Not every shipbuilder here at the Euronaval expo just outside Paris builds enormous ships, and there are quite a few shipyards specializing in smaller, more economical designs. One of the standouts is Damen, a Dutch-based shipbuilder exhibiting here for the first time. The firm has been steadily increasing its naval business worldwide, but why show here now?
“We are a French company now,” declared Reinier van Herel, Damen’s regional director for France.
“This is our message to France, that we are heavily committed in France.”
The shift began in April 2012 when the privately owned company bought the Sobrena repair yard in Brest, now Damen Shiprepair Brest. In 2013 another repair yard, Arno Dunkerque, came under Damen ownership, and is now known as Damen Shiprepair Dunkerque. Together, the two yards employ more than 500 employees.
“We merged the French shipyards with our knowledge and are working to get the best of both worlds,” van Herel said.
Damen has gained a reputation for innovative ship designs, both for the Dutch Navy and for export, particularly to less-sophisticated navies. The company’s small Sigma-type light frigates, for example, are proving popular, having already been acquired for Morocco, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The company also operates 35 shipyards worldwide, employing more than 7,500 people in shipbuilding and ship repair.
The two French yards have specialized in commercial repair work, although Damen is seeking naval customers, and a Moroccan frigate is currently undergoing overhaul at the Brest facility.
In France, however, the company is interested in building relationships with smaller shipyards.
“For the time being we are looking to expand the ship repair facilities” in France, van Herel said, “but we’re looking for opportunities to join with existing shipyards. There are many small shipyards here capable of building smaller craft.”