Arrival of floating docks makes Damen Shiprepair Curaçao a force to be reckoned with
Just thirteen months after Damen took control of the Curaçao Drydock Company in the southern Caribbean and renamed it Damen Shiprepair Curaçao, the group is about to fulfil the undertaking it gave to the island’s government to expand its capabilities by bringing in a floating dock as specified in the original agreement. And not just one dock, but two! A Panamax-class dock measuring 230 metres x 45 metres for tankers, box ships and other large vessels, and a smaller dock, 108 metres x 23 metres, for all kinds of tugs, workboats and offshore support and anchor-handling vessels. Adding these assets to the yard’s existing two graving docks marks a significant expansion in capabilities and diversification, in line with Damen’s ambition to play a major role in ship repair and conversion in the Caribbean area.
Refurbished and redeployed
The two floating docks have been redeployed from Damen Shiprepair Vlissingen and Damen Shiprepair Van Brink Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The larger dock was built in the 1960s in Norway and acquired by Damen in the 1980s. The smaller dates back to 1933 and is an excellent example of durable German engineering. Both have been well maintained over the years and in continuous operation. Prior to their departure from Europe, each underwent a thorough structural inspection and maintenance programme at Damen Verolme Rotterdam.
Given the size of these docks, this was a major project. Planning began in April 2017 with works beginning in November. The Panamax dock herself went into drydock to undergo a full examination that resulted in 1,000 tonnes of steel being replaced in the hull around the waterline and on her flat bottom, but aside from that the largest task on each dock was the application of a special coating both internally and externally to cope with the potential corrosion and aggressive marine organisms found in the tropical waters of Curaçao. With 28 cavernous tanks within the larger dock alone, this has been a major undertaking which is now being completed in Curaçao, along with final repairs to the piping and machinery.
Preparing the yard
Works are also underway ashore at Damen Shiprepair Curaçao, preparing the site for the new acquisitions to join its two existing graving docks, as well as for the overall increase in activity. One of these graving docks is, at 270 metres long by 44 metres wide, among the largest in the Caribbean. The yard also has three mooring and repair quays with a total length of 975 metres. The works include extensive electrical and piping upgrades to facilitate the routing of compressed air, gas and high voltage cabling. New machinery has been acquired alongside additional equipment brought across from Damen yards in the Netherlands. The restructuring of the yard to increase capacity as well as maximise efficiency is aided by the fact that the site is relatively spacious.
At the same time, Van Oord has been contracted to excavate and dredge a section of the harbour to remove 75,000 m3 of rock and soil. This will allow the Panamax dock to attain its maximum draught of 16 metres in order to take on the largest vessels. Other contractors have been confirmed to execute pile driving for dock installation, pier reinforcement and shore protection.
Crossing the Atlantic
The docks departed Damen Verolme Rotterdam on the evening of 1st April and arrived in Curaçao on 28th April, following a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on board the semi-submersible heavy-lift vessel Xin Guang Hua, operated by Cosco Heavy Transport. Prior to departure, in a carefully managed operation, the smaller dock was inserted into its larger counterpart before that in turn was floated on to the heavy-lift vessel. The docks are now in the final stages of being readied for work in time to start operations in July.
“Our location in the southern Caribbean is ideally situated to serve vessels going to and from the Panama Canal and supporting local oil and gas operations in the waters off Colombia and in the Gulf of Mexico. Curaçao has a naturally protected harbour basin and it is known for not to being subject to the extreme weather conditions found in the northern Caribbean,” said Lodewijk Franken, managing director of Damen Shiprepair Curaçao.
Those natural advantages together with Damen’s reputation for quality and value mean that since we have taken responsibility for the yard here we have seen a lot of interest in our services, and the acquisition of these two floating docks will play a major role in meeting that demand.
“We are also very happy that the new docks will not only allow us to work on a wider range of vessels, but also enable us to fulfil our undertaking to increase the contribution that the yard is already making to the local economy, and to bringing new, high-quality jobs to the island across a range of trades and disciplines.”