Karel Doorman: Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding Delivers The Netherlands Navy’s Flagship

On September 4th, 2014, Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding, delivered the latest addition to the Royal Netherlands Navy’s fleet. The ship, christened as Karel Doorman, is a Joint Support Ship (JSS) and will replace the HNLMS Zuiderkruis, which was decommissioned in 2012, as well as auxiliary ship HNLMS Amsterdam. With her length just shy of 205 metres, Karel Doorman is the largest ship ever delivered to the Royal Netherlands Navy.

The Karel Doorman has an extensive list of tasks and is extremely well equipped to fulfill them in the most efficient way:

– Provisioning of other ships at sea with fuel, water and ammunition
– Seabasing: a base to support land troops
– A platform for helicopter operations
– Transport of rolling military equipment
– Functioning as a hospital at sea
– Sensors and weaponry for self-defence in a combat zone

The ship has all the bells and whistles of the Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Holland Class of ships, previously delivered to the Netherlands Navy, including the striking pyramid-shaped mast on top, housing the array of sensors and communication equipment. But the Karel Doorman holds so much more in her impressive hull. If a parallel were to be drawn with commercial ships, her operating profile would include the functions of a roro-vessel, container ship, tanker and accommodation vessel. The ship will most likely also be used for humanitarian and anti-piracy missions.


Similar to a large offshore supply vessel, Karel Doorman features a dynamic positioning system of grade DP-1. This is made possible by its diesel-electric propulsion installation consisting of five main generators, two e-motor driven propellers, two bow thrusters and a stern thruster. The rudders – controlled with rotary vane steering gears – can be moved independently, but during normal navigation they are coupled by electronic means. A power management system automatically matches the amount of generators running to the power demanded by the load.

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Karel Doorman can be used in all combat spectra and is specifically designed for that, with low susceptibility and high survivability design features. She is well equipped to defend herself. Two goalkeepers can blast incoming missiles out of the sky, and two 30 millimetre Oto Melara Marlin automatic machine guns are remote controlled from the command centre. A CHAFF decoy system can project a radar copy of the vessel at a distance, in order to misguide incoming fire. Finally four 0.50 machineguns can be used for short range interventions.

When the Karel Doorman comes under attack, she is well built to survive. The watertight subdivision is such that two compartments may be flooded without causing a loss of the stability. The ship’s generators and electric propulsion motors are placed in different watertight compartments, to achieve redundancy in the case of a hull rupture. On either side of the engine rooms and between the heli-hangar and the hospital, full-width cofferdams provide an extra barrier in case of explosions. Within the accommodation, several blast-proof bulkheads with matching doors help to isolate the damage.

In the case of a chemical attack or a fire nearby, the entire accommodation ventilation can be isolated from the outside in seconds, creating a so-called gas citadel. All around the outside of the vessel, sprinklers are mounted which can spray seawater, to rinse off unwanted chemicals or for boundary cooling in the case of a fire. The accommodation, cargo spaces and engine rooms are protected with a watermist fire protection system from Ultra Fog. This variant is a so-called ‘intelligent’ system with dry pipes and open nozzles and electrically controlled section valves in the accommodation areas as well as in the machinery spaces and technical areas. The lay-out of the Ultra Fog system on board Karel Doorman has been specified by the client in order to have full redundancy should a calamity occur on either portside or starboard side of the ship. Two fully redundant pump stations on respectively portside and starboard side are connected by way of a ringline intersected and controlled by motorised valves. There is also a stand-alone watermist system for the deep fat fryer in the galley.

No 6 MbH September 2014 voor Website.jpg 46 3The wheelhouse and other essential spaces on board are shielded by steel plating of increased thickness. All vibrating equipment and essential systems are mounted on steel springs, which allows the absorption of shocks without internal damage to the equipment. In some cases, such as the wheelhouse and the command centre, the entire floor is supported by springs, allowing the navigation and communication consoles to be fixed directly to the floor structure. The equipment includes three navigation radar systems, combined with a military radar system provide an optimum situational awareness for navigation even during the darkest hours or other periods of limited visibility. The Warship Electronic Chart Display and Information System (WECDIS) that is used for route planning and monitoring, integrates all navigation sensors and the radar video for further enhancement of the situational awareness.

Crew modules

While the ship can be sailed with a minimum crew of 120, this can be increased up to 300 people, depending on the task at hand. Captain Peter van den Berg ofthe Royal Netherlands Navy explains: ”The manning of the ship is organised with modules, allowing quick deployment of the necessary troops and equipment. For example, we have a module for the hospital and a module for helicopter crews. Usually these people are flown in, making it unnecessary for them to spend lengthy periods at sea waiting for work.”

There are ample facilities for the crew, including a top notch gym and separate lounge areas according to rank. For cost-effectiveness there is a central mess for meals, but this also has a positive side effect: as crew from all ranks eat together three times a day, there are no strangers on board and team spirit is greatly improved.

