Standardised yet tailored. Alphatron, Gerard van den Baard
We can’t do it alone. Our vessels are what they are, in part, because of the suppliers we work with. Like our relationships with our customers, those with our suppliers are usually for the long-term – in some cases our connections go back to the dawn of standardised shipbuilding and beyond. In this edition of the Damen magazine we meet just a few of the suppliers that help us to deliver the high quality solutions that meet our clients’ needs.
With its roots in the supply of navigation and communication equipment, Alphatron Marine has grown into a global producer of fully integrated bridge systems including communication and IT solutions. The company has some clear parallels with Damen. “Unimpressed with inefficient bridge layouts, our founder had very specific ideas to create standardised and modular bridge systems. Damen, of course, have a similar philosophy in terms of their shipbuilding activities,” notes Gerard van den Baard, Alphatron Marine’s General Manager Sales.
A working relationship between the two companies began in the mid-2000s: “The idea was to create a bridge that could be installed quickly, and on a range of different vessels – all the while carefully balancing the three standards of ergonomics, technology and aesthetics.” While the first two speak for themselves, the question of aesthetics needs a little more explanation: “The more comfortable an operator is, the more able he is to adapt to it.”
The partnership achieved its first success on the Stan Patrol 4207. The concept then evolved to include bridge systems for dredgers, ferries, yacht support vessels, customised tugs and various offshore vessels. “Damen’s success was our success. In a way, they have challenged us to develop and standardise our products without jeopardising the ability to provide customers with a tailored solution. Enabling us to put into practice the lessons learned from our research and development; something that we continue to do because it is their questions that drive us.”
Regarding future developments, Alphatron Marine works with a philosophy that it calls supportive sailing. “We are heading towards an era where ships are controlled more from the shore, and the subject of autonomous shipping is also receiving a lot of attention. Of course, you can reduce the number of people required on board with technology, but we believe that there will always be a need for human interface.”
Navigation bridges will become more interactive and vessels will communicate more with each other – this is enhancing situational awareness. And it is companies like Damen that allow us to put these ideas into practice.