HOORN _ In 2016, Habbeke Shipyard moved into new quarters in this gabled town north of Amsterdam. Here, it has 3 build halls spanning 1,500 sq.m (16,146 sq. ft), 4 times bigger than in its previous home at nearby Volendam. There is room for a 4th hall where it’ll be able to build to 60m.

Not exactly shabby statistics for a 52-year-old company that makes no-nonsense, top-quality, aluminum tenders for a broad audience.

“We build for very different end-users,” says Arie de Waart, the company’s founder who, at 73, still pitches in every day. Habbeke Shipyard builds from the bare hull up. “We put the bar high. Everything that leaves the yard must be better than just good,” says De Waart.
His welders are Lloyds-certified and his yard meets high standards in environmental and quality management (ISO 90001 and 14001).

Building exclusively aluminum work horses, De Waart has over the years acquired significant long-term client relationships. Notably with the Royal Dutch Lifeboat Association for which it has built to date some 30 rescue boats of 3 different models. It also maintains them and rebuilds Caterpillar vehicles into water-tight lifeboat launchers. Habbeke Shipyard has delivered boats from international designers, including Sparkman Stevens, Philip Rhodes, Bruce Farr, De Vries Lentsch, Alan Pape, and Dick Koopmans.

The company also makes deep V-hull tenders (to transport crews, pilots and offshore personnel), superyacht tenders and fast patrol craft. The latter are used for border protection, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations.

When this newsletter visited De Waart, his yard was working on a large superyacht deck house of 25 x 10 m. (82 by 33ft.), a 50ft (15.2m) Puffin sailboat and a tender for Belgium’s maritime pilot service. And it had just finished a robust one-off: a diesel-powered, clinker-built, 10m tender (left) that planes easily, courtesy of a highly optimized, below-the-waterline hull. It is due to be turned into a hybrid craft.

De Waart says he does “not compete on price, but on quality” which necessitates hiring highly trained workers. Most of his 20-strong workforce have been with Habbeke Shipyard for decades. But the search for quality workers is getting difficult, says De Waart. “We just hired someone who is over 60, a former bus driver. Before that, he built bare hulls and is glad to return to that trade.”

De Waart says he has no problems reeling in contracts. But getting the work done is increasingly tough. “Quality staffers these days are few and far between. And that makes them expensive.”