Arnout Damen at the Helm of Dutch Shipbuilding Empire

On 1 January, Arnout Damen became the new CEO of Damen Shipyards Group, Europe’s largest civil shipbuilding group. At the same time, the shipbuilding company switched to a divisional structure in hopes of serving the market more effectively and efficiently.

Arnout Damen takes over from René Berkvens, who has been the CEO of Damen Shipyards Group for more than thirteen years. Damen Shipyards Group comprises almost forty European shipbuilding and repair yards, sixteen of which are in the Netherlands. Together these have some 12,000 employees on the payroll and account for an annual turnover of approximately two billion euros.

Arnout Damen has been preparing for the move to CEO for the past nine years as a member of the group’s Executive Board, responsible for operations and commercial affairs. Berkvens will remain involved with Damen and will eventually become a member of the supervisory board. Arnout Damen will be succeeded in his position as chief commercial officer by Jan-Wim Dekker.

Divisional Structure

In his new position as CEO, his first priority is the further implementation of the divisional structure. ‘Preparations for this have been going on for several months,’ explains Damen. ‘With the growth of recent years, the switch to a divisional structure has become logical to remain close to the various markets and to further expand our leading position in the fields of quality, digitalisation and sustainability.’

Difficult Times

As it happens, the company is facing difficult times. Last year, for the first time in fifteen years, the company made a loss. The shipbuilder suffers from the fact that potential clients in various maritime sectors are currently delaying their investments. Damen also had to contend with operational losses at recently acquired shipyards.

Moreover, Damen is still mentioned in a corruption investigation by the Netherlands Public Prosecutor’s Office into a case taking place in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Two years ago, the Dutch Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) raided the head office in Gorinchem.

This article is partially based on an article by Nieuwsblad Transport, a sister publication of SWZ|Maritime.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.