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Going the extra yard
30/11/2006 | Channel:
As a leading European commercial ship builder, Volharding Shipyards has designed and constructed over 110 vessels since 1995.
Through its shipbuilding facilities at Foxhol and Harlingen in the northern Netherlands,Volharding Shipyards designs and builds new containers, tankers and Ro-Ro’s for a wide range of commercial customers. Usually delivering between 12 and 20 vessels per year, the organisation has recently expanded its operations with a joint venture in Turkey and the development of strong relationships with China.
Volharding’s recent history dates to back to 1919 when the Bodewes brothers founded a yard in Foxhol. During the early years it built inland vessels and tugboats, before moving onto motorised coastal vessels, special ships, and then containers. 2001 saw the company significantly begin to expand its operation with the acquisition of the Frisian Shipyard. This move brought new opportunities for further building and repair activities, with a new Ro-Ro designed together with Wagenborg for this yard.
In 2004,Volharding took the significant step of moving outside of the Netherlands for the first time, as together with its affiliated company Volum Denizcilik, it established a joint venture at Um Deniz yard, Izmit, Turkey (left). Commenting on the work at this yard, design and engineering director,Hans Suurmeijer says: “Currently under construction are a number of 12,900 teu vessels. Previously they have delivered two tanker hulls to our Harlingen yard, where we have fitted them out before final delivery to the customer.”
The company also has links with China, however Hans emphasises that the relationship does not extend to any joint ventures: “Together with well-known clients we order ships at Chinese shipyards, sending a design package and providing assistance for them to completely build the vessels before delivery back to us.”
Despite links with China and Turkey, the Netherlands remains Volharding’s predominant market. “Our main focus is at home, but it is a hard fight due to the competition from Chinese yards,” explains Hans. “Overall the market is quite good, and there is a lot of demand, however there is stiff competition that means we have to carefully monitor our prices. That is why we have established links in China, so that we can also offer cheaper vessels.”
As part of the drive to offer competitively priced vessels, a strategy emphasising efficiency has been developed to further its competitiveness in the market.Hans comments: “We want to continue producing in the Netherlands, but it has to be at a certain price level. This means that productivity has to increase as much as possible, with prices remaining stable.We do implement lean principles at own production sites, with our way of thinking incorporated into the Turkish organisation, however we cannot control the Chinese operation, we can only send a good design package and the appropriate advice.”
To create top quality designs,Volharding works closely with customers from the earliest stages of the conceptual and preliminary thinking, through to final contract details, ensuring that the designs are tailored to meet the necessary requirements of each individual client.
“We are always focusing on R&D,” says Hans, “it is an ongoing process where we work together with the future ship-owners, developing new types of vessels that will match their needs.”
Suppliers are also a key part of this design stage, with Hans explaining that their advice is often sought: “When developing products we involve the basic subcontractors, engine and electrical teams, asking for their contributions to our design from the very earliest stages of the project.”
Expanding on the company's supplier relations,Hans continues: “We have a number of long-term relationships dating back to our origins. In the northern Netherlands we have a local group of subcontractors in the fields of electricians, engines, accommodation, paintwork and ventilation, however depending on the type of vessel and equipment, we can work with subcontractors from Scandinavia, Turkey, or further a field.
“We work as a kind of partnership, and if the price is competitive and the quality of the work remains at a high standard, then the relationship is extended.When we entered Turkey for the first time we took our Dutch suppliers with us, however after two years the venture has developed its own local supplier relationships.”
Since the 2004 move into Turkey, the majority of Volharding’s investments have been focused on this area.Hans comments: “There was an earthquake that damaged the yard, but we came in and invested in a new slipway to replace the affected one. It is a large, good quality yard, and with our Turkish partner, our investments have been focused on developing this organisation.”
In looking further to the future,Hans explains that the majority of the large investments in Turkey have been completed, and while this will remain a key part of the company's work, it is China that will move to the forefront of the strategic thinking. “We will expand our activities in China, and through one ship-owner we will look to build relationships in Vietnam. Perhaps India will also play an interesting part in our future, although we do not have any concrete plans.”
Summarising Volharding’s key to success as it continues its growth,Hans says: “We have a wide knowledge in a variety of areas, covering the design of vessels, production, purchasing equipment and, probably most importantly, we have knowledge about the financial market regarding new ship building.”
Competitiveness, quality and flexibility are the main characteristics that Volharding Shipyards works towards from all of its locations, with an emphasis on providing the highest quality design, engineering, project management and production services available.