Damen Shipyards supremo Kommer Damen has received a lifetime achievement award in the Netherlands after nearly 60 years in shipbuilding.

The presentation was made on behalf of the domestic shipping industry during the Maritime Awards Gala in Rotterdam.

The annual event paid tribute to the chairman’s “achievements, methods and contribution to the Dutch maritime industry”.

Damen, 78, heads the shipbuilder’s supervisory board and is still internationally active in the company that he took over from his father and uncle in 1969.

He was praised for his “vision on shipbuilding and entrepreneurship”.

“This formed the basis of the growth that Damen Shipyards experienced from one yard in 1969 to about 70 companies today,” the Maritime Awards Gala said.

Tribute was also paid to Damen’s involvement in the wellbeing of his employees, as well as his commitment to art and culture. He sponsors leading contemporary dance company NDT.

Damen is a member of the Dutch Maritime Council and is honorary consul of Mexico.

From 1988 to 2020 he was a board member of maritime industry association NMT, formerly VNSI.

Next generation

Damen is married to Josien Damen and has four children, all of whom are active in the business.

Annelies Damen is a member of the supervisory board, Arnout Damen is chief executive of Damen Shipyards, Rose Damen is managing director at Damen Yachting and Bear Damen advises the company.

The group has 12,000 employees, 35 construction and repair yards, and a variety of related companies that supply anchor chains, rudders, winches and other components.

Damen has built more than 6,000 ships and delivers about 175 vessels annually.

The offshore vessel specialist was founded in 1927 by Damen’s father Jan and uncle Marinus.

They had been building small boats in Hardinxveld-Giessendam since 1922 and expanded the company to four locations: the original yard, two new ones and a carpentry factory.

Kommer Damen joined the company in the mid-1960s and developed his own alternative ideas about shipbuilding, including design method and logistics.

In 1969, this led to the takeover of one of the yards and the carpentry factory.

The group’s 50 employees were allowed to choose between him and his cousin, who took over the other companies. Only six employees had confidence in Damen’s ideas.

Damen focused on standardisation, modularisation, series production and keeping vessels in stock, cutting costs.