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Getting the job done

Interview - February 20, 2012
Arie van den Adel, Project Manager with Royal Boskalis Westminster, discusses the business climate in Suriname, and his 20 years of experience providing solutions in challenging circumstances with the Dutch company

What is your opinion of the economy in Suriname?

I’m here now for the past two years, and I can see that the economy is growing. There is much more activity, the companies are very busy, you can see it all around in Suriname. I used to come here before, but now I see much more activity.

Royal Boskalis Westminster is a Netherlands-based company that provides services in the earthmoving, maritime infrastructure, and maritime services sectors. It also claims to have the world’s largest dredging fleet. What has been the evolution of Royal Boskalis Westminster in Suriname?

Boskalis started here in the early 80’s, we were involved with the company BHP Billiton. We’ve been involved in the mining industry, in which we’ve been contracted as a dredging company in order to remove soft materials overlaying the bauxite resources in Suriname. We started in the early 80’s with our specialized dredge equipment and have been involved for the past 20 to 25 years. Right now with the recently acquired contract for Suralco, we have also grown as a contractor because we’re not only doing the overburden removal but the total mining contract for Suralco, we’re doing everything for the client. So as a company, we have grown from being a subcontractor to now being the main contractor who does the whole job for the client.

What are your main lines of business?

We used to be a pure dredging contractor, but we’ve grown in the direction to be what we call a leading global service provider. We give a one shop solution to a client for challenging projects in the maritime sector.

Which projects would you highlight from the ones Royal Boskalis Westminster has been involved in?

I could highlight the one that we’re doing right now, Lelydorp I. It’s a very challenging project; we’re working in a swamp area. It’s very soft-soil therefore with very difficult access. We’re bringing in all our equipment to that difficult accessible area, and we’re going to remove the overburden material from that mine site, but we’re not going to do only the overburden removal, we’re doing the whole package for the client. Our responsibility starts directly with the first activity on the site, the bush clearing, and it will stop with driving the bauxite for the client over the way-bridge. For us, this is a very unique project here in Suriname. We have done similar projects over the world in Australia, in the Middle East, but here in Suriname, it’s the first time that we are doing the whole package for a client.

How would you evaluate the impact of Royal Boskalis Westminster in Suriname’s socioeconomic development?

I think there is a big impact because, whenever we have a contract in Suriname, we contract local employees. We need local employees and quite a lot of them. We also bring the latest technologies with our equipments, and we train the people with these technologies. We create a local workforce, and we also use quite a few local subcontractors. We have a good impact in the local community since we buy our direct needs at the local community. So I think Boskalis has quite a big impact being here.

How would you evaluate the importance of Suriname for Royal Boskalis Westminster?

Suriname as a market is important for Boskalis. We now have a project for let’s say three and a half to four years, but we hope that other projects will follow because this is an important project for Suriname itself, for the continuity of the bauxite mining in Suriname.  We hope that more projects will follow in which Boskalis can play a role, either as a subcontractor or the main contractor.

Suriname is looking for FDI to help them develop the country. The aim is not only to attract capital, but also to foster spin-off effects, such as technology, knowledge transfer, and workforce training.
What is Royal Boskalis Westminster doing in this sense?

We have a training center; we are now in the early stages of the project, but once the training center is fully operational, we will train our local workforce to actually work with all our technology to work with our dredge. We do think that it’s very important to train our people, we only have some Dutch experts in the key positions, but for the other positions on the ship or in the field, and in the actual mining, we use the local workforce.

How many workers do you employ in Suriname?

When we are at our full scope, we will have between 125-150 people working for us.

How would you evaluate the possibility of establishing commercial relations with the investor community?

There is an important market for us, so we’re open to such opportunities. Whenever there is an opportunity in our sector, in what we’re good at, we will always look at that potential, absolutely.

The social and environmental responsibilities are a must nowadays, especially when it comes to mining activities. What is the corporate culture of Royal Boskalis Westminster regarding social and environmental responsibilities?

Corporately, Boskalis has a very strong commitment towards social and environmental responsibilities. Regarding the social responsibility, we work in a certain district here in Suriname, in the Para District, and we look at the district for our needs for employees, we know that it’s important for that district. That’s where we’re going to seek our workforce in the first place.

Regarding the environment, I’m very proud to say that we at Boskalis have a program we call “Building with Nature.” The program has some rules such as adhering to local and law requirements, and executing work with concern to the protection of the environment; we always do that. We strive for zero incidents with environmental impact, and we use all efforts to improve environmental standards with the commitment of all our team members. All the people that we have in the team have to adhere to what we as company stand for and meeting and exceeding our standards. That’s “Building with Nature” for us, this is very important for Boskalis. We have an impact, but we make sure that the environment recovers all its potential. That’s possible, it’s just planning a little bit different, there are ways to do that, and that is very important for us.

As a foreigner that has been involved in this country, what would be your final message to the international community about Suriname?

I think it’s wonderful to be and to work in Suriname. I’ve worked in many countries, but I feel really at home in Suriname. I like the diversity of people that you have to deal with, that you work with, and it has been a real pleasure to have been working and to still work here. I hope that after this project, which will end in mid-2015, the next project will come, and we can stay for some years here.

What final message would you send to the international community about Royal Boskalis Westminster?

I’ve been working for Boskalis for twenty years. Boskalis is truly a wonderful company to work for, one of the leading maritime service providers. We always have challenging projects in the most beautiful countries in the world, challenging conditions, and after twenty years I can say that I really enjoy working for Boskalis.