7 June 2019

On 5th of March, the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) Joint Support Ship (JSS) Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman entered dry dock no.4 at Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam (DSAm) to begin her first five-year maintenance programme. This was to be no ordinary maintenance and repair programme, but then again, the Karel Doorman is no ordinary ship. The 205-metre vessel is the largest and most complex vessel in the RNLN, and she was built by Damen, largely at Damen Shipyards Galati, Romania, under the supervision of Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding in Vlissingen. In August 2013 she was transferred to Vlissingen for the completion of her outfitting, commissioning and sea trials before being handed over to the navy in September 2014.

A complex vessel for a multi-purpose role

She was designed and built to take on a wide-ranging role including maritime support, replenishment at sea, supply storage, loading and unloading of supplies, transport of equipment and personnel, and technical and logistical support. 2,000 lane metres of cargo capacity allows her to carry an exceptional quantity of stores, while a helicopter deck designed to operate two Chinooks simultaneously allows her to deliver supplies over distances of 500 kilometres or more. Other delivery systems include two replenishment-at-sea masts for fuel transfer, a stern beach for cargo transfer via landing craft that can be sunk to a metre below the waterline, and RoRo capability.

The vessel features the latest in command and control systems, and a high level of automation, multiple redundancy and internal armouring for critical areas make her an exceptionally durable vessel under even the most adverse conditions. Defensive systems include two Goalkeeper anti-missile units, two 30 millimetre machine guns and a CHAFF decoy system, plus short-range machine guns. Propulsion is diesel-electric with five main generators and a DP-1 dynamic positioning system. In keeping with the Damen philosophy of building navy ships, she incorporated as many commercial techniques and components as possible, adding military-grade equipment only where it was really needed.

Five years on and after many thousands of nautical miles on various missions including delivering humanitarian support to ebola victims in Sierra Leone and undertaking hurricane relief operations in the Caribbean following the passage of Hurricane Irma in 2017, she is now in DSAm for a repair and maintenance programme of exceptional thoroughness and detail.

No stone left unturned

A five year maintenance programme for a commercial vessel usually involves around 50 separate projects, each detailed in an individual technical specification order. For the Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman, the Netherland’s Directie Materiële Instandhouding (DMI) which has overall responsibility for the project, has issued 320, covering almost every system and space on board what is, after all, an exceptionally complex vessel.

The orders cover everything from the cleaning of all the tanks and servicing all the valves to painting the exterior hull and topsides and removing all the electrical equipment for serving and replacement where necessary. The elevators and the lifeboat cranes are also undergoing maintenance and the rudders have been removed and their bearings and aft seals inspected. And that’s just the beginning. However, one major area will not be subject to works by the DSAm team and their subcontractors, and that is her military systems and anything else of a sensitive nature. These were all removed at the RNLN base at Den Helder for their own, separate, maintenance programme before the vessel came to Amsterdam.


Taking planning to a new level

With so many components and systems requiring specialist attention it is not surprising that there are 119 different companies and organisations involved in the works, as well as the ship’s very helpful officers and crew. With so many stakeholders on board, often overlapping in the areas that they need to access, the use of integrated master planning to model every activity taking place is vital to ensure that everyone is in the right place at the right time, working smoothly and efficiently alongside each other. One team, one task, is the underlying philosophy that keeps everyone focused on what they need to do. DSNS, with all its accumulated knowledge from the original build, is also playing a vital role in the project at every level.

As well as its excellent planning skills, DSAm also has the advantage of experience gained in 2018 from a lifetime extension programme undertaken on the RNLN’s 20-year old, 166-metre, amphibious warfare ship HNLMS Rotterdam, also built by DSNS. As a dress rehearsal for the much larger Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman it provided valuable experience and insights into the equipment and issues that the DSAm team would be facing in the coming year.

A win-win for all

Projects of this size and complexity bring many benefits. Building and maintaining advanced naval vessels within the Damen family not only benefits the company, it creates and nurtures a pool of experience and expertise that ensures that the Netherlands retains the capability to build its own next-generation vessels and keep them in top condition, now and in the future, in its own yards. It also ensures that the wider Dutch naval sector remains innovative, efficient and diverse, as evidenced by the many companies involved with the Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman, which boosts exports.

The Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman is scheduled to leave Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam in July this year, having spent five months in the dry dock having every inch of her inspected and checked. From there she will return to Den Helder where she will undergo another six months of work, including replacing the ‘special systems’ that were removed at the start, before starting another, no doubt busy, five years.


Joint Support Ship RNLN
'Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman'
'HNLMS Rotterdam'
Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding
Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam
Damen Shipyards Galati



Whether it's a simple question or you need assistance with your Damen product, we believe great things can start with a small conversation.

I'm interested in...