27 May 2019

jos van woerkum

Jos van Woerkum

Managing Director

Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld

jeroen van woerkum damen shipyards

Jeroen van Woerkum

Commercial Manager

Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld

There are a number of vessel types in the Damen portfolio that have helped form the foundations of the globally operating shipbuilder that we know today. Damen’s Shoalbuster is one such vessel design. Jos van Woerkum, managing director, and Jeroen van Woerkum, commercial manager at Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld talk about the origins and the successes of this key player in harbour, coastal area and shallow water operations.

“The first idea for the Shoalbuster came from Henk Bruins (then managing director of Damen Marine Services (DMS)) during his time here at Hardinxveld,” explains Jos. “His design combined the bollard pull of a tug with the shallow draught of a Multi Cat, with input from another vessel we had back then, the Dredge Helper. This created a robust vessel with a large deck – the Shoalbuster was born.”

The secret weapon

The first Shoalbuster was a 2309, built in 1995 for DMS at Damen’s yard in Bergum. This was closely followed by one additional vessel for Herman Senior and three for Wagenborg. The Wagenborg contract is particularly noteworthy; Damen Shipyards Bergum completed construction of these three vessels – including hull – within nine months.

1999 saw the first Shoalbuster built at the Hardinxveld yard, with a design that had been further developed by Wim Crum. “He was Managing Director of DMS at the time and was a great believer in the Shoalbuster. His work definitely gave it a boost in the early 2000s as the Middle East market expanded. It wasn’t just Damen people who were involved at this stage, though. Clients such as Jack van Dodewaard from Herman Senior also provided valuable feedback.”

What did the owners of the first Shoalbusters use their vessels for? “The advantage of the Shoalbuster is its combination of power and shallow draught – this is its secret weapon. This means that it first proved itself as a great asset in the dredging industry – performing anchor handling, ploughing, and towage duties,” answers Jos. “In this way, you can describe the Shoalbuster as being the Swiss Army knife of vessels. There is so much that you can do with it – that’s why you can find it working in so many different branches of the maritime sector today.”

One vessel – multiple tasks

And – just like the Swiss Army knife – the Shoalbuster’s most characteristic design elements have undergone minimal changes during the previous quarter century. For example, Shoalbusters share the ability to ground safely if necessary, and the vast majority of the range is under the 500 GT Mark. They are classified for unrestricted navigation, enabling clients to operate on a truly global scale. “The looks are the same too,” notes Jeroen. “The high bow, the accommodation located towards the front, large deck towards the stern and the screws positioned at the stern where they are not going to be damaged – all this is the same.”

“It is the functionality that has changed. Operators today take much more equipment with them. This multi-functionality has become much broader over the years.” An example of this can be seen in operations in small harbours. “They are able to carry out all the jobs necessary in a harbour,” he says. “Towage, vessel assistance, firefighting, infrastructure maintenance, pollution control. The idea is that one ship does it all.”

This subject of multi-functionality is closely linked with customisation. “Of course standardisation is important within Damen,” adds Jeroen. “But a key part of the success of the Shoalbuster has been customisation. On this subject, clients such as Herman SeniorSeacontractors and Van Wijngaarden Marine Services always take the lead with the design for their ideal vessel.”

Evolution of design

While it is true that the Shoalbuster has proved itself as a powerful and versatile shallow draught vessel time and time again over the previous 25 years, it is also extremely important to state that the evolution of the Shoalbuster is still taking place. “The Pushbuster illustrates this point,” continues Jos. “In principle the design is same, but with a higher wheelhouse and an Articouple system on the bow.”

Another example of design evolution is the Shoalbuster 3514 SD Brutus – currently under construction for longstanding client Herman Senior and due for delivery in 2020. The Brutus will be deployed primarily for offshore wind farm support and maintenance duties, where its DP2 and shallow draught will guarantee precise positioning on the open sea and coastal waters. A true Shoalbuster at heart, the Brutus has the shallow draught (2.4 metres) and bollard pull (60 tonnes) that the market expects, while still reflecting its position in a forward-thinking maritime market. Its IMO Tier III certified diesel-electric propulsion system and a Green Passport illustrate this last point.

Smart and innovative

Just as the very first Shoalbuster designs combined a tug and Multi Cat, the Shoalbuster itself has also inspired new designs. Here, the Renewables Services Vessel (RSV) 3315 can be seen as the offspring of a Multi Cat and a Shoalbuster. Developed in close cooperation with Delta Marine, the first RSV was designed to serve a specialist niche in the offshore wind industry. “Staying sharp and innovative with smart design decisions – this represents the continual evolution of the Shoalbuster,” concludes Jos.

image 1 damen shoalbuster 1995 bergum


One from the photo archives: the first Shoalbuster was built at Damen Shipyards Bergum in 1995.

This 23-metre long trailblazer is still in active service today.

image 2 damen shoalbuster murjan 41


“The unique thing about the Shoalbuster, it can maintain its bollard pull even in shallow waters – it’s a remarkable feat.”

Chris Clark, General Manager, Murjan Al Sharq Marine Contracting

image 3 damen shoalbuster isa towage


“The new 3209 has now replaced its predecessor in the Baltic Sea, and we look forward to the new and better opportunities and different types of contracts that our new ISA will open up for us.”

Willem-Harm Mastenbroek, Owner and Managing Director, ISA Towage

image 4 damen shoalbuster 2308S


“Introducing such a multipurpose vessel will allow the port to greatly increase the level of work it can undertake in-house, leading to financial savings.”

Christopher Jones, Deputy Haven Master, Bristol Port Company

image 5 damen shoalbuster noordstroom


“The Noordstroom is a versatile, innovative, sustainable and very powerful work/tugboat, completely designed to meet the requirements of the current market.”

Peter van Wijngaarden, Managing Director, Van Wijngaarden Marine Services

image 6 damen shoalbuster 3514


“With a bollard pull of 60 tonnes we are aiming for a versatile, dynamically positioned vessel, suitable for performing a wide range of works in shallow waters.”

Jack van Dodewaard, Managing Director, Herman Sr


Damen Shipyards Hardinxveld
Damen Marine Services (DMS)
Multi Cat
Renewables Services Vessel (RSV) 3315
Herman Senior
Van Wijngaarden Marine Services



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