Antwerp Ship Repair

Ship shape

Located in the heart of Antwerp Port, Antwerp Ship Repair’s operations are supported by more than a century of know-how and experience in ship repair.

The company offers a complete range of services in the field of dry-docking, general repairs, maintenance, and conversions for any vessel up to 180,000 DWT. The yard comprises six graving docks, alongside fully equipped workshops for steel work, as well as all kinds of machining operations, piping repairs and electrical work, together with a capacity of some 3000 metres of wet repair berths. These facilities help to make Antwerp Ship Repair one of the most important repair yards in Europe.

Founded before the Second World War, the yard was originally used as a naval facility for dry-docking and repairing ships in the Antwerp harbour. Over the years, even as the company changed hands, it has always retained its original operations of dry-docking and repair services. The most recent owners have spent the past three years updating the yard. Jan Cattoor, Antwerp Ship Repair’s managing director, describes the modernisation: “The new owners are gradually improving the yard, making new contacts, finding new clients, and trying to work up to very high standards and levels by improving equipment, cranes and dry docks. For the past year we’ve also been carrying out some port repairs, so the yard will soon have an even higher capacity.”

The main part of the modernisation work was the refurbishment of two dry docks. Jan describes this and other recent improvements: “We only had two working dry docks three years ago. We have already added two more, and so these new smaller docks will bring us up to a total of six at the yard. We also have wet docks, so if a ship does not need to be on a dry dock, it can be held at one of the wet docks, giving us a larger capacity. We are also renewing our cranes because the bigger the ships, the heavier the weight that has to be dealt with. Finally, we are busy replenishing our team and ensuring that the skills of our experienced personnel are passed onto the new recruits we are now employing.”

Improving the yard also means that the company can increase its focus on other areas of the business. Jan elaborates: “We are very well known for our steel repairs, in particular on container vessels and dredgers. A typical reaction in this period of economic crisis is that all ship owners are trying to be more cost-effective, so they try their best to fill one ship, instead of sending two ships with half loads. We assist ships owners with all of their material problems and provide dry docking for reclassification purposes. This makes the range of work we offer extremely wide, and we have solutions for all types of ship problems.”

In terms of new projects, Jan explains that Antwerp Ship Repair is being careful in its approach to new projects. “We, like so many other companies, are being very prudent in starting new projects at the moment,” he explains. “We don’t know how these difficult economic times are going to develop and so we are being cautious to avoid getting into any financial difficulty. Everywhere in the world has seen a slow down in progress in that respect. One of our aims for the future is to focus on making adjustments to ships, rather than branching into new building. Many companies are mainly based in shipbuilding with repairs offered as a secondary service, but we are completely focused on repair or effectual transformation of ships, and this sets us apart.”

This practical approach to business has meant that Antwerp Ship Repair is faring well during the current recession and Jan has high hopes for the future of his company: “The market for us is relatively strong at the moment. Of course we have seen a decrease in the number of ships that are sailing at the moment, but that is a global issue and we are not the only ones to be affected. There are a great number of ships that are currently out of action, so we know we have less chance to repair them. Normally in Antwerp there are roughly 25,000 ship movements each year. If this number is as low as 20,000 or as high as 30,000 it makes a big difference to our business, because we deal with a percentage of that number. At the moment business is faring relatively well but we are not at full capacity, as is the case at all European harbours.

“However, we believe that in the relatively near future, conditions will improve, because although a company can postpone certain repair work for a month or three months or even a year, those repairs will need to be carried out in the end. So we know that business will pick up as this type of work cannot be postponed indefinitely and the demand for our services will always be there. That’s our hope for a bright future for Antwerp Ship Repair. We are also seeing an enormous response to our improved reliability – we always make a big effort to be a reliable partner for ship owners and ensure that we are easy to contact at all times, and our customers appreciate that.”

Finally, Jan outlines his vision for the future of the yard: “I really see a positive outlook for our company, and we are very confident that we will be able to live through this worldwide crisis. Perhaps the clearest sign of the lack of negative impact on our business was the fact that we have been able to retain our full workforce over the past year. This shows that we are succeeding in finding enough work at the moment to sustain us and we hope to grow into a more steady business in the coming months. 2009 has been a year of exceptions and of surprises for all businesses, but we are excited about the opportunities awaiting us in 2010.”

Antwerp Ship Repair
Services: Ship repair