The Dutch ship repair sector is flourishing after a number of lean years. The cluster of medium-sized repair yards in the Rotterdam Waalhaven plays a growing role in this. They are very busy and have grown in number.
For example, De Haas Maassluis opened subsidiary De Haas Rotterdam in May 2022. At the new maintenance and repair yard, located next to the “Onderzeebootloods”, the old submarine yard, ships up to 80 metres are lifted and docked.
At the end of 2021, Eerland Ship Repair moved from Feijenoord to the Waalhaven, something that J.A. Balck Ship Repair did twenty years earlier. At the beginning of this year, the Estonian-based ship repair company SRC also opened a branch in the Waalhaven.
ROG Ship Repair, led by Martin van Leest, has been located in the Waalhaven since 2014. Competitor Rotterdam Ship Repair established itself in the Waalhaven in 2012, but received a new impulse by the end of 2021, with the new director and co-owner Jan Kees Pilaar. Until that time, Pilaar was commercial director of Damen Ship Repair & Conversion. Therefore, he brings a lot of knowledge and experience with him.
Nestor of all yards is Scheepswerf Hoogerwaard. This family business, led by the Den Heeten brothers, already established itself after the fourth and last major expansion of the Waalhaven, in 1930, at Pier 8, and is still there.
Maritime journalist Hans Heynen (pictured on the right) visited the repair yards and compiled this dossier on the Waalhaven ship repair cluster. The article also appeared in Dutch in SWZ|Maritime’s November 2022 ship repair special.
Heynen: ‘With relatively small, but close-knit and motivated teams of permanent employees and a circle of permanent subcontractors and suppliers, these yards manage to take action 24/7 when necessary. And not just at the shipyard itself or in the port of Rotterdam. These repair companies are active worldwide. When a customer wants it, a crew leaves for Asia or America for a repair or will step on board for repairs or an overhaul during the trip.’
De Haas opens new service and repair yard in Rotterdam
Shipyard De Haas from Maassluis opened a new maintenance and repair yard at the end of May at the former RDM site on the Nieuwe Maas river. The yard has a Marine Travelift, which is unique in the Netherlands. This moving boat lift has a capacity of 820 tonnes.
The Marine Travelift can lift ships up to approximately 80 metres out of the water and put them down elsewhere for repair or maintenance. The yard floor, measuring more than 2 hectares, has room for dozens of ships.
Family-owned for 143 years, De Haas has many maritime service providers as customers.
‘Here we can serve them even better,’ say employees Ruben Kalisvaart and Guido Davids of De Haas. ‘In Maassluis we have a Travelift with a capacity of 100 tons and a slipway for ships up to 50 meters. We have been servicing ships there for years, including the Rijksrederij (government shipping company), Police, Loodswezen (pilot company) and KNRM (rescue company). However, modern tugs and, for example, crew transfer vessels have become ever larger and heavier, so that we can no longer lift all of them out of the water in Maassluis. At the new location, we can lift these heavier and larger ships very efficiently out of the water.’
Both praise the fast service of De Haas. ‘It is unique. We lift a ship out of the water in the morning, spray it clean and inspect it, after which it goes back into the water the same day. Vessels’ hulls foul so quickly in summer that fuel consumption increases by up to 25 per cent. Then it pays off to clean the underwater hull quickly.’
The boat lift can also be used for emergency repairs. ‘For example, to replace the broken seal of a thruster or to remove a tire from the thruster of a tug.’
Superyachts are also welcome at the new yard. In October, a 43-metre superyacht was taken out of the water and the yard is now preparing to lift a 55-metre sailing yacht. New Dutch superyachts often undergo their sea trials on the North Sea, from where the yard is directly accessible.
Currently, one of the ships on the yard is the ferry Staeldiep. This 46-metre-long ferry was built in 1965 and maintains a connection between Rozenburg and Maassluis. The Staeldiep will be completely refitted in the coming six months. The old propulsion installation will be replaced by new thrusters and new engines.
