Damen has developed a philosophy revolved around unique shipbuilding, providing an industry leading standardised service through perfected engineering
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Thomas Arnold
Damen is renowned in its field for being all about ships; it’s what it does and is the cornerstone of the Company.
Since inception, the client-focused, international family-owned business has designed, built and serviced ships. Supported by its worldwide network of sales and services, the Company continues to design the best-in-class when it comes to building innovative ships of excellent quality for a variety of industries.
“I began working with Damen in July, 2011 as a development officer working directly under the chief commercial officer of the Damen Shipyards Group,” explains Peter Robert, Director of Business Development & Market Intelligence. “At that point in time it was a new role to branch into for Damen, and from that leap of faith was borne Damen Offshore Wind.”
In a short space of time, the Company has developed a range of safe and efficient vessels to cover all bases from installation through to maintenance and support.
“My role within the Company is first and foremost to understand the offshore wind market, and within that the things that Damen could do to improve the industry while meeting its requirements,” affirms Robert. “From the discoveries made there we would create new products to introduce to the market and filter out through the sales department.”
The Company’s latest progressions epitomise the culmination of a long journey with this year seeing Damen celebrate its 90th anniversary. And over that time the Company has evolved entirely as a family-owned entity. In 1969 Kommer Damen came onto the scene with a new idea about how the Company should run, in what he hoped would bring about even more success.
Robert states: “His philosophy towards shipbuilding was completely different to that the Company had been following and brought about a hugely influential change to the way Damen operated. This change still resonates today through our work.”
The Damen Standard
Back in 1969, Kommer Damen held a speech in order to pitch his aforementioned vision for the future of Damen. In the speech he discussed how in order to be the best, he wanted to build vessels that were standardised.
“His main idea was to standardise as much as possible, and subsequently meant that the Company would no longer produce one-off vessels,” continues Robert. “Instead Damen would be providing series production in order to create efficiency.
“The Company was able to simply carry out the engineering once, then make large supply chain agreements with main providers that would enable it to gain a better grasp on the market demand. Not only that but the products would be made in a more efficient manner and produced to a better level in terms of quality.”
That philosophy is something that has been carried through to the present day, based on the success the Company has found with it. Damen still builds on a series basis and standardises as much as possible, and subsequently this is a facet that has filtered into the way all Damen operations are carried out.
Robert describes: “Over the years we have developed our unique and standardised concept named the Damen Standard, enabling the Company to offer our customers well-proven, innovative vessels and services at a competitive price.”
There are many advantages to standardisation, epitomising the reason behind Damen’s adoption of the method for almost 50 years. Some of these advantages include the fast response to customer requests, competitive pricing, shortened delivery times, reliable and proven technology, continuous product development, low maintenance costs, guaranteed performance and setting the benchmark for the industry.
Robert adds: “In the early stages we carried out large amounts of market research and came to the conclusion that large numbers of Damen products were already being used in offshore wind, so it made complete sense to utilise this.”
The discovery that a lot of target customers were already using Damen built vessels for offshore wind purposes massively quickened the pace of development for Damen. Its tugboats had the ability to tow to the relevant locations to install the turbines - something that was already happening at the time - as well as tapping into the other needs found around wind farms that weren’t being answered at that point in time.
“It has been a big step in the development of Damen Offshore Wind - specifically when it comes to working further offshore - to work on a service operation vessels (SOV),” explains Robert. “This has really taken off and we have numerous projects currently to do with service operations.”
For companies like Total E&P Nederland, they are making conscious decisions to explore the opportunities available to them to utilise innovative efficiencies developed for the offshore wind market, while also looking to use them in the oil & gas industry.
Robert continues: “We have ensured that our Company remains versatile throughout the process, applying the aforementioned innovative knowledge safely and comfortably and working across the entire spectrum of offshore energy industries.”
The perfect fit
The Company is widely recognised for its work across the globe with large companies, also having worked on renowned research projects over the years.
“Currently we are involved in work on floating wind and have subsequently participated in the European research project, Wind Float,” affirms Robert. “Our role in that production has been to look into floats, as our experience in standardisation and series production has made us the perfect fit in that area.”
Alongside the Company’s research work, it also has a large chain of repair yards in Europe and around the world. Especially in the past few years, Damen has been creating a lot of upgrades and conversions to turbine installation vessels in its docks, and mobilisations and demobilisations.
