Erwin Landman, Survey Operations Manager at maritime contractor Van Oord provides insight in the changing work field.
For Erwin Landman – Survey Operations Manager at Dutch maritime contracting company, Van Oord – the most satisfying part of any project is the finished result. “I like the fact that you start with nothing, but end with something,” he says. “For example, in Malaysia, we built the Port of Tanjung Pelepas. When I arrived, there was no infrastructure at all; by the time I left, the four-kilometre quay wall was ready. This achievement was a team effort, of course; and I felt as though I helped make it a reality, alongside my colleagues. That makes me proud.”
Van Oord operates in four specific markets: dredging, oil and gas, offshore wind and the Netherlands. The company began its journey into offshore wind 15 years ago and, among other installations, is the builder of the Gemini Offshore Wind Park off the coast of the Netherlands, with 150 wind turbines supplying 600 MW of renewable energy to 785,000 households. In February 2019, the company set a record when its Belgian offshore wind farm, Norther, delivered power to the grid only seven months after Van Oord began the installation of the first foundation. ‘Working in this field requires ingenious minds, because developments are happening fast.’
Survey techniques alter depending on the project that’s being executed: ‘There are still new tools and software being developed, such as using a drone for surveying purposes,’ says Erwin. The relatively new offshore wind sector requires a different survey approach. “Working in offshore wind is different to working in oil and gas and dredging,” explains Erwin. “For instance, in dredging, the survey vessel operates separately from the dredger itself; whereas, in offshore wind, surveyors often work onboard the installation vessel.”
“Also when executing dredging projects, we are often measuring and covering a huge area that has been reclaimed. In offshore wind dimension control concentrates at one foundation at the time, with the highest accuracy down to the millimetre.” When installing foundations for an offshore wind park, Erwin’s team uses a laser scanner to help measure and monitor the piling process, and to ensure monopiles are placed in exactly the right position during the installation of the turbine’s foundations.
Finding skilled personnel
Surveying clearly requires high levels of precise technical skill, so one of Erwin’s challenges is not simply finding personnel – it’s finding the right personnel. “These highly qualified people can be difficult to get hold of in Europe, and throughout the rest of the world,” he says. “But Atlas Professionals is doing a good job of finding them for us. With all these different type of projects in execution we would like to welcome a constant supply of new talent. Atlas has also set up a system so that companies like ourselves can give feedback about a person’s skills, which works well.”
Erwin joined Van Oord in 1992 and has worked as a surveyor on various projects around the world. Apart from Malaysia, he’s been to Guatemala, Brazil, Algeria, Germany and the UK. “Then I got the opportunity to work back home in the Netherlands,” he says. “Since then I’ve been involved with a range of projects, including a railway speed link between Schiphol and Belgium. Then there was Maasvlakte 2, part of the Rotterdam Mainport Development Project, which included a 11-kilometre seawall. That required a lot of innovation. It was also a lot of fun.” He has been Van Oord’s Survey Operations Manager OWP & NL since 2012.
Erwin is confident that Van Oord can provide challenging and rewarding job opportunities in a fast developing market. ‘New survey tools will emerge and the renewable energy market is very interesting to work in,” he says. “In my opinion, we have to do something about global warming and embrace renewable energy. I feel that when we build a wind farm, we’re taking action and helping to make this world a little bit greener. When you finish, look back and see the wind turbines turning, you think: ‘Hey – I was part of that – and it’s making the planet a little bit better.’”