11 Apr 2024

Damen Service Hubs: thinking globally, acting locally

In focus: ✔ Damen Song Cam shipyard ✔ Service Hubs

In the years since Damen opened its first Service Hub the network has become an important part of the group. Today, eleven hubs can be found across five continents with the latest addition to the portfolio, at the Damen Song Cam shipyard in Haiphong, Vietnam, opening its doors on 12th May 2023.

The hubs were initially established to undertake warranty work in regions where there were sufficient concentrations of Damen vessels to justify having technicians permanently located there. To begin with, they had no contact with existing Damen customers apart from those with new vessels. But as time went by, they began to receive requests for assistance from Damen owners not covered by the warrantees and expanded their activities to include general maintenance and trouble-shooting. The hubs have grown in size and capabilities since then and acquired warehouses holding equipment and spare parts relevant to their local markets. The teams have also grown with upwards of 30 personnel in some locations and recently have expanded their service operations to include non-Damen built vessels. However, warranty work remains the core business.

Maintaining the advantage

A significant factor in their success is that many of the technicians are recruited locally and trained to Damen standards. Their understanding of local working practices and their command of the local languages is an important contribution to delivering a first-class service; developing relationships, building confidence and minimising misunderstandings.

As the Service Hubs grow in size actions are being taken to ensure that they do not lose their entrepreneurial culture. Managers recognize that as the headcounts grow, further systems and procedures need to be established. This is to ensure that the hubs remain efficient and the customers continue to receive a first-class service. The key to success is to make sure that processes are in place without personnel finding them onerous and taking up too much of their time. More managerial staff are being recruited to ensure that personnel get the support they need, and more training programmes are provided in areas such as HSEQ. Maintaining the service levels that their customers have come to expect as they grow has required the hubs’ structures to evolve to keep themselves flexible and focused on their clients’ needs. Being located in close proximity of their clients is very fulfilling for the staff as they get to know them really well. They gain in-depth views of what is important to their customers, the conditions in which they operate, how their organisations work and what their clients demand of them. This knowledge that is accumulated over time enables the hubs to deliver a service that a centralised organisation simply cannot match.

Captain Michael Magee, Group Harbour Master of RAK Ports in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, comments: “With their extensive resources here in the UAE, Damen is an easy choice for us given the quality of the vessels and the aftercare service they can provide in what is a tough environment. In 2018 we took delivery of our first tug built in the UAE, at Albwardy Damen. Having the resources of a Damen Service Hub on our doorstep was a contributory factor to that decision. Being able to make repairs quickly and easily saves time and money. No other tug makers have a facility nearby, and Damen has a skilled workforce and a good safety record.”

Looking ahead

As well as embedding the structures and systems that come with growth, the hubs are preparing themselves for the next generation of Damen vessels. For example, with Damen’s first E-Tug now operational, the hubs will be acquiring the skills and know-how required to maintain them in anticipation of more coming into service. Equipping local teams ahead of time with the knowledge and understanding that they will need from the outset is also part of the Service Hubs’ ethos and contributes to developing long term relationships with their clients.

Damen Services Middle East

Established in 2018 and based in Sharjah, UAE, Damen Services Middle East is one of the largest in the division with over 30 employees. The development of close relationships with their customers has certainly been a cornerstone of their success, with many of them located nearby. This allows the team to focus on the precise need of each client and individuals are encouraged to use their judgement when it comes to exploring new solutions. The environment in the Gulf presents its own challenges and the knowledge base that the hub has developed through continuous exposure is something that cannot be developed by engineers based on another continent.

The Middle East hub also has the advantage of having access to the resources of Albwardy Damen’s shipyards, as well as supporting their newbuild programme with after-sales services. Whether it is the yards or the hub that brings a new client on board, the initial point of contact for that client continues as the lead so as to maintain the continuity of the relationship.

Damen Services Middle East has seen strong growth over the past two years, working with some of the largest tug operators in the region. The combination of experience, convenience and the ability to deliver a consistent and comprehensive service using local technicians is attractive to local companies. It now works across a range of sectors including tugs and workboats, and also naval and security assets including offshore patrol vessels. Some projects involve even larger vessels. Whatever the job, the hub will marshal the resources required to make it a success.

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