De Haas expects the number of refits to grow in the coming years. ‘With the soaring prices and scarcity of materials, owners are less likely to invest in the building of new ships. They will more often opt for a refit that will allow an old ship to last for years to come. Shipowners are going to repair more again.’
The ship lift makes it possible to place more ships on the dock floor in Rotterdam.
‘Instead of one or two ships at the same time, we can place more than ten ships on the yard floor. This makes it easier to schedule major refits. We recently signed a contract with the Royal Netherlands Navy for the complete refit of five landing craft of the Landing Platform Docks (LPD) Johan de Witt and Rotterdam.’
Fleet management and lease
Shipyard De Haas often works for maritime service providers. ‘We have maintenance contracts with the Rijksrederij, the police and ferry operators.’
De Haas is working on more far-reaching contract forms in this area, such as fleet management or even lease. ‘The client would then no longer be the owner of the ship but leases it from us. We will take care of design, construction, certification, maintenance and, if necessary, financing. We already have the necessary expertise in-house and the leasing party is no longer responsible for the ship.’
With the increasing complexity of ships, the ever-increasing unburdening of the fleet owners and extensive assurance of the processes, the administrative service at De Haas is also growing.
‘As a result, the number of project leaders and service managers has increased. With these contracts, the “paper process” is an important part of the work. Clients outsource maintenance to us, but want to stay connected with it. They sometimes check less on site, so we must report in such a way that they can see that we control our processes well. They rely on our certifications. This validation is becoming increasingly important, especially with the government.’
Smart maintenance can reduce maintenance costs. ‘With smart maintenance, you keep a close eye on the operating hours and the load factor of the parts.’
Eerland Shiprepair quickly operational after relocation
In November 2021, Eerland Shiprepair moved from the IJzerwerkerkade in the shadow of the Feyenoord stadium, to Pier 8 in the Waalhaven to make way for the planned “Feyenoord City”. Since March 2022, Eerland has been fully operational at the new location.
Eerland Shiprepair often works for maritime service providers such as Boskalis, Van den Herik and Van Oord.
‘We see a trend there towards complete mobilisations of project material on deck or project-based modifications to ships, and we can fully meet this with our new yard,’ says operations manager Bas Hermes of Eerland Shiprepair.
He adds: ‘At the moment, for example, we are working on the trailing suction hopper dredger Swalinge of Den Herder Seaworks. Recently, it was extended at Kooiman. During the sea trial, a number of points for improvement were identified that are being carried out at our yard, such as adjusting the frame at the hopper head, exchanging hydraulic cylinders, placing and adjusting the hopper system, adjustments to the CO2 extinguishing system and many other small steel works.’
The new IMO sulphur requirements, which came into effect at the beginning of 2020, have prompted many shipowners to buy a scrubber installation. ‘However, the drainpipes of these scrubbers corrode rather quickly due to the sulphuric and nitric acids in the exhaust wash medium,’ says Hermes.
‘That is why Eerland Shiprepair received many orders this year for the exchange of corroded “scrubber overboard pipes”. Once there is a hole in such a pipe, it can go fast. We are currently responding strongly to that. This concerns the complete replacement of the hull transit pipe that discharges the exhaust washing water from a scrubber system to the sea. We carry out this work worldwide with our diving partner. Their divers place a cofferdam under the hull, after which we can burn the old transit pipe out of the ship’s hull from the engine room without any problems. This allows us to carry out the work at a rapid pace while the ship is unloading and loading in port. Then the ship will not be delayed. We are fully certified by DNV & Lloyds for the required welding,’ explains Hermes.
In addition to stainless steel, duplex and super duplex, the even higher quality stainless steel 254SMO is used. Hermes: ‘That is even more resistant to the aggressive environment of the medium that is pumped through a sulphur scrubber.’
