Wider Remit for Dutch Matchmaker

Owned by its member shipyard companies, Groningen-based sales, marketing and design firm Conoship International (CI) encapsulates the spirit of the industry in the Netherlands' northernmost provinces, where the maritime cluster continues to demonstrate resilience and an ability to innovate. CI's efforts are oriented to proactive business development and to its matchmaker role between customers and shipyards.

While providing a commercial function to shipbuilding firms with typically very slim management structures, it also offers a high degree of design and product development expertise to complement or support the activities of constituent yards. Widespread collaboration between independent yards, sub-suppliers and equipment makers is emblematic of the region, and competitiveness springs to a high degree from the expectation of efficiency and contractual performance from each party, to the extent that non-performers will not be tolerated within a co-operative framework. In keeping with that northern ethos, CI also has to continually demonstrate its value and effectiveness to the membership.

Notwithstanding successful product diversification in recent years, the industry has maintained a high international profile in its core areas, namely the smaller types of multipurpose cargo vessel and tankers, to the extent that more than 30 such newbuilds were on hand at CI shareholder yards at the time of writing.

New designs of competitive, standardized vessel built according to a series construction philosophy reflect considerable groundwork on market trends and operators' evolving requirements.

Underscoring its proactive approach, and bid to broaden the yards' market reach. CI has in recent years embarked on a series of research endeavors with Dutch and other European partners, including projects on innovative designs of intercity cruiseship and a new generation of exceptionally high-speed vessel. Some 50 years on from its foundation, and in response to changes in the structure of European shipbuilding and a reduction in the number of member yard companies, CI has implemented a change of business policy.

From this year, it has augmented its activities on behalf of shareholders by offering services to third parties, including direct assignments from shipowners and logistic players, and intermediary, research and technical design functions on behalf of other shipyards at home and abroad. The move will expand the firm's scope beyond its well known services in the main fields of multipurpose vessels, shortsea traders, tankers, fishing vessels and dredgers. Yards other than members will be known as 'associated shipyards' of CI, and the new involvements are expected to increase the latter's activities in areas such as offshore support ships and inland waterway vessels.

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 58,  Nov 2004

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