Looking for the best for Jan De Nul Group | HEROES

Melissa Troch, Crew Manager Offshore for Jan De Nul Group, relishes the challenge of finding skilled personnel for the company’s busy global marine operations.

“Good people can be hard to find,” admits Melissa Troch, Crew Manager Offshore for Jan De Nul Group, a global provider of specialised services for the maritime and offshore industry. Yet it’s her role to find skilled personnel for the many and varied marine projects that Jan De Nul Group is working on around the world.

That challenge is one of the things she loves about her job. “To be fair, finding the right people – particularly when it comes to filling technical positions – is difficult for any company,” says Melissa. “But it’s even more challenging for a company like ours, because we need personnel who are willing to work at sea and leave everything behind for at least six weeks at a time. They also need to prove they have the right experience, qualifications and competencies. So, it’s our responsibility to check that every crew member on every project has the right skills and training certificates, and that they are compliant with international regulations with regards to working at sea.”

In recent years, Jan De Nul Group has significantly expanded its fleet and is now involved in numerous international construction and maintenance activities. These include dredging and marine works, installing, stabilising and ballasting all kinds of offshore structures, and lifting and salvage projects. Melissa is charged with allocating the right crew to different projects at different cycles and, at the moment, has around 500 people on her books.

Rigorous attitude to safety

To find the best possible personnel, Melissa works closely with Atlas Professionals. She is particularly impressed with the company’s Zero Harm initiative which aims to boost safety presence and awareness for all crew members working offshore. “For Jan De Nul Group, safety is the beginning and end of everything,” says Melissa. “You can be a very good ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) operator, for example; but if you don’t comply with safety standards then, frankly, everything stops. It’s the number one rule for us which is why we have our own in-house programme, focussing on creating awareness of the fact that a good preparation and operational control are crucial for realising successful and thus also safe projects. We know that Atlas Professionals supports our rigorous attitude to safety because of their own approach to Zero Harm and safety awareness.” 

Atlas supplies a variety of offshore personnel to Jan De Nul Group, including highly skilled ROV pilots and technicians via its dedicated ROV, Diving and Inspection office in Banbury, UK. Having supported several Jan De Nul projects throughout the years, the companies have built up a strong working relationship.

So which qualities is Melissa looking for in the people she engages? “Experience is important,” she says. “Every ROV has its own specifications, it’s crucial to find people who have specific experience with it. But we’re also looking for people who are willing to work as part of one team. Most of the operators involved with ROVs on our vessels are contractors; but we also have permanent crew on board, and we ask them to learn about the equipment in order to support the ROV pilots. So, we want contractors who will co-operate with marine crews, because we believe everyone benefits from sharing knowledge.”

Growing with the company

Melissa’s career path has been relatively straightforward. After graduating in 2006 with a degree in economics she started her HR career at Jan De Nul Group within the Crew Department. “As an economics graduate, I had no experience of the marine business, so this industry was new to me and it was fascinating to learn about it,” she remembers. “Since I began here, the company expanded. It designed and built lots of new vessels, which meant the Crew Department had to adjust, too, because we were getting so big. That’s how I came to work in the Offshore department.” 

Offshore continues to be a growing part of Jan De Nul’s portfolio. “For me, every day is a learning process,” says Melissa. “I’m always discovering new things about our projects and vessels, but that’s an important part of my job. In the Crew Department we need to have a good knowledge of the projects the company is involved with, to enable us to understand the specific requirements of a particular job and the specific needs of the crew.”

Ambitious and motivated

Melissa is office-based, but tries to visit Jan De Nul’s vessels when possible. “That’s good for personal communication with the vessel’s management and demonstrates to the crew that I’m available for any questions they might have regarding their position, training, salary, etc. It’s also good for me because it’s interesting to see the vessel, learn more about it, and find out how a job is going. I always find crew members are an interesting group of people to work with. They’re passionate about what they do – and it’s always nice to work with passionate, motivated people.” 

Jan De Nul Group is passionate and motivated too, says Melissa. “As a company it’s ambitious and always on the look-out for new challenges. That’s exciting and comforting for us as staff, because we know it will never stand still – and we’ll never get bored here!”

This interview is published in the HEROES Magazine 2019/2020 Survey & ROV Edition.