November 29, 2023

From VYP to Vessel Superintendent

Bouwen Legemate started the Venturn Young Professionals programme in 2018. Five years have passed, and he now holds the position of Vessel Superintendent at Acta Marine. It’s high time to catch up! We spoke to him about his experiences during the VYP traineeship, his current role, and how themes like energy transition and digitization play a role in his work. 

VYP’s unique appeal

The maritime and logistics sector has always appealed to Bouwen. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Maritime Engineering and a master’s degree in Shipping Management from TU Delft. After his studies, Venturn approached him and following a productive conversation, Bouwen became a part of the VYP programme. “The main motivation for me was the extensive network you gain when you join Venturn. You discover that there are so many more companies than just the ones highlighted during your studies.” 

Another aspect that attracted Bouwen to the VYP program was the soft skill training. “I came from a position where I had studied a lot and developed myself, but where I had focused mostly on logical, mathematical, and physical aspects. The soft skills in the programme appealed to me for that reason.” 

Within the VYP programme, you engage in 2 to 4 assignments with different clients. Bouwen: “You seamlessly integrate into the organization. Typically, an induction period is required before you can contribute effectively. However, with such specialized consulting assignments, that is not the case; you have the autonomy to devise the methodology and implement it yourself. You can tap into the knowledge and experience within that organization. You are in a very advantageous position.” 

Connecting organizational layers

Bouwen’s first assignment was at Stolt-Nielsen in Moerdijk, a transshipment company. There, he served as a process operator. “ My task was to optimize and enhance the operator room. I came to realize that it extends far beyond simply devising and presenting a plan, as it involves working with individuals. All of a sudden, you find yourself navigating through various hierarchies and age groups. I acted as a liaison between the operators and the office staff. It was here that I learned the importance of persuading others to embrace my ideas and explaining why an alternative approach may be superior.” 

Bouwen was active there for six months before moving on to his second assignment at the inland shipping company Fluvia. At Fluvia, he focused on optimizing business processes with the goal of cost efficiency. He explored possibilities for relocating the workforce because at that time, different salary scales applied to employees in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. “For this project, I had to use 3 to 4 years of data. And ultimately, I proposed an improvement concept based on all that data.” 

A good match

After completing his assignment at Fluvia, the plan was for Bouwen to undertake a third assignment as a VYP. However, circumstances unfolded differently than expected. “Acta Marine crossed my path, and it was an offer for a permanent position.” Ultimately, Bouwen did complete the VYP programme, finishing the curriculum as an Acta Marine employee. “I started as a Tender Engineer at Acta Marine. In that role, you are involved in securing contracts for the ships we have—a nice combination of technical aspects and writing the business case.” 

Acta Marine was a good match for Bouwen, and at the time of writing, he still works there. “After 2.5 years as a Tender Engineer, I became Tender Manager. In broad terms, the type of work is the same, but you provide more guidance.” Currently, Bouwen holds the position of Vessel Superintendent. “In this role, I manage the ship in an efficient and effective way. In the short term, this means ensuring that the ship does not come to a standstill. In the medium term, I am involved in starting projects, and in the long term, I have to ensure that the ship complies with laws and regulations.” 

Communication and leadership

Something Bouwen learned during the VYP program and still applies is the ability to empathize with others and adjust your communication and leadership style based on this. “ I serve as the bridge between the office and the crew on board. My role involves conveying the company’s policies, as established by management, to the ship. It’s crucial to empathize with the crew, considering they spend their entire day in the same environment. How do you best convey your message? That’s something I’ve truly learned during the programme.” Additionally, Bouwen found the Wednesday evening sessions very valuable. “During those training sessions, you were able to have real conversations with your fellow VYPs, and everyone shared their challenges. As a starter, it’s very reassuring to see that you are not the only one facing certain obstacles.” 

Future-proof

In his daily work, Bouwen also deals with themes such as energy transition and digitization. “What we are currently focused on is the installation of a Fuel Monitoring System between the ship’s engines. I am actively involved in this process. With this system, fuel consumption is made visible to the guys on board, allowing them to ensure that the ship is running effectively and efficiently.” Digitization is also prevalent. “Right now, I am building a dashboard based on various data sources from the ship. This includes speed, location, and direction. I will combine this with our software system for the personnel roster so that you can see which people are on board at any given time.” 

Balance and movement

Another lesson Bouwen still applies from his VYP days is creating a balance between energy givers and energy takers. “I try to keep this ratio at 30/30/30. The first 30% is not fun to do, like administration. The other 30% are tasks that you don’t necessarily dislike but also don’t particularly enjoy. The last 30% is what you really enjoy doing. If that ratio is balanced for me, I am in the right place.” Bouwen also believes that you should see movement in your career path every 2.5 to 3 years. “In the long term, I would like to become an operations manager or fleet manager. In the short term, I want to elevate my technical knowledge.” 

Finally, Bouwen has a tip for current and future VYPs: “Keep asking questions. You can gather so much information from the companies where you do your assignments. By continuing to ask questions, you’ll find out if the company suits you and if it’s a place you want to work in the future. Oh yes, and spend a lot of time with your fellow VYPs and enjoy socializing with them!” 

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