Technical, responsible, international and human. Those are the words that typify the work of a Technical Superintendent. These professionals supervise the technical management and maintenance of vessels deployed on projects worldwide.
‘If you have worked at Van Oord for ten years, it feels as if you have had ten jobs’, says Stefan Hansum. His colleague Carlo Solleveld nods in agreement. They should know. They both started as Technical Superintendents and have worked on countless projects. As Plant Department Managers, they now offer guidance to Plant Managers, who in turn manage the Technical Superintendents. Their department, which operates from the head office in Rotterdam, acts as the “shipping company”.
Fleet in excess of one hundred
The Technical Superintendents are their eyes and ears, says Stefan. ‘They are involved in our worldwide dredging, offshore gas & oil and wind projects. As part of those projects, we deploy a huge variety of vessels.’ Carlo produces the schedule and summarises: ‘Trailing suction hopper dredgers, cutter suction dredgers, side stone dumping vessels, split hopper barges, a pipelay barge and various stationary vessels. The entire fleet has to be continuously checked, maintained and repaired, if necessary. Our Technical Superintendents manage that work.’ Safety and legislation are also very important aspects. ‘Risk management and compliance are leading to a great extent.’ Stefan adds.
The Technical Superintendents at Van Oord have not all sailed themselves, but they do have technical training. ‘That training often consists of mechanical engineering or shipbuilding at a technical college or university. Some are electrical engineers. Technical expertise is the main aspect, but personal skills and being able to deal with people effectively are also important. A brilliant technician with a lack of communication skills will not get very far’, says Stefan. Carlo outlines the job dynamic. ‘It is not a nine to five job, even though there are periods with office hours. Things can change quickly when it comes to planning and deployment. An inspector must enjoy that and be able to exploit those changes smartly in day-to-day practice. The international environment also adds to the dynamic.’
Carlo describes the company as follows: ‘A family business that is big, but small enough to know a lot of people. It is quite informal and the door is always open. A great variety of events are organised, such as family days or open days when a ship is named.’ The fact that Van Oord is not listed is decisive for its character, he says. ‘We need to respond to market trends, but we can take a longer term view than a company with shareholders.’ ‘An exceptional aspect is, for instance, that you can start in the Ship Management Department and progress horizontally to other departments. The fact that the company is open to and big enough for such developments is unique’, says Stefan.