Landing beach

A large opening in the stern can be sunk about a metre below the waterline by ballasting the ship. Behind the opening is a rather steep ramp, onto which a landing craft utility (LCU) can land and be further hauled aboard by two twelve-ton winches. When the stern door is open, military vehicles such as tanks or trucks can drive straight from the LCU onto the large vehicle deck, where lashing points and container fittings are provided. The LCUs themselves can not be shipped aboard Karel Doorman and are usually transported on a LPD (Landing Platform Dock), of which the Royal Netherlands Navy has two.

A stern-quarter hull door with foldable ramp on starboard side provides a more convenient way to load rolling material – at least when access to port infrastructure is available. A large elevator leads from the vehicle deck to the ammunition store below, while a second elevator can lift vehicles or cargo to and from the heli-deck, through a large deck hatch.

No 6 MbH September 2014 voor Website.jpg 46 4On deck, there is ample space for helicopters to land, and a gigantic full-width door gives access to the heli-hangar just forward. There is enough space to house either two twin-rotor Chinook transport helicopters or six NH90s. On the aft side of the accommodation, there is a flight control center from which the heli-operations can be orchestrated. For fast interventions in the water two fast motorboats, called FRISCs (Fast Raiding Interception Special Forces Craft), can be quickly launched over the starboard side. For fueling of other ships at sea, either side of the main deck features a replenishment-at-sea mast with flexible hose, which can be suspended on a wire from ship to ship. The fuel transfer pumps have a capacity of 750 m3/h. The bunker capacity of Karel Doorman is 7,700 cubic metres for diesel oil and 1,000 cubic metres for kerosene.


Diesel-electric propulsion was chosen for its flexibility and its suitability for dynamic positioning. Another reason is that it allowed for a reduction on total amount of horsepower installed. The ship is either sailing full power, with few other large consumers, or its propulsion load is low, but bow- and stern thrusters and hydraulic systems require a lot of power. The ship’s five generators – four identical V-12 engines rated at 5.5 MW and one 6L type engine of the same series rated at 2.8 MW – are always suitably loaded, as the number of units running is controlled by a power management system. The propulsion package includes two fixed pitch propellers driven by electric motors, two 1.25 MW bow thrusters and a 0.75 MW stern thruster.

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The level of automation and system integration on board is extremely high, and even features a touch screen wall in the command center to control firefighting activities. The output of this screen is repeated at several other locations on board, ensuring quick and precise communication from the damage control center to the boots on the ground. Every crewmember has a small handheld device – called a smartphone in the civilian world – giving them access to those systems in the ship’s extensive automation system which are relevant to their task. Through the military satellite communication system, crewmembers also have (limited) access to the internet, allowing to keep in touch with family and friends.

Imtech was responsible for the engineering of the complete electrical installation and the design and delivery of the Integrated Platform Management System and the fully automated Integrated Bridge Management System, including various communication systems and the Degaussing System. This system reduces the magnetic signature that is introduced by the steel of the ship, and provides the ship with the necessary protection against magnetic mines and other hazards that use the magnetic signature for detection of a ship. This function has been realised by installation of a large number of cables around the ship. The sophisticated degaussing automation system calculates a current that runs through these cables thereby modifying the ship’s magnetic characteristics.

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Ballast water treatment

In anticipation of upcoming regulations, Karel Doorman is already equipped with a ballast water treatment system. The system uses UV radiation to kill micro-organisms in the ballast water. The hull of the ship is protected against corrosion both by anodes and an impressed-current corrosion protection system. In the seawater cooling system, an impressed-current anti-fouling system is installed to combat marine growth in the piping and heat exchangers. The ship’s hull is protected with a self-polishing silicon-type anti-fouling from Akzo Nobel.


Damen Naval’s Project manager Joop Noordijk: “It is our philosophy to build navy vessels as much as a commercial ship as possible, and only use navy-grade equipment where it is really needed. This leads to a very cost-effective naval vessel, even for a one-off like Karel Doorman. The ship is also built fully under class, Germanischer Lloyd, and the SOLAS rules for Special Purpose Ships, guaranteeing the basic safety requirements.” Costs were also reduced by building the ship to a large extent at the Damen Shipyard in Galati, Romania, including piping, insulation and main machinery components. The ship was transferred to Vlissingen in August 2013 for commissioning and final outfitting of the more complex systems.

No 6 MbH September 2014 voor Website.jpg 46 7Karel Doorman was built to the design of the DMO, the Defense Material Organization, which called in the help of MARIN for the hull design, as well as the propulsion system. Captain Paul de Leeuw, project manager of the DMO, explains: ”It is the intense collaboration between Damen Shipyards, the DMO and the national research institutes, such as MARIN and TNO, which makes the vessel so fit for its purpose. The shipyard doesn’t just build what we want, or – as sometimes happens at other naval shipyards – what they want, but starts up a dialogue proposing solutions to create an even better vessel. Because it is a private enterprise and not owned by the government as is the case for competing shipyards, they are very efficient shipbuilders.”

The ship was handed over from the shipyard to the DMO on 4 September 2014, after which the remaining military systems will be installed and commissioned in a period of about a year. Karel Doorman’s homeport will be Den Helder.

Bruno Bouckaert

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