The vision of Govert de Haas

Owner of an award-winning shipyard where the past and future go hand in hand

2017 is going to be a year to remember for shipyard De Haas Maassluis. Last November the yard won the prestigious KNVTS Ship of the Year award, a prize for a ship designed, built or finished by a Dutch company. “We are very proud that our vessel Seagull-301 was chosen Ship of the Year. It is a great accomplishment for everyone involved in the process,” says yard owner Govert de Haas.

Govert de Haas is sitting in his office overlooking the shipyard. Outside the church, in the heart of the town of Maassluis, catches the eye. On this spot his ancestors started constructing and repairing vessels in the year 1879. De Haas is the fifth generation in charge. “This used to be my playground. One of my first memories of the yard is seeing the ribs of the frame of a vessel. That was in the sixties. As a child I also witnessed a lot of launches. These are fond memories.”

In the old days every town with a harbour had a shipyard, but over the years many of them have closed down. “Luckily we survived. One of the reasons for this is the yard’s location close to the Rotterdam and the Maasvlakte area so there is a lot of maritime activity around here. We are near our clients and suppliers.” Furthermore De Haas Maassluis is the first shipyard that ships pass in the the Nieuwe Waterweg canal on their way to Rotterdam.

But that is not the only reason that De Haas Maassluis is still active as a shipyard. “In this industry you have to innovate constantly. Innovation is part of the DNA of our shipyard. In the fifties De Haas developed the hydrofoil PL30 Aquavion, a vessel that was way ahead of its time. You have to work hard to keep your head above water. What we do is top sport, but in the end you win a prize,” he says.

The Seagull-301 is not your ordinary ship. She is a multi-mission Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV). The vessel can be deployed, both manned and unmanned, for various commercial and military duties such as surveying, patrolling, security missions, incident management and mine detection and neutralization.  The Seagull-301 has three control capabilities: fully manned, ‘remote controlled’ and autonomous. “For instance, cleaning up mines can be hazardous for the crew. In risky operations the crew can be removed with full preservation of the functional characteristics of the vessel. This makes the Seagull-301 a real game changer.”

De Haas focuses on the repair, renovation and construction of specialized vessels, like patrol vessels, search and rescue vessels and incident patrol vessels. “Maintenance covers the main part of our activities. But we know how to build new ships too,” he says with a smile. In the years between 1985 and 2005 the yard was  onlyworking on repairs, upgrades and modifications. “In that period we had no newbuild projects, but clients keep asking why not. We explained to them that we did not want to compete at the lowest price. Instead we wanted to build quality vessels with the total cost of ownership in mind.” When De Haas saw there was a market for this principle, the yard started making newbuilds again. “Our vessels are not the cheapest to buy, but in the end they save you money. We believe in the concept of total cost of ownership, with a focus on the direct and indirect costs of a ship.”

De Haas Maassluis is also a one-stop-shop. All our products and services are in one central location. The holding also owns De Haas PowerPort, located next to the shipyard. This company has its own identity and is a specialist in marine diesel engines. “We take care of the installation of complete engine installations, service and maintenance on diesel engines, generator sets and gearboxes. In combination with the yard we can offer the complete package. The two companies complement each other.”

Their experience on tailor-made specialized professional vessels and a broad skill set, made De Haas the right yard for the construction of the Seagull-301. Someone in their network introduced them to the client Elbit Systems Ltd. The Seagull-301  is equipped with a large number of modern systems, for the performance of various tasks. “It was quite a challenge to fit all these systems on board the 12 metres long vessel, ” says De Haas.

Shipyard De Haas Maassluis is a family business and not only because the De Haas family has built the company over the decades. “There are families who have been working here for three generations. In fact, our shipyard is really a pillar of the community.” The shipyard has a presence in Maassluis, because it is located in the centre of the town. “Our employees live close by, a lot of them come to work by bicycle.”

Shipyard De Haas is aware of its role in the town. “Because of our location, close to residential areas, we have to be aware on how we work. We do not want to be a nuisance for the people that live around us. If residents hang out the washing to dry, they do not want it to be full of soot by the end of the day because of our activities. So we keep this in mind. This mentality has made us sustainable, before it became a buzzword.”

You can say that sustainability is the starting point of De Haas Maassluis. It has become an integral part of activities. “We try to take that extra step, working in accordance with the ISO 14001 standard. And also we believe in the cradle-to-cradle principle, in which we use as much recyclable materials as possible. For us, environment and efficiency go hand in hand, which means that corporate social responsibility does not lead to an unwanted effect on the prices, but rather to effectiveness.”

Govert de Haas learned the trade on the shipyard. He started in 1982 and worked on different business units within the company. “When I find the time, I like to help in the workshop. Work on an engine for a while. I have seen all facets of this company so I know what it is like to get my hands dirty. For me working on an engine or installing a propeller shaft, empties the mind. It is almost therapy.”

The future looks good for De Haas Maassluis. It has a large portfolio with service contracts. “Also we have several irons in the fire when it comes to newbuilds. We expect some spin-offs from the Seagull-301 project. The market has not yet recovered, but we have a positive feeling for 2018,” concludes Govert de Haas.

Posted on 6 maart 2018