Interview CEO and owner Ad Bezemer
All over the world, one can see the iconic bright yellow and blue winches, power units and materials of the Bezemer Group: at the landfall of pipelines, on offshore platforms, and on the pontons used for salvaging sunken vessels. Winches that make heavy pulling and lifting seem light work.
Linear winces, drum winches and storage winches. Winches in all capacities and sizes are shipped to wherever they are needed. Always accompanied by experienced and skilled engineers to help with the planning, calculations, and necessary constructions, oversee the work and make every project a success. That is the core business of the Bezemer Group. A proud privately-owned company based in Dordrecht the Netherlands is – just like the winches it develops, builds and operates – a combination of high capacity and small dimensions.
“We work with a limited but highly skilled and motivated group of people and have an extensive fleet of winches available.”, explains CEO and owner Ad Bezemer. “Our unique strength, the reason we are top in our field, ahead of our competitors, is not in quantity, but in quality. The quality of our hardware and the quality of our team: our expertise, experience, and flexibility.”
Ad Bezemer joined the family business in 1984, at age 24, in the position of COO. His grandfather first started the company as a small machine factory in the late forties, nearly seventy-five years ago. After a career as a marine engineer, his father, Aart Bezemer, took over the business in 1961 and started building and expanding it.
Bezemer: “He was a man with a keen eye for opportunities. He started out selling small winches in concession for a German manufacturer. Still, He was able to improve on the design to meet the ever more challenging needs of the maritime market. He learned from an American company that there was a growing rental market. So, he started investing in building a fleet of winches of all sorts and sizes to meet the demand. He also installed small workshops at the yards of the big shipbuilders in and around the Port of Rotterdam, so there were always experts on hand to inspect, service and repair. That turned out to be a smart and successful approach. That specific idea is still the basis of one of our unique selling points for almost every project. Our materials are accompanied by a fully equipped and staffed workshop everywhere in the world. That way, we guarantee the smooth and safe running of the project: our clients count on us 24/7 and can do so with an eased mind!”
The first big project Ad Bezemer was involved in made the headlines at the time: The salvage of Mount Louis. This French cargo ship had sunk ten miles of the Belgian coast in 1984 and was rumoured to carry nuclear material. The Bezemer Group supplied the necessary equipment for the salvage company Smith Tak. The young COO spent six weeks in Oostende to prepare the salvage and help with the actual lifting and sawing. Bezemer: “Very hands-on, but that is what makes this work interesting. Part of it are office tasks, talking to clients and suppliers, calculating and planning the projects. All essential to get the job done: careful preparation is ninety per cent of the job. But those jobs are never dull. No project is ever the same. There are always challenges: in the weight of what we are supposed to lift or pull, in the dept of the sea or the roughness of the terrain where our winches are used, in the (political) climate of the region, we send our material. We were involved in the recovery of the Kursk in 2001 and the Ehime Maru in 2001. This Japanese fishing vessel was hit by an American submarine on the Hawaiian coast. We have worked on the most all pipelines installed in Europe, but also on pipelines and oil platforms in Africa, Asia, Australia, America, Brazil, and Scandinavia. Closer to home, we have used one of our linear winches to relocate a 150-year-old oak in Harderwijk…Yes, this work requires total commitment from our staff, but I see that they embrace the challenge daily: no project is the same. This asks for experience, and expertise and comes with great responsibility. Not only to avoid mistakes – you don’t want to create the most enormous steel cable knot at the bottom of the sea – but to finish every project safely and to the satisfaction of our clients. Our team makes that happen, every time.”
The projects involved and our goal to address them as sustainable as possible pose daily challenges.
Ad Bezemer, April 2022
Bezemer: “Sustainability is not just a social and ethical responsibility; it is something our clients and partners expect and demand of us and rightly so. We constantly aim to lower our ecological footprint by reducing our nitrogen and CO2 output and working as circularly as possible. For example, this environmental awareness brought us to first install solar panels on the roof of our workshop in 2013, 2015 and 2021, bringing the total to nearly 700 pannels. In addition, we have replaced all gas-discharge lamps with LED lighting. These investments have resulted in an energy-neutral workplace and head office. Further sustainability does however continue: we will convert our current workshop and the new – to build – storage facilities to be completely energy-neutral. This means, amongst other things, we will no longer be using fossil fuels such as gas for heating”
Circularity has always been a crucial part of our working method: we take excellent care of our materials. After every project, all winches, power units and other equipment are inspected and thoroughly maintained. Overhauling and a fresh coat of paint contribute to our materials’ long-term, economic, and reliable usability. The materials we rent out always appear to be brand new and that is noticed and appreciated by our clients. This intensive care pays off: some of our winches are more than 20 years old and still in perfect working order. A good start, but in the end, we want to be as energy neutral, as sustainable, lean and mean as possible”.
The energy transition brings challenges and but also offers the Bezemer Group opportunities to develop the company in new ways and create new services and products.
Bezemer: “We are thinking about building our own power banks to shape the electrification of our fleet, with the result that emissions are reduced to zero per cent over time. We are currently involved in installing a CO2 return line from the Maasvlakte to a decommissioned oil platform in the Nordsea that can store ten per cent of the CO2 production in the Rotterdam region.
I am convinced there are more possibilities and opportunities to use our knowledge and expertise to impact the world even more. In today’s era, in which dependence on oil and gas has become highly politicized, the call for alternative affordable sources and suppliers is necessary. The call for rapid interventions to meet demand is quickly getting louder. This concerns introductory provisions for citizens about being able to heat their homes in times of cold in large parts of Europe and the rest of the world.
The Bezemer Group is a company that works in a niche market. The trick is to keep an eye out for new niches within our fields and determine opportunities. This, of course, benefits our company. Still, we have the ambition to make a difference in our field and contribute a positive impact in the world.
Our strengths are the ability to think out of the box, the high quality of our work, customer focus, flexibility, and entrepreneurship. In this way, I want to secure the future of our company and pass it down to the fourth generation which is currently in the process of warming up”.
Interviewer: Mrs R. Broekmeulen