DISCOVER Magazine #7

Coen Boudesteijn

Published in category: People

After 40 years with Damen, Coen Boudesteijn, the wellknown Product Director Tugs and Workboats, officially retired in January. For this farewell interview it was going to be a tough challenge to get this modest man to talk about himself. However, there was one way – and that was to mention tugs!

Coen’s working life has been completely dedicated to the development of tugs and he readily admits he is a keen ‘tug spotter’ given any opportunity. “It is in my bones. The fact that I have been able to work for 40 years in only tugs has been very special. Many people are with the same company for decades but in different roles. I have always been in tugs; it has been a privilege. And my personal saying is continuity leads to quality.”

I am a Damen man with a tugboat heart.

Graduating as a naval architect in Dordrecht, Coen began his career at Dutch shipbuilder IHC, where he was in the design department. He stayed with the company for 5 years but always had an eye on getting a job at Damen. “Kommer Damen started in 1969 with just five people. He was building vessels for stock, which was revolutionary at that time. I was really fascinated by Kommer’s vision for producing a series of vessels. Developing ‘standards’ for vessels – whether they are patrol boats, ferries, superyachts or tugs – it is the same philosophy.”

After his first attempt failed, Coen applied again for a vacancy at Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld, which was the predecessor of the Gorinchem headquarters. Even at the interview, he knew this was the company where he wanted to be. Smiling and with a glint in his eye, he says: “Straight after the interview I was taken on a trip on the River Merwede with a Stan Tug 1 – this was a very special experience and sums up Damen! I was 25 years old, on this 16 metre tugboat with twin engines going full speed ahead, crash stop, turning manoeuvres… I was very impressed from the beginning with the product; I wanted to build these boats. It was really a celebration from the first day and has been fun ever since.”

The drawing office was at that time based in a mixture of temporary wooden offices. “It was freezing in winter and boiling hot in the summer,” he laughs.

One thing was clear from the start, he stresses: “Damen was going to be an international company.

Mr Damen was very ambitious and investing in sales (probably representing 10% of the workforce) and in qualified and dedicated shipbuilding engineers and craftsmen to build the Damen Standard Series. Glamorous offices were not a priority. It was evident the world was our market.”

In Coen’s opinion the success of Damen is based on the ability to develop a true world standard for every sector. “The 20 Standard Tug Series of today are suitable for all ports, in all weathers and they take into account local rules and regulations. Safety has always has been my number one priority, resulting in the Standard Series having large beams and GM values above 2 metres, making them very safe and stable work platforms.”


The Damen goal is always ambitious, he says: to go for perfection. “A great boat starts on the drawing table. When you think there are probably hundreds of thousands of decisions that go into the making of any vessel. There is the design and engineering, but at the building yards, steelworkers, welders, fitters, electricians, grinders, painters, carpenters, service engineers… each person puts his soul into it. They are proud to build a top product – a Damen vessel. We all work together and do our utmost to make it a success.”

For Coen, it is all about the detail.

Damen embodies a culture of excellent craftsmanship.

Every tiny detail should be thought about. Each new generation of a standard tug is the result of constant product development, he stresses. “Fuel efficient and safe, Damen ship handling tugs are designed for high static, as well as dynamic bollard pull, with excellent manoeuvrability and course stability. At the same time, it has to be production friendly, corrosion friendly, maintenance friendly…and last but not least, it has to be about ‘cost price down and quality up’.

“I remember the old days, when owners would spend the whole summer painting their boats but now there is a minimum crew and little time for maintenance. Therefore, it is vital that vessels are designed ergonomically, with paint friendly details and no sharp edges. The deck and superstructure of modern ASD Tugs have closed constructions, rounded corners and a high quality, durable epoxy paint system, resulting in less maintenance and easy cleaning.”


“Damen thinks about efficient lay-outs and systems – how to make operations easier, how to improve performance, to reduce fuel consumption…It is all about details. For example, by deploying a 2.5 inch fuel filling pipe, instead of a 1.5 inch one; it will then take 1 hour to fill the fuel tank rather than 3.

“There are so many small details, it is a constant process of making small steps, small improvements. And this is as a result of feedback from our customers, as well as from our yards and the Damen service engineers. We are always communicating and do the evaluation with discipline in the monthly Tugs standardisation meeting where we discuss structural improvements.“We appreciate comments about how can we improve. We go for perfection, but of course, there is always another step to take.”



And in a question, which is like asking someone to choose between their children; does Coen have any favourite tugs? For sure, he has a soft spot for both the Stan Tug 1205 and the ASD Tug 2810.

The Stan Tug 1205 has an 8-tonne bollard pull and 440 kW of installed power. “It is a very efficient, small tug, compact with a 5.3 metre beam, user-friendly. I think it is a favourite from the compact tug generation because it was developed right from the Stan Tug 1, when I started here. And yet Damen still builds them today! It represents a relatively low investment level but it offers great value for money. She has excellent sailing capabilities, great manoeuvring and can do many jobs in the modern harbour very efficiently, with just 440 kW she has very low fuel consumption. People should never forget about the smaller vessels!”

Coen’s other favourite is from the renowned family of ASDs – the ASD Tug 2810.

“We started with the development of true shiphandling tugs in the 1990s and the traditional rudder propeller tug metamorphosised into the ASD.” In fact, it is not widely known, but the Damen product team actually came up with the name Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD), Coen points out.

The whole Tugs team took probably 2 years to develop the first Damen standard ASD Tug 3110 in 1993. “This was an important milestone for the industry.” Coen admits the first operators thought that ASDs were too technical and expensive, but since those early days hundreds have been built. One special memory is when the ASDs were officially introduced in the Port of Rotterdam. “We gave a demo of the ASD 2411 – it was very special. I do think I have experienced success in my career to have seen the development from conventional to ASD tugs.”

The ASD 2810 is his particular favourite. She has an excellent view from the central steering position, low superstructure and wheelhouse, heavy rubber fendering and a double drum towing winch, he says. “Production started in 2002 and the 2810 is now the most popular Damen ASD with more than 200 built. The ASD 2810 heralded new standards of efficiency, safety and comfort and reduced fuel consumption and emissions considerably.”


Other highlights in his career are the annual visits to shows such as ITS and Tugnology. “I have loved going to the conferences with my team and meeting up with all our customers. We give papers at the conferences and share our knowledge with the industry. Ultimately, we want to take the Damen Tugs Series to a higher level; safer, more efficient, more comfortable and less required maintenance – as well as winning the best prizes.“I remember travelling with the Damen team to ITS in Halifax in 1990. Here you could start to see the transition for Damen when it developed into more of a shiphandling tug builder 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!”

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