As a child, I was fascinated by everything to do with shipping.’ Immediately after graduation for marine engineering, Arjan joined Boskalis in 2001 as a trainee in the Technical department. In the years that followed, he worked as a technical inspector in the Middle East for a number of years, where Boskalis was involved in many projects around that time. ‘At that time, I learnt a lot about ship maintenance,’ he says. ‘A dredger is full of parts that are constantly subject to wear and tear. During my training, I learnt to design and build ships, not to maintain them. Which meant I had to learn on the job. Then I had the opportunity to come and work in Papendrecht, initially focusing on the small cutter suction dredgers. After about two years, I was given responsibility as fleet manager for the smaller hopper dredgers and later for the backhoe dredgers. I have been a fleet manager for about ten years. And for almost three years now, I have been responsible for the large hopper dredgers: Queen of the Netherlands, Fairway, Prins der Nederlanden, Oranje, Gateway and Willem van Oranje. Obviously, I’m not alone: this is genuine teamwork. Every vessel has a vessel team consisting of the fleet staff, the technical inspector and the fleet engineer. I’m a member of the teams for ‘my’ hopper dredgers. There is constant consultation with colleagues on board: from captains and chief engineers to the electrical engineer and the dredge master.’
Fully-fledged business partner
How would you describe your role as fleet manager? What role does fleet management play at Boskalis? ‘Fleet management is effectively the Boskalis shipping company. As fleet managers, we supply the vessels but also the corresponding services. In recent years, our department has developed from a straightforward technical department into an organization that really gets involved with the projects. We try to contribute to the overall Boskalis performance by positioning ourselves as a fullyfledged business partner. With DTED and other disciplines at Boskalis, I try to ensure that our vessels cater to market demand and the specific challenges of projects. For us, repairs and modifications should result in structural improvements. As a fleet manager, I’m involved not only in planning and financial management, such as charter revenue and repair fees, but also with the vessels from ‘cradle to grave’. That means I’m also responsible for the sustainable decommissioning and recycling of vessels in the Dredging division.’
Dredging projects are best compared with the process industry, with the dredging vessel as a floating production unit.
Taking over the burden
How can you adapt a vessel to specific circumstances on a project? ‘A good example is the Prins der Nederlanden: this hopper dredger needed a very long suction pipe on the Borssele project. Our vessel team, the crew, and vessel automation colleagues built and calibrated the entire system so that the project team had a vessel that was perfectly prepared for the job required. In that way, we try to lighten the load for the projects. The Dredging division’s projects are becoming increasingly complex, for example due to local regulations and strict client requirements. Hopper dredgers working in New Zealand or Australia must comply with strict biofouling regulations and local regulations. Not only the hull and the hopper but every nook and cranny of a vessel must be cleared of algae, mussels and other crustaceans. To lighten the load for the project organization, we take the lead on these activities. We make the arrangements for docking the vessel and thorough inspection and cleaning. In the future, we will increasingly have extensive environmental inspections like this in Europe, in addition to the specific fuel and emissions challenges.’
Could you tell us more about the other challenges of your work and the interests at stake? ‘Dredging may not look high-tech but it’s incredibly complex in terms of technology and logistics. A dredging vessel costs hundreds of thousands of euros a week, even before paying for the crew and the fuel. Dredging projects are best compared with the process industry, with the dredging vessel as a floating production unit. So dredgers have to be able to produce as reliably and continuously as a machine factory: the work has to continue without any interruptions. A working week is 168 hours and our challenge is to make sure that the vessel really is productive during all that time. If there is a malfunction on a vessel during operations, that will have an immediate and enormous impact on production and the profitability of the project. That explains why we are always looking for ways to work smarter and more efficiently. As far as I’m concerned: I come from an entrepreneurial family and I try to draw on that entrepreneurship in this job as well.’