Delivering on diversity


Thecla Bodewes Shipyards is a four-yard build and repair family business with long pedigree, quality repute and Dutch pragmatism. “TB Shipyards stands out from our competitors because of our versatile approach and wide-ranging expertise,” said Project Manager Emiel Mocking. Report by Colin Chinery.

Hands on and no nonsense: that’s the uncompromising mindset of Thecla Bodewes Shipyards (TB Shipyards), the innovative Dutch shipyard business whose characteristics include flexibility, fast response and an impressively expanding family tree.

TB Shipyards specialises in building all types of seagoing and inland navigation vessels: pushers, water injection dredgers, day-passenger ships, fishing vessels, tankers, low-profile coasters and project cargo vessels.

In addition to all innovative activities and the construction of new vessels at Thecla Bodewes Shipyards Harlingen and Kampen, Thecla Bodewes Shipyards also carries out all types of repairs, maintenance work and conversions at the yards in Meppel and Hasselt.

The family-owned business in its modern form began back in the 1920s at Hasselt (east-central Netherlands). In 2003, a second location was acquired at Meppel, specialising in the construction of lightweight dry cargo ships, tankers, passenger ships and low-airdraft coasters for inland and coastal navigation. Today, these two locations are known as TB Ship Repair.

“Repairs, focused on inland vessels, account for 5-10% of our overall business, and although we are still building inland vessels, the market is not very good at the moment,” said Project Manager Emiel Mocking. “As a result, we now have a very strong focus in sea-going vessels. Traditionally, a lot of Dutch shipyards are focusing on cargo vessels. Thankfully, from far before the crisis, we have focused on a wider range of products, which has helped us to survive.”

An offshore accommodation barge and a small Ro-Ro cargo vessel for a French client are recent examples. TB Shipyards are currently building a serial of sea-going pusher tugs for the Caspian Sea.

New building expansion

In 2013, the former Volharding Shipyard was bought at Harlingen for the construction of vessels up to 120m in length and 20m breadth. “This was a real step forward in sea-going vessels,” noted Mr Mocking. Two years later, the former Peters Shipyards in Kampen were acquired, also specialising in building sea-going vessels up to 135m.

Meantime in 2007, a new company had been formed - Maritima Green Technology - focusing on development and innovation in the field of green mobility, notably propulsion.

“The developments within Maritima Green Technology must contribute to a cleaner living environment and less fuel consumption and also have economic benefits for the customers,” said Mr Mocking.
Since last year, all companies now operate under the single brand - TB Shipyards. TB Shipyards has a staff of 110, with access to the large supply of technically skilled professionals who work between different yards in the Netherlands.
The reasoning behind the change is explained by owner and CEO Thecla Bodewes. “In the Netherlands, everyone in the shipbuilding industry is well informed about who is who and who does what. However especially abroad, it became increasingly difficult to explain that they were doing business with one company. An internal sense of unity is also greater if all employees work for a company with the same name.”
Focus on various disciplines
Through the various disciplines, Thecla Bodewes Shipyard can serve a large market from the challenging environments in South America to the low temperatures in Russia.
“Our engineering department in Kampen is experienced in developing energy efficient vessels,” added Mr Mocking. “We are also focusing on the polar regions, an upcoming market for special vessels.”
Mr Mocking’s polar comments cast an eye towards the cruise industry as a number of major operators are seeing the benefits of polar expeditions, while the USA, Canada, Iceland, Russia and China are stepping up preparations for the day when large numbers of cargo ships will be traversing an icebound Arctic Ocean.
The specific technical and construction requirements in these unforgiving polar seas of latitudes 60° and higher, are formidable. Suitable engine rooms, modern waste water treatment, adequate garbage stores and eco-sympathetic fuel modification are all prerequisites. Hulls need to be fortified to deal with thick ice. All these are challenges that TB Shipyards is well-placed to transform into solutions.
Dutch quality
While rival Dutch yards participate on a basis of quality, reliability and cost of ownership, competition from Eastern Europe and Asia is down to price competition with significantly lower wage rates.
“We really focus on our efficiency, so we are constantly innovating our engineering operation by integrating the logistics thus reducing cost and lead times,” said Mr Mocking.
“We are highly flexible during the building process and are still able to deliver on time. And this is a very, very strong point. What we are seeing is owners coming back from the East with a lot of bad experiences, and we have and can convince them that, while getting their projects delivered on time, they will gain from getting significant added value.”
Meantime TB Shipyards will be utilising its wide network of agents and brokers to enter a wide variety of markets into which it can develop and produce an increasingly wide variety of products.
Long term relationships
“We always endeavour to build and support long-term relationships with our customers, and by adding value by being flexible and having a fast delivery time, doing all we can to help them,” Mr Mocking assured.
“A simple but very effective way to assure our delivered quality and complete our feedback circle while maintaining communication with our clients on a high level is the fact that our project managers are responsible also for the after sales of their projects.
“At Thecla Bodewes Shipyards, we give you what you want and what you need, when you want it.”

Inside Marine