With its work spread extensively and a reputation as a global organisation, Damen proudly boasts a large sales team that travels around the world in cooperation with agencies. In order to remain at the top of the market, Damen needs to constantly remain aware of offshore wind developments.
“We are aware of these developments on a global scale; it’s brilliant for our development as in order to grow we need to understand what is happening in the current timeframe,” explains Robert. “This enables us to quickly establish whether it is the right market for Damen, particularly when it comes to work in China as it is difficult to price correctly.
“Our products don’t necessarily easily match the market in China, so we are probably going to need to take a different approach when working there. Of course, the Company has found ways around this, already having had a similar situation in the US. A successful possibility is to sell a design licence in China for our products, which has worked very well in America.”
In order to facilitate its global expansion and new projects in China and the US, Damen has made huge investments and one of the biggest was buying a yard in China to enable increased production.
In terms of product development, on an annual basis the Company will work closely with its research &development department (R&D) to decide the best areas of investment for new projects.
“We have developed a sizeable R&D department - seeing the importance it has to company development - which is quite significant in the maritime industry and in comparison to a lot of corporations,” states Robert. “The general idea behind it is to continuously try and develop our products in order to stay ahead of the competition in introducing new features, new technologies and building networks.
“Quantifying turns out to be quite difficult for us, as we don’t just have the single purpose of working purely for offshore wind. Recently we acquired a large repair yard in Rotterdam which we expect to accommodate all of our turbine installation vessels when the time comes for their upgrades, as well as other purposes in the future.”
Of course it is not only investments in projects and space that is important to Damen, it also takes the time to invest properly in its people.
“At Damen one of our core values is that it must be fun to work with us and that is what I strive for within my team,” Robert explains. “It is my hope that every morning when they come into the office, they will start the day happy and motivated ready to have a lot of fun when it comes to carrying out their jobs and assignments.”
In achieving such a productive working environment, the Company has been able to provide its people with a wider array of responsibilities. In trusting its people with these responsibilities it also gives them the freedom to control their workload, knowing that they have the proof and conviction as successful working professionals in order to achieve both professional and personal goals.
“I’m not the sort of person that will constantly be looking over my employees’ shoulders, I don’t believe in that at all,” affirms Robert. “We find providing them with freedom in work enables each employee to develop themselves and become entrepreneurs.”
As Damen is still relatively young in the industry, it has been pivotal for the Company to create a large network in the domain.
“I am lucky to have a large network built up of our customers, their customers, developers and turbine companies such as Siemens,” adds Robert. “We continuously inform them about our developments while also challenging them to keep us innovative and ask us what we will need to create to move forward in the future.”
Damen is well prepared for the future demands that will be placed upon the Company, alongside the future products that it will need to develop in order to meet these demands in the market. Renowned as a quality brand, Damen stands for quality and supports its customers to the end ,which is a pivotal factor across its large network.
Robert states: “We will never walk away from problems within our products, making sure that we can achieve the maximum value for our customers.”
A great example of the strong relationships that Damen is building stands between Damen and Gusto - a well known designer of jack-ups - which has led to the design of its DG Jack range that is currently being marketed.
“We are working to build these relationships as it enables the easy development of our projects and the direction the Company needs to go in moving forward,” explains Robert. “A current project our team is working on is based around obtaining a new large-scale yard space, possessing the capabilities and the infrastructure to build large turbine installation vessels.
“At Damen we are again extending our reach and our product portfolio for future turbine installation vessels and as we look into the future of turbines, their weight is increasing and with that we will need to build facilities in order to meet those future challenges and requirements.”
The Company is under pressure to meet these industry demands and subsequently the vessels need to be ready as soon as possible, which is why Damen is well into the process of developing both a new large-scale turbine installation vessel, as well as a large crane vessel specifically built for foundation installation.
Damen is a brand that is renowned for constantly developing itself towards industry needs and in a very short space of time, Damen has become equally well known in the market.
“We are always improving ourselves in terms of our designs, alongside the quality and functionality that we create within our products,” concludes Robert. “It is one of our main aims moving forwards to keep on bringing new products to market such as the crane vessel and large turbine installation vessels that we are working on currently.
“Continuing on in the manner that we have been, I hope that in the future we will be able to report that our turbine installation portfolio has dramatically increased, that we have built our crane vessel and successfully integrated our new Twin Axe vessels with increased sales to take us forward in the industry.”