In Depth: Stable base of flexible workforce

Their combination of crewing solutions, professional training and ship deliveries defines TOS as both a desired employer and a one-stop crew provider. Now company activities are organised to strengthen each other, founder Kees Wagenaar identifies new markets for the highly skilled maritime and offshore professionals he promotes.

”While demands for continuous training and having the right certificates for offshore and maritime professionals are rapidly increasing, we aim to solve that problem for our customers.” Managing director and founder Wagenaar of TOS strives to deliver workforce that is up to the job and has all the necessary and preferred qualifications at a single rate. Training, taxes, health insurance and pension build-up: it is all in the hands of TOS. Clients, companies in the maritime and offshore industries, may concentrate at what they do best: operations at sea.

Following the offshore oil and gas industry, with traditionally high demands on personnel training and both safety and professional qualification and certification demands, maritime professions like operating jack-up rigs or cable-laying and wind farm maintenance see increasing requirements on the levels of training and certification of the professionals involved. This trend outlines both a challenge as well as a business opportunity for TOS, that finds crew for vessels and offshore sites. The crewing solutions TOS provides, add up to the major part of annual company turnover. The other company activity of ship delivery is complementary to the company profile and offers interesting sailing opportunities for maritime professionals at TOS.

Sea legs

”We see a whole new industry evolving, that requires professionals with new skills”, Wagenaar pictures. ”I am referring to the offshore wind farms, that are installed, connected to the onshore grid and then need maintenance.” The range of required skills is lengthy: personnel is needed for jack-up rig operations. It is a specialist quality to be able to place the giant legs of these kind of self-elevating work platforms steadily at the sea bottom, then lift the platform from its floating position into a steady and horizontal position well above the waves. During wind farm installation, this procedure is repeated a lot of times, when the jack-up rig is installing the windmill mast upon them and eventually placing the rotor wings. Wagenaar: ”At TOS, we are lucky to have grown into ‘jack-up specialists’. Offshore construction contractors can depend on the expert professionals we deliver for such operations.” Then there is need for operational specialists on board of the cable laying vessels that know how to lay electricity cables on the sea bed and how to operate cable layer vessels. ”The outlines of the skills required for the profession of wind farm maintenance are just beginning to take shape”, Wagenaar adds. “Progressing from the experience we have built up in getting people qualified for difficult offshore tasks, we hope to play an important role as the partner in offshore projects that takes care of crewing issues.”

Opportunity

The company culture at TOS is very flexible and demand-driven. This is heritage from the days in 1992 when Wagenaar started operations under the name Transport & Offshore Services, together with Joop Keesmaat. The company provided a range of services for maritime companies, such as compass adjustment, transport brokerage and ship delivery. Wagenaar and Keesmaat also took care of finding the crew for the ship deliveries they handled. “Actually, ship deliveries have been the leading thread throughout the company’s 21 year history”, Wagenaar explains. ”Some years after we first started, we offered ship deliveries under full TOS management and with a TOS crew we actually took these jobs at a fixed budget – lump sum. Thus, we were practically acting as ship operators in an independent manner and crewing and bunkering became our problem. At some point during the 1990s, an opportunity came along that we did not want to miss. As we were building our network of seafarers and specialised professionals to join us on our deliveries, it appeared that the demand for flexible personnel was also rising within the maritime industry.”

One of the breakthrough projects that got TOS’ focus onto crewing solutions, was the civil engineering job of building the Storebaelt link -two bridges and a tunnel connecting the cities of Odense and Copenhagen in Denmark, stretching 20 kilometres across the water Storebaelt that divides the Danish isles Fyn and Sjealland, and the connection was finished in 1996. A lot of workers were needed that had the skills to operate the barges and working boats, cranes and concrete mills to achieve this immense job. TOS had the opportunity to provide a lot of professionals to get the job done.

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Availability and demand

With company activities growing in the crewing segment, TOS was opening regional offices at different places, often at places where skilled professionals could be found. Flushing is home of a good maritime academy, so this was a logical place for TOS to open a branch office. But also at the Czech city of Decin, a hub for European inland shipping, the company started activities as well as in Gdynia, Poland and Odessa in Ukraine. Here, at the shores of the Black Sea, the biggest maritime academy of Europe is located. ”All of these offices are – from our company’s perspective – on the buying side of our market. Mind that we regard all our relations as clients, both the workers we hire as the companies that we provide with professionals. Only the last years, we are also opening offices on the selling side of the market we operate in: in places that show a large demand in skilled maritime officers. So we started a joint-venture in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil called TIM, TOS Internacional Maritima. A branch office in Jakarta, Indonesia followed and recently we opened an office on Cyprus. Currently preparations are being made for the opening of a ninth office, this time in Singapore.”

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Experiences

”From the starting point of TOS in 1992 with a somewhat unclear range of services, the process of developing the stronger product groups into a whole of services that strengthen each other began in 2000”, Wagenaar recalls. ‘‘Today, we provide crewing solutions, training for specialised professionals, we deliver project crews for ongoing operations in which the people are on our payroll- so the contractor does not have any hassle with crewing. As a result, we have at least 700 people working for TOS worldwide at any moment. The company branch of ship deliveries is still going strong. It provides us with the possibility of employing good seafarers that usually enjoy these kind of one-way voyages and have the experience to handle new and complicated vessels. I must say, I have always enjoyed the delivery voyages very much. For both ageing sailors and freshmen who want to gain their first seagoing experiences, deliveries are very suitable. It fits into our portfolio very well.”

Hans Buitelaar

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