He continues: ‘Due to the soaring prices and rather long delivery times of, among other things, super duplex, we now also offer prefabricated scrubber pipes made of thick-walled carbon steel. When the scrubber on a ship is rejected because of pit corrosion or leakage, the shipowner wants to repair it as soon as possible with the current high fuel prices. Otherwise, he will have to switch to more expensive low-sulphur fuel. When the use of thick-walled carbon steel scrubber drain pipes is approved, pipe pieces with a diameter of, for example, 458 mm and a wall thickness of 29.4 mm, or a diameter of 508 mm and a wall thickness of no less than 54 mm, are used, on which a special high-quality ceramic coating is applied to the inner and outer surfaces. We do this work even in Singapore.’
Home-made dry dock
In between projects, Eerland Shiprepair is building its own 1400-tonne dry dock. ‘It is expected to be operational by the end of this year and suitable for docking harbour tugs and inland barges, among other things, with an entry width of 17.8 metres, an entry depth of seven metres and a ship length of up to 75 metres,’ says Hermes.
In addition to repairs, the yard carries out conversions on all kinds of ships.
‘Early next year, for example, we will be converting a Norwegian tanker from diesel to LNG here with specialised partners. Two LNG tank foundations will be welded on deck, valve manifolds installed, LNG tanks installed, etc.,’ says Hermes.
Skin and rudder damage
Eerland Shiprepair also repairs hull and rudder damage.
‘If necessary, we go to a ship with a team’, says Hermes. ‘With a demountable dock, developed and built by us, we can then repair bow thrusters and water jets on location, such as with the Stena Line ferries HSS Voyager and HSS Explorer. We repaired them respectively in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and Holyhead, in Britain, about three metres below the waterline. When a ship with damage is moored in Rotterdam and cannot come to our yard, we sail there with our crane vessel Marine Service 1 for the repair. Crack repairs of a rudder blade, skeg or crane boom, are some of our specialties. Engine overhaul with our partners is also possible here or on location. We can quickly copy and replace worn steel components one-to-one here. We make a work drawing of it, after which the part is cut and welded by us the same day.’
Hermes likes working from the new location in the Waalhaven. ‘All suppliers are close by, and the companies here have a good relationship with each other, so we can act quickly together.’
SRC strong in project management
SRC Netherlands moved from Dordrecht to the Waalhaven at the beginning of this year, where it operates with a small team. ‘Our strength lies in project management when executing refit projects and mobilisations worldwide in sometimes difficult locations, such as West Africa,’ says Commercial Manager Arthur de Boer.
‘In principle, we mobilise our experts, supplemented with a flexible layer of temporary workers, to the place where our customers want the work to be carried out’, continues De Boer.
SRC is a subsidiary of Talinn-based SRC. With offices in Italy, Norway, Poland, the Netherlands, and America, SRC has around seventy permanent employees, of which around fifty in the Estonian capital.
‘Project management, purchasing, logistics, crewing, designing and engineering are largely done from Tallinn,’ says De Boer. ‘We also have site managers and foremen there who supervise our projects on location. If possible, projects are carried out during the voyage, like the installation of a ballast water system.’
An example of such a project is the installation of a series of ballast water systems for the Danish Maersk Supply Service.
‘We have already installed more than ten ballast water systems for them this year’, states De Boer. ‘Our project team boards for example in Las Palmas and disembarks in Rotterdam. Local parties from Rotterdam and the surrounding area regularly assist us, also with the projects that we carry out here in front of the quay in the Waalhaven, especially for work that is not planned in advance.’
No local competitor
SRC did not come to Rotterdam to become a competitor of the established order.
‘We are a modest party that focuses on a different part of the market,’ explains De Boer. ‘I do not think we are chasing the same business as the other Rotterdam repair companies. We came to the Waalhaven, because it is a perfect place strategically and in terms of marketing. Our focus is on planned maintenance, mobilisations, conversions and refits, such as installing ballast water, scrubber and shore power systems. We are also strong in interior work.’
SRC is one of the few licensees of the patented Sandwich Panel System (SPS), which enables the repair of worn and corroded work decks, bulkheads and tank tops without fire and demolition. With this class approved repair method, a new deck is placed over the old deck, after blasting it.
