”We want to be renowned for our smart workboat concepts”
Entering the anti-squatting building in Amsterdam-East does not really make me think that something very innovative and nautical is going on inside. However, the opposite is true: DutchWorkboats resides here and is ready to conquer the maritime world with their innovative workboat concepts.
Both Bruno Tideman and Rob Voskuil, founders of Dutch Workboats, do not exactly have a maritime background. Tideman studied mechanical engineering at the Delft University of Technology, used to work in the steel and glass world and at British Telecom from 2000 to 2006, Voskuil worked in the financial industry and in 2009 bought an almost bankrupt furniture factory together with a business partner and made the factory profitable again. However, both have a passion for boats since their youth and both wanted to do something with that passion. In 2006, Tideman decided to become an entrepreneur: ”I did the project management of a shipbuilding project in Vietnam and I decided to make my dream come true: to build the ideal boat, designing and building it myself, the Silverbreeze. I received several orders for this water sports product, but I felt that my heart was more with the offshore world. Together with a business partner, I founded Blue-Spirit and we set up a factory for RIBs for navy and patrol purposes in Vietnam. Two year ago I sold my part of the company to my business partner.”
How it all started
Tideman and Voskuil were introduced to each other in 2007 and together, they set up Sloepdelen.nl together with Stormer Marine, an online portal for renting electric sloops in the canals of Amsterdam. Voskuil: ‘‘We organised the financing, the online booking system, the website and bought the fleet. Stormer Marine exploited the company and we sold it together early 2009.” After Voskuil sold his part of the furniture factory to his companion early 2012, he decided that it really was time to get into the nautical business: ”I contacted Bruno again and we made the decision to found a workboat building company.” And so it was that they started DutchWorkboats in June 2012, focusing on the niche market of fast workboats between five and twelve metres manufactured from aluminium or HDPE, high density poly ethylene. Voskuil: ”We realise workboat concepts, have them designed and built and manage the whole building process. You can compare us to a contractor without an own production. However, we aim at realising our own, limited production within the next two to three years to be able to build one-offs and demos ourselves. Our boats can be used for inshore and near-shore activities and our clients are basically everyone who works on the water. We want to design and build smart workboats that help our clients to earn money, by being able to offer customised boats for standard-boat prices. We strive to select the best suitable boat builder to match the budget and quality standards.”
“We just delivered an aluminium fast survey boat to a big Dutch dredging company”, Tideman proudly continues. “It was a very specific brief: a survey boat that is able to survey with high speed, two to three times as fast as regular survey boats. The client wanted to integrate a multibeam echosoundersystem, which he used on a small boat, but he wanted a faster, better and more comfortable boat. We thought a lot about the hull shape and were able to offer him a fast, light survey boat that can be transferred on a trailer.” The vessel is 7.85 metres long with a planing survey speed up to 22 knots. According to DutchWorkboats, the hull shape, trim flaps and sterndrive ensure a level ride and controlled manoeuvres in all operational speed areas. The vessel is equipped with, among others, 24 Volt board net, a heater and air conditioning, LED navigation lights and interior lights.
Another interesting product DutchWorkboats offers is HDPE boats. Tideman: ”This material can be cut and welded to the customer’s preference. HDPE is lighter than water, but very tough compared to other plastics. The boat can be propelled with both inboard and outboard engines. It has little resistance in the water, is unsinkable and the material does not corrode. It is an environmentally friendly material, which can be recycled into other applications. Because of the material the boats cannot be painted and it scratches easily, therefore it is mainly interesting as a workboat for users who think look and style are not important. I really believe that this is the workboat material of the future, it is especially suitable for boats up to ten metres.” Voskuil adds: ”This material is hardly used in the maritime world and we are the only ones in our region, so in this field we are doing scientific research for the maritime industry. It is unique to be able to create low-cost plastic boats without needing to make a mould, which means we are able to offer tailor-made boats. We have a world to win, especially in the dredging industry.” DutchWorkboats sells one of these workboats almost weekly, as according to Tideman and Voskuil, the low price makes the boats easy accessible, among their customers Inter Boat Marinas, a company specialising in the design, development, manufacture and installation of floating pontoons and marinas who was looking for a workboat that would not scratch their floating pontoons during installation.
The third innovation DutchWorkboats offers, is the aluminium fast tender. This boat is based on Tideman’s former Silverbreeze: ”I collected everything I did not like of a RIB and tried to change that in this boat. It has an axe bow, so it cuts through the water and is less susceptible to pitching. The bow does not raise above the water, which means no slamming. It is hard to damage, very fast, very light and can be transported on a trailer, but also fits into a 40 foot container. It is perfectly suitable for high speed operations like quick response, fast patrolling and interceptions.” During the interview, the tender was available for a test drive at the mouth of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, just behind DutchWorkboats’ office and I have to say, it was a great experience to almost fly over the Amsterdam waters at speed of 45 knots, but with no pitching and slamming.
When asked if starting a new company during an economic crisis must have been tough, Voskuil answers: ”Of course it is difficult to start a company in the middle of the crisis. We have to be careful with our expenditures, so we do not have a luxurious office, we get sponsored to go to trade fairs, our company clothes are sponsored by Carhartt Workwear, who happens to be our neighbour. However, we notice that companies take an interest in our concepts and that the products we have to offer are of use for the clients.” – ”Our passion and persistence help as well”, Tideman adds smiling.
Tideman and Voskuil have their future in clear sight. ”We want to become a known, renowned and solid player in the workboat world. When people think about workboats, they have to think about DutchWorkboats. Operating in a niche range that big yards do not offer enables us to be competitive in our market. We want to build a reputation with the best possible prices for our customers and we want our products to have an added value, so we can show our clients that they can save money right away”, says Tideman. ”Currently we mainly focus on the Netherlands, but we want to expand to Europe. We already deliver cutting plates to Asia, where our boats are also being built. The biggest challenge for our second year in operations will be generating a stable flow of income. Within two to three years we want to create our own production and also our own office.” Voskuil adds: “We had our start-up phase, we now look for partners who want to complement our portfolio with their models. We want to sell both smart proven concepts and innovative new ones, our own as well as third parties’ ones. It is our intention to offer an as broad as possible pallet of workboat solutions, so we never have to say ‘no’ to a client, in combination with the best price-quality combination possible. DutchWorkboats is our long-term plan, until we retire.”
Gail van den Hanenberg