includes Ice Class vessels. We have fantastic building locations in China, Vietnam, in Europe state-of-the-art yards.

“Looking back over 40 years of Tugs & Workboats I cannot remember one unsuccessful year. Damen has grown from 200 to 9,000 people, operates 32 newbuild and ship repair yards and close to 20 other companies. It is very special to have seen all these developments over the years.

“At Damen you have the opportunity to go for innovation. Occasionally perhaps decisions don’t work out, but you get the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. It has been fantastic working here. The Damen family are true entrepreneurs. I am very proud to have seen all of these vessels built and to be part of such a fantastic company.”

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