Since 1927, The Damen Way

Posted by Irina Tabakina

Damen is a ubiquitous name in global ship and boatbuilding, delivering its unique brand with customary style and flair from ports of call around the world. For insights on the company’s long, colorful history and its bright future, we received insights from Arnout Damen, COO.


Like many great maritime stories, Damen has its roots, present and future intertwined in family ties. Current COO Arnout Damen is the son of Kommer Damen, Chairman of the Board since 1969, and grandson of Jan Damen, co-founder (together with his brother Rien Damen) of Damen Shipyards in 1927.
“We are a family company and we gain strength from that too,” said Arnout Damen. “Inside the offices and the production halls you’ll find a no-nonsense mentality and, even with 8,000 employees, a flat organization; doors are open. Our global presence is enhanced by our positive attitude and, armed with this mentality and a large portfolio of vessels and solutions, we serve almost any market. That, I think, makes us stand out: quality, capability, size and mentality.”
There are many words to describe the Damen of 2014, but the first that comes to mine is ‘diverse.’ Damen Shipyards Group operates 32 ship- and repair yards. To date it has delivered more than 5,000 vessels in more than 100 countries, delivering approximately 160 vessels annually.
Damen is diverse in that it offers a wide range of products, including: tugs, workboats, naval and patrol vessels, high speed craft, cargo vessels, dredgers, vessels for the offshore industry, ferries, pontoons and super yachts.
Further, Damen is diverse in that it offers a broad range of services, such as maintenance, spare parts delivery, training and transfer of (shipbuilding) know-how, as well as a variety of marine components, especially nozzles, rudders, anchors, anchor chains and steel works.
Another equally apt term to describe the company is ‘standardized.’
Based on its unique, standardized ship-design concept, Damen is geared to produce consistent quality. Damen’s focus on standardization, modular construction and keeping up to 150 vessels in stock leads to short delivery times, low ‘total cost of ownership’, high resale value and reliable performance.
In fact Damen’s focus on standardization extends far beyond marketing brochure fodder, and is in fact one of its fundamental corporate values
“Both our unique, standardized ship-design concept and our modular construction approach enable us to offer our customers well-proven vessels at competitive prices and worldwide, post-delivery support throughout a vessel´s lifecycle,” explained Arnout Damen. “Because we keep vessels in stock, the delivery time of a Damen vessel is very short; for some vessel types even as short as two weeks. Years of refining our production processes (engineering, hull fabrication, supply chain management) have resulted in fast response to customer requests; short delivery times; reliable performance; low total cost of ownership (and high resale value); and interchangeability of vessels, spares and equipment.
Standardization means even more at Damen, as Damen Technical Cooperation (DTC) concept enables its customers to build vessels locally, anywhere in the world. Damen provides all prefabricated ship components and can, on request, combine this with assistance, training and backup.

Increased Innovation
While many companies eye emerging regulations skeptically, Damen sees new rules, such as the move toward reduced emissions globally, as an opportunity. “This both provokes and ignites many innovations,” explained Arnout Damen. “At Damen, this has, for example, resulted in the ASD Tug 2810 Hybrid (diesel-direct, diesel-electric, electric versions), an upcoming inland shipping vessel fueled on LNG (Ecoliner), an electrical patrol vessel for the canals of Amsterdam and, together with MTU and Svitzer, a research program as to an RSD tug fueled on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Continuous innovation is good for the worldwide maritime industry; it keeps us all on the edge and keeps the industry moving forward.”
So far in 2014 Damen has enjoyed the benefit of generally buoyant markets, as Arnout Damen reports that “already our sales are up by 40% compared to last year.”
Looking ahead, Damen sees its strategy of standardization as paying off, as Arnout Damen said “ever more customers in a growing number of countries see that ‘standard’, which is what we are good at, first and foremost means ‘proven’. It also implies easy maintenance, and, by developing and innovating our vessels within a certain standard, other useful features are achieved, such as reduction of fuel consumption.”
In an industry which has long lamented the need to build unique designs and features on every new vessel, the Damen standardized approach seemingly offers multiple benefits, particularly as new maritime rules and performance expectations evolve in tandem. “Answering the question: ‘How can we make this vessel more fuel efficient?’ or ‘How can we give this vessel type better seakeeping qualities?’ means that we don’t have to design and build a completely new ship from scratch each time we develop a new innovation or are confronted with new rules and regulations,” said Arnout Damen.

Innovation Going Forward

In inquiring about future innovation to be designed and delivered in 2015 and beyond, Arnout Damen was quite succinct in his answer: “A lot!” In addition to the expansion of its service hubs globally, Damen has a number of eye-catching designs on the drawing board. While there are far too many to include in this sapce, the three that we found most compelling include:
•    Ecoliner: The ECO Liner 1145 is designed to measure 110 x 11.5 x 3.6 m with a deadweight of 3,100 tons and a maximum speed of 10.8 knots. 
•    Ballast Water Treatment Barge + other BWT solutions.
•    Floating Tidal Energy Platform: Bluewater, Damen and Van Oord partner to realize a unique floating tidal energy platform.

Long History, Promising Future
“As we are an active member of the maritime industry and have been so since 1875 (when the Schelde naval yard was founded), this speaks for itself: it is extremely important to the whole of our company,” said Arnout Damen when assessing the importance of this industry to his company. “At Damen, it’s all about ships - it’s what we do, it’s who we are.”


(As published in the December 2014 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News -

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 30,  Dec 2014

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Maritime Reporter

First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.