Shipyard De Hoop celebrates its 130-year anniversary

Shipyard De Hoop announces its 130th anniversary as a successful Dutch designer, engineer and builder of custom-built vessels. Each and every ship they deliver is unique and built in-house, which means no standard processes, but a high level of customisation. Unique to the company is that its 130-year history and its people, makes the present Shipyard De Hoop what it is. Without either, the shipyard would not have been able to grow into the company it is today.

Past, Present, and Future

Shipyard ‘De Hoop’ originates from, and remains as, a combination of shipyards and building locations. The first site, where the predecessor of the current shipyard started in 1889, is Lobith-Tolkamer. These facilities were partly destroyed by fire on several occasions and, during the Second World War, completely destroyed. However, the traditional shipbuilders’ knowledge and skills, which had been handed down from one generation to the next, survived. After the war, a modern yard was built and the production of a large variety of numerous advanced vessels began. Until 1995, they gradually developed their current signature of designing and building modern inland and seagoing vessels, produced according to the highest standards and complex specifications.

In 1991, under new ownership, the yard introduced a fresh philosophy: ‘creating added value for the customer’. The nineties were important for the yard; while they continued building the ships with which they already conquered a successful market position, they also fruitfully started to concentrate on the inland passenger cruise vessel market. In January 1999, De Hoop acquired the former Verolme Shipyards in Heusden and renamed it De Hoop Heusden. With the acquisition of Houma Fabricators in Louisiana, USA, renaming it De Hoop Houma in 2001, the American offshore market opened up for De Hoop and they were awarded a series of orders from offshore suppliers. The three building facilities complemented each other well and, in collaboration, they could not only accept more, but also larger projects.

In 2004, Patrick Janssens joined the board at De Hoop and the strategy was adjusted to keep up with the changing economy. The shipyard in Heusden was sold in 2005 and the yard in Louisiana in 2006, in order to focus more on innovative shipbuilding, which was in high demand. This strategic move also improved the yard’s financial position, making it stronger, more independent and ready for the future. The combined shipbuilding and design knowledge of the three yards was regrouped to form the basis of a comprehensive engineering department. In 2007, when the economy seemed healthy and the market was picking up, De Hoop acquired De Volharding shipyard in Foxhol, in the north of the Netherlands, renaming it De Hoop Foxhol. In October 2007, Patrick Janssens took over both yards in a management buyout.

Today, De Hoop continually strives to expand and upgrade their skill base, with both experienced craftsmen and the recruitment of young people to be trained within the shipyard. In expansion to their already impressive scope, they recently effectively entered the market of exclusive sea-going cruise vessels. Having their own design and engineering department, together with all other disciplines (not only hull building, but also prefabrication, carpentry/interior manufacturing, installation facilities, piping, etc.) allow them to build a complete ‘turn-key’ ship from scratch.

The market, the order book, and the people

In 2014, when it was already foreseeable that the offshore market would decline, De Hoop scored the largest offshore order in the world at that time: a series of ten modern offshore supply vessels for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). This order ensured that ADNOC was declared “Shipowner of the year” during the OSJ (Offshore Support Journal) conference that year. In recent years, the yard also built a series of shallow draft tugs for Kazakhstan, various highly luxurious river cruise vessels, Fast Supply Intervention Ships, Special Mission Vessels, and Day Passengers and Event vessels. Furthermore, for the first time in almost 60 years, De Hoop commenced the design and construction of an upmarket seagoing cruise ship: Celebrity Flora (for Celebrity Cruises, part of Royal Caribbean Cruises).

Unfortunately, around that same time De Hoop was forced to release most of the permanent staff at the Foxhol facilities. More recently, however, new activities have been initiated again at that location, deploying smaller dedicated project teams, which collaborate with various local companies. Characteristic for current developments is the phenomenon of outfitting large vessels in Rotterdam and, as such, De Hoop frequently has to set up an entire temporary ‘pop-up’ shipyard in this harbor area. Taking the above into consideration, we can conclude that few shipyards have a history with so many different types of ships, making De Hoop a strong, versatile company. If the transport or offshore market segment is shrinking, De hoop flexibly makes a switch to sea-going cruise ships and/or special ships suitable for inspection, patrol and monitoring tasks. Ranging from a 19-metre tugboat to a 110-metre / 7-deck cruise ship, it is all happening at the two yard locations.

