An iconic Dutch shipyard joins Damen Shiprepair & Conversion
On the 1st July, 2017, Damen Shiprepair & Conversion added an eighth yard to the seven that it already had in the Netherlands and took its worldwide count up to sixteen. The acquisition of Damen Verolme Rotterdam, as it was immediately renamed, was not only a coup given its location and facilities, but also brought one of the great names of Dutch shipbuilding into the Damen Shipyards Group.
Damen Verolme Rotterdam
The Damen Verolme yard extends over 54 hectares in Rotterdam’s Botlek area. Situated in the Port of Rotterdam, right at the southern entrance to the North Sea, the yard is ideally located at the heart of one of the world’s largest industrial and transportation centres.
The facilities of the yard are exceptional. They include the largest drydock in northwest Europe at 405 x 90 metres, plus two others 230 x 35.5 metres and 275 x 41 metres respectively. It also has around 2 kilometres of quayside with up to 12 metres of draught for alongside maintenance and repairs. The quays and drydocks are all equipped with suitable craneage of up to 80 tonnes. The workshops also have overhead cranes and there is ample warehousing.
Damen Verolme Rotterdam is certified to NEN-EN-ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards, and is also SCC** and ISPS certified.
Jan Kees Pilaar
With a bachelor’s degree in Marine Engineering from the University of Applied Science, Vlissingen, Jan Kees Pilaar began his career in the early 1980s as a Project Manager for Radio Holland at the sole shipyard on the Caribbean island of Curaçao (now part of the Damen Shipyards Group).
Returning to the Netherlands in 1991, Jan Kees worked first for Aalborg in Rotterdam as the Deputy Managing Director before accepting the job of Senior Business Manager at the Verolme yard. In 2006, he was head-hunted by ThyssenKrupp to become first their Managing Director Repair at Hellenic Shipyards in Greece and then three years later Managing Director at Blohm + Voss in Hamburg. In 2016 he started at Damen Shiprepair & Conversion as Commercial Director. The following year he accepted a challenge that was both new and very familiar; today, he is the Managing Director of Damen Verolme Rotterdam. Jan Kees is married and has two sons and a daughter.
At the core of everything that we do is our focus on our customers and the delivery of the services and quality levels that they demand.
Strategically located in the Port of Rotterdam, Damen Verolme Rotterdam (DVR) has a special place in the recent history of the Dutch shipbuilding industry. Once the centrepiece of a shipbuilding empire created by the vision and drive of one individual, it built some of the largest ships ever to come out the Netherlands. Although this empire lasted just 20 years, through sheer hard work and determination, its founder created a network of yards in the Netherlands and overseas that quickly became known for their innovation and application of standardisation techniques to boost quality and productivity.
Born at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was not until 1950 that Cornelius Verolme bought his first shipyard on the death of its owner and transformed it into a state-of-the art facility capable of building a wide variety of vessels up to 33,000 tonnes. He swiftly made further acquisitions to meet the demand for his ships and to allow the building of larger vessels, and it was in 1957 that he opened the shipyard that today is Damen Verolme Rotterdam, in the Botlek area. Then the largest and most modern shipyard in Europe, its position on a deep-water channel with easy access to the sea enabled it to be ultimately equipped to build supertankers with its new graven drydock and slipway, shipbuilding halls, machine and piping shops, all equipped with heavy overhead cranes and modern machinery.
In the years following its opening, the yard turned out tankers, bulk carriers, freighters and even refitted a Brazilian aircraft carrier. Three floating drydocks were installed along with two graven drydocks, the larger of which was 275 metres long and 41 metres wide and built especially for repair works.
The yard finally came of age when, in 1970, a third graven dock was opened. 405 metres by 90 metres, it was built for the construction of supertankers up to 500,000 tonnes deadweight, but by then European shipbuilders were feeling the chill winds of competition from the Far East. Business conditions quickly deteriorated as competing against the Asian yards became increasingly difficult and Verolme Dok en Scheepsbouw Mij (VDSM) was not alone in facing financial difficulties. Finally the Netherlands’ Government stepped in and forced a consolidation of the shipbuilding sector that resulted in the dissolution of the VDSM as an independent entity.
Moving into offshore
Under government supervision VDSM continued to build VLCCs as well as other vessel types until in 1980 newbuilds came to an end. Instead, Verolme Botlek, as it was now called, applied its considerable resources to become a full-service repair yard supporting the fast-growing offshore oil and gas industry in the North Sea. This marked the beginning of a particular expertise in servicing the complex needs of the specialist vessels and platforms serving the sector, from mobile drilling rigs and pipe lay vessels to crane barges, accommodation platforms and seismic survey ships. Maintenance, conversions, modifications, upgrades and lifetime enhancements, the Verolme yard had the skills and facilities to undertake them all.
After changing owners a number of times, in 2002 the yard was sold to Keppel Offshore & Marine and renamed Keppel Verolme BV. Then finally, in July 2017, it returned to Dutch ownership as part of Damen Shiprepair & Conversion.
The future is diversification
DVR Managing Director Jan Kees Pilaar brings the story up to date. “We’ve had a busy start to the year and done some nice projects. It’s been a mixture of offshore and ship repairs, section building and partial newbuilds for other yards in the Damen Shipyards Group, and this is how I would like to see us develop in the months and years ahead; evolving into a yard that repairs, modifies and converts all kinds of floating units.
“With our exceptional facilities, including the biggest drydock in north-western Europe, we are looking to expand our activities into new markets. The cruise ship sector is one. With its vessels continually increasing in size we can make a compelling offer, and so we are looking to develop our capability in cruise ship repair and modification by developing relationships with the specialist sub-contractors and suppliers that serve this industry. We will also be refining our logistics and project management processes to better manage the increasing role that we expect yards to play in the repair and maintenance of these luxury vessels.”
The growing fleet of LNG carriers is another area with lots of potential and Jan Kees Pilaar and his team are already in discussions with a number of oil majors regarding the drydock and repair of their LNG tankers. DVR has a cryogenic clean room and plans to extend further its capabilities in this area. The yard is also fully certified for decommissioning and has been receiving enquiries from oil and gas operators in the North Sea.
“At the core of everything that we do is our focus on our customers,” continues Jan Kees, “and the delivery of the services and quality levels that they demand. We have good relationships in place and we are working on strengthening those further by making DVR a yard that they want to visit due to its combination of technical expertise, quality and high-quality facilities. Now is a good time to do this as the market is trending upwards, with a healthy level of enquiries coming through, and we are well-positioned in every sense to take advantage of that. I look forward to the future with confidence.
“I don’t know if Cornelius Verolme (who died in 1981) ever met our founders Jan and Rien Damen,” he concludes, “but I think he would be proud to see what we are doing here and that his flagship yard that still bears his name is once again part of a Dutch, family-owned business that shares his global vision and dedication to quality and innovation.”
Damen Shiprepair & Conversion Group commercial director
We have acquired a number of repair yards in recent years, most recently on the island of Curaçao and Verolme in Rotterdam. While we used to be competitors – keeping our cards close to our chest – we are now working together. After all, when a client sees the Damen logo at the gate, they expect a certain level of service and quality.
Now with sixteen repair yards around the world, it is sometimes a puzzle to find the best fit of which job best matches which yard. There are certain limits – dock size and personnel capacity, for example – but we are always able to offer our clients a solution.
On a personal level, I like the variety. We have clients from every maritime sector, and there is also huge diversity in the work we do. Yes, we have long-term contracts like conversions and lifetime extensions, but we also have to be ready to take on more last minute jobs such as collision repairs. Therefore, we never know what the day will bring – a challenge that keeps us on our toes!