‘It is a sandwich construction of steel and a polyurethane elastomer,’ explains De Boer. ‘You do not have to demolish anything. The steel of the new deck is mounted on the old deck (or tank top) with spacers and pulled completely taut with heavy H-beams. The liquid-injected elastomer then fills in all the unevenness between the old and the new deck, seals it completely and adheres firmly to the steel. You get a very stiff and strong sandwich construction. When welding is not allowed, we use cold work solutions. SRC is ideal for vessels that cannot afford downtime, such as FPSOs. We are now doing an SPS project for Euronav Offshore. Earlier this year, we did an SPS project with Bluewater.’
From its Miami office, SRC focuses on the large cruise sector.
De Boer: ‘We are now looking at the possibility of converting the engines to methanol for a major cruise company. But you also see that in the aftermath of Covid, projects in the cruise and ferry sector are largely limited to projects that are really necessary, such as installing a ballast water system. The “nice to haves’, such as converting saloons and cabins, are being pushed into the longer term.’
Rotterdam Offshore Group sees significant growth in repair branch
Rotterdam Offshore & ROG Ship Repair, together the Rotterdam Offshore Group, have been working from Pier 4 in the Waalhaven since 2014. ‘At that time, eighty per cent of our work came from the offshore industry and twenty per cent from repairs,’ says general manager Martin van Leest. ‘Now thirty per cent comes from the offshore and seventy per cent from repairs.’
ROG Ship Repair grew faster than expected. The repair yard conducts major steel repairs, conversions, pipe work, fixes scrubbers and overhauls engines and winches.
‘We employ around thirty people and collaborate with permanent subcontractors to whom we are very loyal,’ states Van Leest. ‘In this sector you are dependent on each other 24/7, so you should not pit your subcontractors against each other. On average, fifty people work here every day.’
Rotterdam Offshore is specialised in the mobilisation and demobilisation of offshore vessels.
Van Leest: ‘For example, we put everything for a wind turbine project on a ship and when the project is finished, we take it off again. You need different equipment for each type of wind turbine. When a ship starts a new project, the equipment is adapted accordingly.’
Equipment that temporarily isn’t needed, can be stored on the construction site. ‘We have 22,000 square metres of storage space for offshore clients.’
ROG does not have a dry dock or slipway, but does perform regular underwater work. ‘We can replace a propeller shaft seal or repair a rudder without a dry dock,’ explains Van Leest.
Van Leest would like to have a dry dock, but not at any price. ‘There was a dry dock on this location before we got here, and I have been looking for one for a while. However, the investment in a dock cannot be justified at the moment due to the high transport costs and steel price. We do not necessarily need one and we will lose a berth when we buy one.’
Port State Control
Due to the increasing demand for repairs, Van Leest noticed this spring that Port State Control had not checked vessels during Covid. ‘Many shipowners did not conduct maintenance during that period. When Port State Control came back on board, lists of forty to fifty defects came up that had to be fixed before a ship was allowed to sail again. In that regard, there is still some work to be done.’
Lots of quay space
ROG Ship Repair regularly conducts repairs and conversions on site, but also has a lot of in-house quay space for repair work. The yard was working on the conversion of the Bright Spark on one of the quays in October. The ship, which was built in 1990 on behalf of Spliethoff at Van der Giessen-De Noord as Amstelgracht, was bought in 2015 by Allseas, which had it converted into an offshore ship for welding.
‘Allseas granted us that conversion at the time,’ says Van Leest. ‘Now, Allseas has sold the ship and we are converting it back into a freighter.’
On another quay is the tanker Hafnia Tanznite (183 x 32.2 metres), built in 2016. This tanker ran into problems on 5 September, while anchored in the North Sea, due to a fire in the engine room. The crew managed to extinguish the fire, but the ship could no longer sail to a port under its own power. It was brought to the yard with a tug.
‘The entire engine room was cleaned manually with cleaning cloths,’ says Van Leest. ‘Thirty men have been working on that for quite some time.’
ROG Ship Repair recruits customers worldwide. This is partly done through agents in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Cyprus, Greece, China, and Japan.
