The family owned business Van Aalst Group began in the 1950’s, and is today fronted by the third generation of the family.
Today the company specialises in the pneumatic cargo handling of machinery, equipment and its development for transport and distribution to the marine, offshore and construction industry. Initially in the market of cement handling from its location in Holland it subsequently became involved in the import of cement, working at shipyards. Recognising that the concepts behind the products it developed to move the cement from ship to shore could be used in other industries, its scope of work began to diversify.
In a period of restructuring and focus the business entered the offshore industry, developing products for installation on supply vessels and expanding its capabilities. “The cement industry is a relatively small market in comparison with the scale of the offshore industry. We wanted to develop a different type of product, which can handle multiple cargos. It was in 2007 that we developed the CargoMaxx division, which has ultimately led to more than 50 orders in supply vessels, witnessing a growing demand from the drilling market, picking up orders for large drilling rigs,” says Jeroen Van Lakerveld, commercial director.
The core business is the engineering and enhancement of cargo handling systems aiming for ultimate operational safety, maximised availability and efficiency, at minimum cost. Driven to achieving a more effective use of vessel and cargo capacity, reduced berthing times, plus faster, easier and safer cargo loading/discharging procedures it has saved operators time and money while performing substantially more environmental-friendly procedures. The demand for its products has grown from the requirement to move waste products with a higher degree of safety and flexibility.
Research and development (R&D) is the backbone of CargoMaxx and Van Aalst’s continuous growth and success. Its highly skilled, field experienced engineers have tailored the products to the specific demands of clients. From the R&D centre, based at Van Aalst’s headquarters in the Netherlands, it works on a variety of products and innovations, including state-of-the-art sustainable machinery and equipment that requires less complicated maintenance cycles. With this in focus, the business constantly monitors the machineries and liquid and dry cargo systems, striving to optimise the performance and endurance in harsh or even arctic environmental conditions.
“We have been able to utilise our knowledge to develop innovative products for different markets. Our focus is on providing solutions to oil companies and ship owners, offering a product that is environmentally friendly and safe,” points out Jeroen. Through an operational history that has encompassed Europe, Asia, theUS and Brazil, the business has seen varying trends. “The thriving market in China is currently pushing cost down, and as a European company labour expenses are higher than those competitors so we have to remain very cost efficient whilst ensuring that the products we supply are of a higher quality.
“In 2012 we established an office in Houston, which resulted in picking up contracts from thelarge oil companies and rig owners with offices located in the region. These companies also havetechnical offices in Singapore, China and Korea.On the back of the contracts we had won in the Asian region we took the decision to open up an office in Singapore,” he adds. For several years the business has traded in Singapore, recognising the important position in serving the offshore market. As a hub for many supply vessels, ship owners and shipyards, it is a base from which a lot of engineering work is carried out. As well as these benefits the move brings ease of communication, and brings the shipyards into direct contact with the trade that enters the region, complementing the service it provides from its office in Shanghai.
Continuing the global growth of the business, Van Aalst has expanded its agency network into Turkey on the back of a very good relationship with Norwegian ship owners undertaking fabrication work in Turkey. “The Turkish market is upcoming and we need to be there on the front line. We expect that in the next couple of years Turkey will begin manufacturing its own vessels,” says Jeroen. The Korean market too is very important for the business with fabrication of large vessels, FPSOs and drilling rigs in the region particularly high. “We see a lot of potential in the area, but it takes time to establish good relationships and develop enquiries into orders. We are operating in a very niche market, but our strength comes from being an innovative company, delivering products that the client requires. Our latest development is the drill cutting system and this is picking up particularly well. In 2007 we were asked by Statoil and Petrobras to come up with a solution for moving and transporting waste material such as drill cuttings from the rig back to shore,” he points out.
Drill cuttings are a waste product that needs to be recycled within strict guidelines. The material contains different chemicals and materials and as such it is a very difficult material to pump. In normal operation this would be emptied into a skip and hoisted from the rig to a supply vessel. With safety implications relating to the use of the crane, Van Aalst developed its new solution. The pumped solution removes material quickly and in a safe manner. Eliminating manual handling and the use of the crane not only significantly improves the safety aspect, but the speed of the operation means the supply vessel does not have to stay on location for as long.
Promoting its innovative approach to the demands of the industry, the business will later this year be at ONS in Norway highlighting the benefits of it products, capable of storing and pumping high-density solids. Looking ahead to the future, the business is set to maintain its worldwide focus, and continue to develop an array of products. “Our focus remains on driving innovation, developing new technologies and establishing ways of implementing these into new markets. Additionally we are looking to diversify with our existing clients and addressing demands of the continuously growing Asian market. However, the market in Europe is also picking up, and as a result for the next two years we expect to be very busy on a global scale,” concludes Jeroen.
Van Aalst Group
Services: Pneumatic cargo handling services