To accommodate these developments, the current organisation not only employs 150 of their own craftsmen, but also contracts an average of around 500 – 800 additional external co-workers on a continuous basis. This ‘continuous’ aspect is undeniably important to De Hoop, to ensure craftsmanship and experience are maintained. Furthermore, De Hoop management is keen to have many Dutch suppliers and subcontractors on the client-approved ‘makers list’, providing great opportunities for the Dutch shipbuilding industry as a whole and, in turn, boosting both the Dutch economy and the local industry.

Looking at the yard from a client’s perspective, their formula for success is a proven concept, as many clients are returning customers. De Hoop’s interactions with stakeholders are characterised by long-term relationships with both suppliers and customers. As a good example, they are currently building the 15th river cruiser for Lueftner (since 1997) and KD (since the sixties). And Spido, a regular returning client since 1998, have just taken delivery of an event/party ship at the yard and are currently considering further fleet expansion.

De Hoop’s order portfolio today comprises a nice variety of craft, ranging from very exquisite (design) vessels, such as expedition cruise ships, river cruise vessels and a spectacular event ship for KD, to a number of sturdy Special Mission Vessels. As negotiations are ongoing and promising, more orders of this magnitude are expected and Shipyard De Hoop looks to the future with confidence!

Partly due to further specialisation in more complex ships and because they are moving more and more into niche markets, De hoop has recently expanded their management team. To experience the view from a relatively new member of the De Hoop family, we briefly interviewed Thijs van der Schaaf:

The vision of a new face

“I have only been working at Shipyard De Hoop since August this year, so I don’t really have much right to speak . . ..” Thijs begins modestly. “On the other hand,” he continues, “during my career I was allowed to work at and experience various other shipyards, so I can make a comparison and evaluate the differences.”

Thijs explains the content of his work: “Though originally hired as Engineering and Projects Manager, I was immediately fully absorbed into the large cruise vessel project for Royal Caribbean Cruises, to coordinate the flow of information and to communicate the agreements between client and De Hoops project team”.

In his opinion: “At De Hoop it is all about the professionals who have been working there for a long time. People know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are well attuned to each other. The yard’s designs are challenging, though well thought out. Having so much experience, the production teams can create something beautiful at lightning speed, with a minimum amount of information.”

“With the complexity of the current order portfolio, we had to implement a safer strategy, not relying on craftsmanship only. The time has come to reduce the risk of information getting lost along the way and ensure that all complex data is communicated to the right persons. That is why the DeHoop 2.0 improvement project has been initiated.” Thijs explains: “De Hoop has strengthened the organisation and invested in more efficient methods of assuring the correct implementation of agreements, with new ERP, planning, and a Cloud-based action database. I am convinced that, as a result, there will be reduced failure costs and even better streamlining of the process. On the other hand, it causes an increase in indirect costs and overheads, but that is inherent to this organisational restructuralisation. In the past, however, it was precisely these low overhead costs that ensured the low cost price, which always led to an attractively and competitively priced vessel for the client.”

Thijs concludes: “So we strive to improve and further professionalise the level of organisation, nevertheless we are careful not to become too bulky, slow, and bureaucratic. Opposing effects and therefore a very fascinating process to participate in, in my opinion.”

Time for a party!

In Tolkamer, on the 23rd of November 2019, Shipyard De Hoop celebrated its 130th anniversary. The smashing event was held in the yard’s own welding shed, which gave it an industrial yet warm domestic feeling.

Some 700 people of around 20 nationalities attended the festivities during this evening event; including the yards own employees, business relations and other stakeholders. All departments and disciplines of the yard were well represented: steelworkers, welders, carpenters, painters, electricians, and engineers. Furthermore, an interesting selection of suppliers, client representatives, bankers, lawyers, politicians, financiers, and accountants were present.

The celebration was graced with a richly filled music programme and a spectacular line-up of artists, including live performances by two different bands and a special guest performance by Frans Duijts. In addition to the entertainment programme, there was an abundant selection of food and drinks on offer. No less than ten kinds of beer were served and a variety of food trucks took care of the awesome catering, bringing fun and delicious food on wheels!

We thank all the people who made this possible with their involvement in Shipyard De Hoop and appreciate your presence and participation in our party!

Just building a boat together – that is our hobby and our passion.