‘Agents are an extension of your sales,’ explains Van Leest. ‘But I prefer to do business directly with the clients. I have visited customers worldwide in recent years and we have all the required ISO certificates. Customers know where to find us and they come back. We conduct specific repairs as far as America for customers who do not trust local companies.’
Plenty of experience
Van Leest is tried and tested in ship repair. He was assistant project manager at Van der Giessen-De Noord from 1993 to 1996, after which he became project manager at Wilton Feyenoord. He then worked for fourteen years at Machine Support, a specialist in the placement and alignment of propulsion installations, a specialty that he still masters. Since 2013, he has been general manager of the Rotterdam Offshore Group.
Rotterdam Ship Repair renowned for emergency repairs on water
Rotterdam Ship Repair has made a name for itself with emergency repairs at sea and in ports. The repair yard at Pier 8 of the Waalhaven has 32 permanent employees and a shell of suppliers in the labour field.
‘Our most important service is emergency aid,’ says managing director Jan Kees Pilaar. ‘We grew up with that, although we are now more often involved in larger planned projects, such as overhauling engines or replacing old ship cranes with new ones. But we remain the emergency service provider on the water and will also take action on Sunday mornings if necessary.’
He adds: ‘We have five service trucks. Our repair teams go everywhere. Now, for example, a team of eight men repairs collision damage on a 10,500 TEU container ship. It was first in the Scheveningen roadstead, but has moved to the Le Havre roadstead due to bad weather and will probably have to be moved again. A supplier has brought our team with materials and tools on board and they are carrying out an emergency repair. This allows the ship to bridge the period until the planned docking in March. We always submit the plan of approach to the classification society for approval. As soon as that is agreed, we get to work.’
According to commercial manager Oscar van Dijk, such a quick approach is essential. ‘In the repair industry, speed, quality and coordination with classification societies are more important than the price of a repair. Being idle for longer than necessary will cost the shipowner much more. The bill for a repair is often dwarfed by the daily basic costs of a ship.’
An example of planned maintenance that did not disrupt the operational deployment of a vessel is the overhaul of the auxiliary engines of a large container ship.
‘Our technicians came on board in Australia with all the tools and parts,’ says Van Dijk. ‘During the voyage, the auxiliary engines were overhauled piece by piece, after which our people disembarked again in Gibraltar.’
Diversity in Waalhaven
According to Pilaar, there is a reasonable diversity of work niches in the repair area in the Waalhaven.
‘We compete with each other, but at the same time we have our own specialisms. Other yards are, for example, more in the offshore or dredging sector. Shipyard Hoogerwaard is an excellent neighbour. We help each other on projects when needed. That is what this time calls for. Hoogerwaard focuses on inland shipping and we on sea shipping. An inland shipping company once asked Hoogerwaard to repair the container guides. We have a lot of experience with this. Then you work in this together. In this way, you strengthen each other and the sector as a whole.’
After Covid peak
During the Covid pandemic, inspectors from class organisations and Port State Control did not board and shipowners were allowed to temporarily extend expiring certificates by the flag state.
‘However, the ships had to keep sailing,’ states Van Dijk. ‘For onboard repairs, we developed procedures for keeping distance and working from isolated spots. We had a good defence plan against Covid and were able to continue to run well with relatively few sick people. After the ebb of Covid, we saw a repair peak to cover things that had been postponed.’
Rotterdam Ship Repair also noticed the effects of Brexit. ‘That resulted in less work for English ferries,’ says Pilaar. ‘But luckily we were able to cope with that. We are now fully booked again, with projects focusing on ships sailing in the North and Baltic Sea.’
Pilaar points out that materials and repairs have become more expensive. ‘But you see the same thing in China. Repair is still cheaper there, but there are also major uncertainties. Shipowners are therefore more willing to repair here. In addition, the port of Rotterdam has not suffered that much from the pandemic. There was no growth, but neither was there a huge loss. The port has never been in lockdown, like some ports in China.’
Like many other yards, Rotterdam Ship Repair is a recognised training company.
