They are originally an American company, founded in Jacksonville, Florida. For 45 years W&O has supplied valves and other technical parts to ships, shipping companies, shipbuilders and repair yards all over the world. W&O is now one of the market leaders in Europe in the sale of maritime valves. The company will now also supply these to the Combat Support Ship (CSS) that Damen Naval is building for the Royal Netherlands Navy. The cooperation with Damen Naval is excellent. “We always try to provide the customer with a service that is just a little bit better than what they ask for.”
W&O is a global company, specialising in providing customised technical solutions for the international shipping and offshore industries. It has seventeen branches in the United States and Canada and one in Europe, based in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands. The company is also active in Turkey, Romania and Singapore. Navies from all over the world, including the US Navy, the Canadian Navy and the Turkish Navy are among their customers. W&O also supplies components to commercial shipping – from tugs and fishing vessels to container ships – and cruise line companies.
Since 2019, the company has also been a partner of Damen Naval. W&O is supplying components for the new supply ship Den Helder that Damen Naval is building for the Royal Netherlands Navy, which will enter service in 2024. This cooperation is a milestone for the company accoring to a proud Managing Director Kristof Adam and Business Development Manager Gerton van der Kammen of W&O Europe. “We already realised a number of orders for the Damen Group in previous years and currently we are supplying all valves for the cargo system and engine rooms for 40 inland tankers built by Concordia-Damen”, states Kristoff.
He continues: “And this month we are going to supply Damen in Gorinchem with valves for the engine room of river cruise ship A-Rosa. We have already done a lot for Damen Shiprepair & Conversions, but the cooperation with Damen Naval is really extensive. We are very happy with it.”
W&O was an American company until it was acquired by PON 25 years ago, making it suddenly one hundred percent Dutch. PON Holdings is a Dutch family company with 12,000 employees worldwide. W&O is part of the Industrial Mobility division of PON.
W&O Europe has been based in Bergen op Zoom for seven years; before that, the company operated from Rotterdam and Antwerp. We meet Kristof and Gerton in their spacious building on the Blankenweg. A tour of their impressive, recently much-expanded warehouse gives a good impression of the size of the company. In an area of 4,000 square metres, countless valves are stored metres high. “We have over 7,000 shelves,” says Gerton. There is a separate room where the valves are tested by international classification bureaus such as Bureau Veritas and Lloyd’s.
We meet some of Gerton and Kristof’s colleagues and hear that W&O, where over 300 people earn their living, is doing well. “We are still growing,” says Gerton. “But we do try to keep the growth in check a little. We have already experienced a doubling of turnover in one year, but we really don’t need that to happen every year.” Kristof and Gerton take a level-headed and practical view of things. What they strive for above all is to provide the customer with the best product, more specifically: the product that suits them best.
“We are a distributor and we try to do that as well as possible,” says Kristof. “Our work can be divided into two main activities: support for the replacement of parts on ships and for repairs, maintenance jobs and refits at repair yards or at shipping companies, and secondly: support for the construction of new ships, as we are now doing at Damen Naval. For the latter we have a special project team at our disposal. If we supervise completely the construction of a new ship from day one, the supply chain behind it is completely different from that of other jobs.”
“Our work can be divided into two main activities: support for the replacement of parts on ships and for repairs, maintenance jobs and refits, and support for the construction of new ships, as we are now doing at Damen Naval." Kristof Adam
For the CSS, W&O is supplying all the manually operated butterfly valves, the gear boxes, the limit switch boxes (limit switches) and specially designed handwheels for the valves. Everything must meet the highest standard, as is customary for every job for navies around the world. “Of course, we provide expert advice so that the most appropriate parts are purchased. We also take care of the assembly of the parts, testing and labelling to indicate what needs to be installed where. Everything must be technically correct before it is purchased,” says Gerton.
“It’s not like: here’s your stuff. No, we make sure that Damen Naval has every part available at the right time so that it can be installed at the right time,” Kristof adds. The two Managers indicate that their stock of valves is one of the strengths of their company. “We have about ten million euros worth of maritime valves here in Bergen op Zoom,” Gerton clarifies. “And that is of course an important support tool. I think for the CSS we can supply about thirty percent of the parts from stock, the other seventy percent we order from the factories.”
W&O hopes to expand the cooperation with Damen Naval step by step. Gerton: “We are now very much on the same wavelength; I notice that we speak the same language. Kristof adds: “They think very pragmatically, from great experience and knowledge. This allows you to quickly reach an agreement on the choice of a product.” Kristof also finds it “very good” that Damen Naval invests in knowledge transfer on its own work floor. “One or two years before an employee retires, a young employee is assigned to him or her to keep an eye on things. Very useful.”