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Leendert Verloop en Cor de Wit over de service van Damen Marine Components (1)

Interview DMC Service

14 April 2020

Leendert Verloop
Age: 44
Place of residence: Papendrecht
Employed since: 2007
Position: Service Manager

Cor de Wit
Age: 56
Place of residence: Nieuw-Lekkerland
Employed since: 2004
Position: Service Sales Manager

Leendert Verloop and Cor de Wit talk about the service provided by Damen Marine Components

"You always retain a bond with a ship"

The service department of Damen Marine Components (DMC) operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Service Manager Leendert Verloop and Service Sales Manager Cor de Wit talk about their work, their greatest strength and their passion for the maritime industry. "You often have lifelong relationships with customers and their ships."

Damen Marine Components has fifteen service vans, but they are never all parked in front of their new headquarters in Hardinxveld-Giessendam at the same time. There are always service engineers on their way to customers for inspections, repairs or commissioning, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Through the merger with Van der Velden Marine Systems (in 2018) and the acquisition of WK Hydraulics and the launch of a winch product line, DMC has grown ever larger, as is clear from the Service department, headed by Service Manager Leendert Verloop. As Service Sales Manager, Cor de Wit maintains relations with customers.

Leendert, I have a problem with my ship and I need help now. What can you do for me?
"As soon as a phone call comes in, we see when we can schedule the work. If it’s a fault, it usually has to be done immediately, because a ship needs to sail. Sometimes an inspection can be carried out right away too, provided we have a mechanic available. We schedule it, generate an order and he heads over to your location."

Does right now really mean right now?
“In some cases, yes. For example, if a ship has had a collision, or a steering failure that means it really cannot operate, we will always do our utmost to get a mechanic on board at very short notice."

What is your biggest strength in terms of service?
"Our biggest strength is that we don’t just say that we are available 24/7, we really are. We are always available, or we call back as soon as possible. We sometimes get calls from customers who are not really our customers, but they call us because they know we’ll answer the phone anyway. Even in the evenings and at weekends. That happens a couple of times a year, you’ll answer the phone and someone will say: we’re calling you because at least we know you’ll pick up. And even for those skippers we'll do our best to get them sailing again soon."
Cor: "Another strong point is that we can supply the complete steering system. In inland shipping it is often the case that companies deliver one component; one will supply the rudder, the other the hydraulics. We supply everything, from the bridge, with our control and monitoring systems, to the rudder. They are all our components, so if there's a problem and you need something, we’ll have it. Cylinders, pumps, spare blocks, starters, panels, valves: because we keep them in stock, we can respond to requests quickly. We also have our own electronics department and create the hydraulic and electrical diagrams ourselves, which is another big advantage. Suppose you drive to Mannheim and find out after seven hours on the road that the problem is hydraulic instead of electrical; some companies would have to bring in someone else to sort it out. Our service vans always carry the right stock, so we can solve problems quickly and easily on location."
Leendert: "Our mechanics are broadly trained, not just in mechanical and hydraulic engineering but also in electrical engineering, which is becoming increasingly important in shipping; commissioning always takes place with a laptop these days. We keep their knowledge up to scratch with courses we run in-house, and professional knowledge is transferred internally to new colleagues. Moreover, in nine out of ten cases our mechanics will already have a well-stocked service vehicle including the required spare parts, and if not they will pick them up on the way. So you’d have to be very unlucky if you can’t continue on your way after our mechanic has paid you a visit. We often have the ship back in operation the same day."

You must really have a lot of spare parts in stock.
“Yes we do, they are all here in the warehouse. For example, if you need standard Van der Velden® steering gear, we either have it in stock or it's in one of our mechanics’ vans."

You are active in many different fields: inspections, repairs, commissioning, maintenance, new construction, conversions, modifications...
"When it comes to new construction for inland shipping, we serve a large part of the market. This is due to our long-standing relationships with our customers and our expertise. We have many skippers whose fathers used to buy Van der Velden® steering gear. If the quality and service are consistent and we can get them back on the water without having to spend an extra day moored up, then there is no reason for them to try something else. We also carry out a lot of inspections. Over the years, we have built or modified a large number of vessels and they all have to undergo the mandatory IVR steering gear inspection once every three years. Our inspection reports are much more extensive, because we always want to know more, so that we can prevent possible problems in the future. Our service team also carries out a huge number of commissioning operations. The systems installed meet the prescribed requirements of the selected classification society.
Leendert: "We carry out commissioning operations all over the world – not just in the Netherlands and Europe but also in the US and China. We even performed one service in Honolulu. Basically, we can go anywhere. We are the market leader in inland shipping, but we are also active in the seagoing market. That includes luxury yachts, tugboats, naval vessels, coastal vessels, fishery, but also the huge container ships that ply the oceans; very broad. Thanks to our broad experience, we are familiar with many classification societies around the world, including LR, BV, DNV-GL and ABS."
Cor: "We deliver to ships from 10 metres to as much as 400 metres long. We're talking about a rudder over 100 square metres in size, that's a piece of metal the size of a tennis court hanging behind your ship... That’s quite a difference from inland vessels, where the average rudder size is 3 to 4 m2. We also supply the nozzles, which are manufactured at our production site in Gdansk, Poland. Our Optima nozzles are now installed in four out of five newly constructed vessels in European inland shipping. We are also happy to share ideas and help with the drawing work when designing the stern; we provide the ship's designer with information and advice about the right products for the purpose of the vessel and the correct positioning in the stern. That way you get the best possible ship. You can’t just say: guys, here's four rudders, two nozzles and a basic drawing, you sort it out."

Why can't you do that? That way, you’re off the hook.
"That may be true, but the products have to meet the highest standards and produce the results we expect from them. That can only be achieved by really working with the parties involved. For example, in the case of a stern modification, we try to iron out as many wrinkles as possible beforehand. We advise the yard mechanics who carry out the work and also come back halfway through. That inspires confidence; ‘guys, if we do it this way, we’ll really get the best results’. With thorough preparations, good support and clear communication, you’re halfway there."

And a satisfied customer will come back, is that the basic thinking?
"There is no better advertisement than a satisfied customer. You can advertise all you like, but the feeling a customer has says a lot more than we can put in a brochure. Our efforts pay for themselves every time."

Even if you need to make an extra call or drop by now and then?
“That goes without saying for us. You can't say after commissioning: ‘all done, bye’. No, we want to hear about the customer’s experiences and if there is anything we can do to help. Make no mistake, a new ship represents a service opportunity for us for the next 20 to 50 years. “Really, you have a lifelong relationship with a customer and their ship."

No doubt you are good at spotting ships by now.
"You're always trying to identify vessels, that's true. Whenever I am driving along the waterside or over a bridge, I'm checking to see if I recognise a ship."
Cor: "When my children were small and we would drive along a dike and see the ships pass by, after a while I would hear their voices behind me: “Yes, Dad, we know”. You know what it is? When you've experienced the construction of a ship, you’ve commissioned it and you've been out on trials with it, you retain a bond with that ship, a memory. It stays with you. That's the great thing about our work."