‘We have a student in training,’ says Van Dijk. ‘There is now also an initiative to provide students from the Shipping and Transport College (STC) in Rotterdam with a side job in our sector. A teacher thought it was strange that they now often work as stock fillers at a supermarket. He has asked the repair companies to offer side jobs and holiday jobs. STC students often opt for a job on shore after several years of sailing. They then know the sector and know from experience how important it is to get a ship back to sea as quickly as possible. Fortunately, we have a permanent team of highly motivated people who we regularly train.’
Hoogerwaard runs at full capacity
Shipyard Hoogerwaard moved to Pier 8 of the then brand new Waalhaven in 1930. The yard, founded in 1901 by Cornelis Hoogerwaard at the Persoonshaven, was taken over by the Den Heeten family in 1953. Since 2007, the yard has been led by the brothers Willem Jan and Alwin den Heeten, the fourth Den Heeten generation since the takeover.
‘In the fifties, the skippers came to the yard boss for an audience,’ says Alwin den Heeten. ‘Now it is the other way around and we go to the skipper. As far as we’re concerned, that’s a change for the better.’
Shipyard Hoogerwaard is currently running at full capacity. ‘We mainly repair inland barges,’ says Den Heeten. ‘We have been doing that for so long that everyone in inland shipping knows us. But we also do some sea shipping, preferably in cooperation with our large neighbour, Rotterdam Ship Repair. We have a crane vessel and a pontoon and, if necessary, we assist with our people with repairs. They have also done a number of jobs on our site. It’s a kind of cross-pollination.’
The repair yard has a loyal and permanent core of employees.
‘Our people stay long because it is never boring and we hired motivated foreign workers here very early on. They now ensure a good pace of work and have become Rotterdammers. With a team of forty iron workers and welders, we are busy here every day,’ continues Den Heeten.
‘Our record is installing, welding and painting 134 metres of bilge in 2.5 days. When it became known that in inland shipping it was no longer allowed to double the skin from a certain date, many owners doubled parts of their underwater ship as a preventive measure. In a few years’ time we have doubled kilometres of bilges.
We also renew lots of loading floors here. With bilge and surface repairs, that’s a specialty of ours. We often work on two or three loading floors at the same time.’
Although a lot of steel is needed to replace loading floors and bilges, the yard did not run into problems due to rising steel prices.
De Heeten: ‘We use many kilos for a repair yard. When the trouble started because of Putin, our two suppliers, with whom we have a close relationship, warned us in time. We always have twenty to thirty repair quotes issued here. I immediately started calling everyone and was able to reserve huge batches of steel with both suppliers. I was open to the customers about the rising price trend and they all agreed. In October, we put the last plates of that batch in the floor of the hopper barge Tempo. These plates had been purchased for a price that was still lower than the current one. And now the price is falling again. So far, we have rolled through it ridiculously well, but fluctuating steel prices are not good for anyone. People will wait to see wat the prices are doing.’
The yard outsources part of the work to a fixed circle of specialised companies.
‘This way we offer customers a nice and strong package,’ says Den Heeten. ‘Cornet Service from Werkendam does the painting, Anko Piping from Dordrecht does the more complicated piping, Van Gemert from Zaltbommel helps with propeller repairs and Holland Marine Electric from Ridderkerk with electricians. Those companies all have the same commitment as we do. We know them through and through.’
Shipyard Hoogerwaard has its own machine factory (Machinefabriek Rotterdam) that is also used for special work from outside the yard. With CNC lathes, propeller shafts and rudder stocks are made, among other things.
‘The factory also carries out assignments for other companies,’ says Den Heeten. ‘We make parts for diesel engines and pumps, for example, and special components for Ampelmann.’
Hoogerwaard is also a dealer of Farymann.
Den Heeten: ‘Those motors are still widely used on anchor winches and for small generators. We are the only one here who can supply them, including the original parts.’
Picture (top): De Haas has opened a new ship repair yard in the Rotterdam Waalhaven. The yard has a Marine Travelift with a capacity of 820 tonnes (photo: De Haas Rotterdam).