Interview with Roland Briene, Managing Director of Damen Naval
On the occasion of IMDEX Asia 2023, Asian Defence Journal talked to Roland Briene, Managing Director of Damen Naval and Michiel Hendrikx, Area Director Asia Pacific of Damen Shipyards Group, on their company and products, programmes in Indonesia and other countries in the region.
First, ADJ talk to Roland Briene, Managing Director of Damen Naval.
ADJ: Damen offers local building for its entire portfolio, and has built more than 1,000 vessels in this way in over 70 countries around the world. What makes these organisations choose your products? What are your unique selling points?
MD: First, let us address the general situation of Damen Shipyards Group and Damen Naval, after a long Corona crisis and at this moment on the brink of new security challenges, mostly visible through the Ukraine conflict.
Damen took up many challenges caused by the Corona crisis, mostly affecting the civilian offshore and workboats business, which were already struck. However, these segments show strong recovery, fuelled by launching new, sustainable solutions and designs. Prominent showcase was the world’s first fully electric tugboat for the Port of Auckland, ‘Sparky’.
In the naval domain, EU and NATO answer the growing tensions and globally deteriorated security with new programmes, where Damen Naval operates some world leading programmes. In Germany we have won a tender for the new F126 multi-purpose frigates for the German Navy. We have been running this vast and very complex programme, together with many German partners, for the third year, with envisaged delivery of the four plus two optional ships from 2028 onwards.
In the Netherlands, we are finalising work with the Netherlands Ministry of Defence for a contract for four very sophisticated ASW frigates for the Belgian and Royal Netherlands Navy. With identical ships, this programme sets a landmark in EU naval cooperation for complex naval capabilities, where we hope to see other EU or NATO nations join and profit from a ready and future proof frigate design.
Finally, we team up with Swedish partner Saab, designer and builder of worldwide leading submarine classes in the expeditionary D/E segment, for the new submarines to replace the famous Walrus-class of the Netherlands Submarine Service. Where Sweden, which is opting together with Finland for NATO membership, is constructing as we speak, one of the world’s most innovative Diesel electrical submarine class (A26), Saab and Damen offer balanced cooperation, engaging and strengthening the scattered submarine knowledge present in the Netherlands supply chain and naval ecosystem, including knowledge institutes and universities.
Reason for customers worldwide to choose Damen is the proof and guarantee of first line, future proof naval solutions, that have been chosen by the top navies in NATO and EU, most dominantly by the Netherlands Ministry of Defence and the Royal Netherlands Navy, as some examples show, above.
From there, we offer tailormade solutions based on proven designs and technologies in combination with support and supervision on those specific areas that our customers are in need of. In that way our customers benefit from building modern ships in their own country, based on latest developments and technologies, but with local resources, benefitting from transfer of technology and building up maritime capabilities.
ADJ: Indonesia has a number of SIGMA-class design from Damen in the service of its Navy. Have they indicated if they are looking to add more SIGMA-class ships in the future?
MD: The Indonesian Navy has been operating two types of our SIGMA class vessels, being the SIGMA 9113 Diponegoro and SIGMA 10514 PKR Class. Ever since the introduction of these classes into the Indonesian Navy we have been closely working together for the sustainment and upgrades of these ships. We continue to work closely with the Indonesian Navy and explore any future requirements together.
ADJ: What about possible involvement in bigger frigate size vessels in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region?
MD: Indonesia and the Indonesian Navy have good knowledge of and affinity with several Dutch naval solutions, including larger (AAW) frigates. Through long time cooperation, there is knowledge of e.g. the earlier Jacob van Heemskerk class Air Defence Frigates as well as the current, BMD capable, De Zeven Provinciën Air Defence and Command Frigates.
Many of our partners and customers in the region have witnessed these capabilities, e.g. during the 2021 deployment of Air Defence and Command Frigate ‘Evertsen’. The ship provided AAW duties within Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Carrier group, visiting the Asia-Pacific region.
In this respect the plans of Damen for the Belgian and Netherlands next generation frigates are also interesting. These vessels offer, next to ASW capabilities extensive C4I capabilities and are fit for long range AAW. A future requirement of the Indonesian Navy for a larger, future proof AAW frigate can be accommodated, given this new Belgian-Netherlands Frigate programme, in combination with options for larger SIGMA variants. The concept that showcases these possibilities, OMEGA, has been shown and presented to the Indonesian Navy already.
For the second part of the interview, ADJ talked to Michiel Hendrikx, Area Director Asia Pacific of Damen Shipyards Group.
ADJ: In what areas of shipbuilding is Damen involved in the Asia-Pacific region, including Southeast Asia?
ADAP: We are active in Asia-Pacific with our complete product portfolio, ranging from commercial ships like tugs, crew transfer vessels, yachts and dredgers up to naval ships.
ADJ: Damen Naval has worked with a number of shipyards in the region including with PT PAL of Indonesia and Damen Shipyards Song Cam in Vietnam. Do you have any plans to increase your presence in Asia?
ADAP: We are always exploring options for expansion if that would bring us commercial or strategic advantages.
ADJ: Malaysia has plans to add more Littoral Mission Ships armed with anti-ship missiles and air defence systems. Will Damen Naval be participating in this programme? Can you elaborate?
ADAP: We are seriously interested in the LMS batch 2 program.
ADJ: What will be your company’s focus at IMDEX Asia 2023?
ADAP: IMDEX Asia is an important regional conference where we will present and showcase our latest developments and make use of the opportunity to meet our clients and different stakeholders on projects we are working on.