Going places. Damen’s Harbour & Voyage Repair is on the move
Damen’s Harbour & Voyage Repair service, a part of Damen Shiprepair & Conversion, has, despite beginning operations in 2015, a long history. When Damen purchased Van de Wetering Port Repair four years ago, the business had been in operation for 135 years. The tradition carries on today, with the experienced employees of the company continuing to work for Damen Harbour & Voyage Repair.
Breaking out of the Lowlands
Traditionally, the company focused its attention on its local region – conducting the vast majority of its work in the ARA – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp – area. “That’s still true of today, actually,” points out Managing Director Jozeph Quak. Jozeph also has a long history in port repair, having worked in the field for Damen in Den Helder for many years before the establishment of the dedicated Harbour & Voyage Repair service.
“The ARA still counts for 80% of the work we do. But that’s changing.” The change, he says, was kick-started when the company became a part of the Damen Shipyards Group. “Becoming part of Damen has been absolutely crucial for the development of this service. For one thing, there’s the name – everyone knows the Damen name. It stands for reliable on-time project execution. It stands for good practice in HSEQ. There’s also the fact that Damen had an extensive sales network that enabled us to quickly set up a new commercial department. This, combined with Van de Wetering’s existing client, agent and port network, proved to be a formidable engine for growth.”
And so it was: Damen’s Harbour and Voyage Repair, in the four years of its operation to date, has experienced average growth of approximately 85%.
“We’ve not finished, not by a long shot,” continues Jozeph. “But we have to take care that our growth is structured. We have to take the time to do things in a good way, making sure we set ourselves up in a controlled manner with a long-term view on the future.”
Ready for adventure
This, he explains, involves numerous factors, amongst which is identifying first the right sort of professional employee. Jozeph has a clear vision when it comes to the type of person he is looking for to work for Damen’s Harbour & Voyage Repair service.
“Our employee is a particular sort of person,” he states. “With a different set of characteristics to someone yard-based. It’s absolutely critical that our people are team players. They must think and work like a team, always. We need good communicators. More than that, particularly at the moment, when he have not reached our full geographical potential, we need people who are comfortable working within an extremely dynamic environment. We are responding – quickly – to projects all over the world.
“To say we are looking for people who are prepared to travel is an understatement. We are looking for people who are prepared to travel, at a moment’s notice and almost continually. Things can change at any minute in our world. Effectively, we are an emergency service and we need people who are up for adventure.”
Trust is a word Jozeph uses a lot when describing his people. “Trust is very important in our environment. We have to be able to give people the responsibility to own the work they are doing and have full confidence that they will do it safely and to the highest possible standard.”
Where in the world
The entity’s plan for growth, he says, includes reducing its current 24-hour response time by setting up at strategic locations around the world. These locations will be served by teams combining existing project management with local labour, thereby facilitating an effective operation alongside the further development of the maritime industry in these key areas. “The idea is to set up mobile installations at strategic locations, notably where these is already a Damen presence – a Service Hub or repair yard for example, or a concentration of Damen clients. We’ve conducted in-depth analysis of this and established the areas where we could position ourselves to help our clients better.”
“This summer we will be active in Curaçao and the American regions. We expect Harbour & Voyage to also grow rapidly in these areas.”
Not surprisingly, these tend to be areas where is a high volume of maritime traffic close to land – the Straits of Gibraltar, for example, or the Panama Canal.
“We already see an increase in activity outside our traditional ARA area of operations. We’ve carried out projects in Argentina, France, Lithuania and South Africa recently, for example and we already have a presence in the Middle East where we have worked closely with our colleagues at Albwardy Damen.”
Logistical planning at a whole new level
Once established, these new teams will continue the good work for which Harbour & Voyage Repair has become so renowned.
“The majority of the work we do is steel work, largely hull repairs, but this is changing also and our work can be very varied, including engine failure, HVAC work, almost anything, really. The biggest difference with conventional repair of course, is that the work is carried out in the water, which presents its own challenges. We have to work with divers quite often. The most interesting cases are often those that take place on a vessel that is underway.”
Cruise ship repair projects are challenging at the best of times; they require a precision approach to logistics in order to get the vessel underway again on time for its next scheduled call, with work usually taking place with crew resident on board. Harbour & Voyage Repair have taken this to another level.
“A recent project saw us undertaking the refurbishment of the air-conditioning system of two cruise ships, while they were embarked on a cruise, filled with passengers. The logistics of undertaking this work, in literally thousands of cabins, whilst avoiding interruption to the cruise itinerary really called on precision planning. Like I say, we need to work together as a team at all times!”
A further stimulus for the expansion of the service is the increasing awareness of sustainability in the maritime industry. Here, Harbour & Voyage Repair finds synergy within the Damen Shipyards Group – working closely with Damen Green Solutions on projects related to ballast water treatment systems and the installation of scrubbers.
“This is definitely a growth area for the future and one that we are well positioned to serve. In our team we have a number of GRE specialists able to conduct work on scrubber piping installations. Now, with Damen Shipyards Mangalia, we are looking to train local workers in Romania in this work so that they can serve the Mediterranean and Black Sea region, playing their part in delivering the emissions reductions demanded by the industry for the future.”
Fast, talented response
“There’s a bit of a juggling act with a lot of what we do. Alongside precision, our clients are also looking for speed. The point of port repair is to get a vessel safely underway again without the time-costly experience of a drydocking. I’m very proud of our track-record in providing timely solutions in a manner that exceeds expectation.”
He offers a number of examples, including one very recently that saw a vessel in Le Havre requiring fast hull repairs in order to be able to sail again. “Our inspection suggested we would need eleven days to do it. The port authority was convinced that was not enough time. In the end, we did it in seven days. We’re a 24-hour operation, we don’t stop until the work is done.
“Another example recently was the replacement of a valve on a crossover tank in South Africa. With Damen’s facilities in Cape Town we were able to pre-fabricate the part and, upon the vessel’s arrival, replace it within just three hours.
“This is what I mean when I talk about our people being able to maintain their professionalism and quality in such a dynamic environment. We’re getting faster all the time. Once upon a time, cleaning a ship’s hull was a major job. Nowadays, we can complete one side of a 300-metre vessel in under four hours.”
So far, so good then, for this relatively new Damen entity, but how does Jozeph intend to measure that things continue to head in this direction during the upcoming drive for expansion.
“We will know from our clients whether we are doing things in a way that suits them. At the moment, it’s clear they are happy with our work. We can see this in the way we attract new clients and returning clients alike. I intend to make sure that, wherever in the world someone calls upon Damen Harbour & Voyage Repair, they can count on getting the high standard of service they expect from our name, now and in the future.”