Pieter van Oord (Schiphol) likes risks that he can manage

Pieter van Oord (62), currently on board as CEO of the Rotterdam maritime contractor Van Oord, loves reading history books. There he finds a wealth of information about Dutch culture.

‘We always distrust power, that was already the case in the seventeenth century. We don’t look up to people either. If someone comes to a top position, we are initially suspicious,” he said in an email interview with Henri Bontenbal on YouTube.

Suspicion, with that he will certainly be welcomed in Amsterdam. What on earth does a real Feyenoord fan have to do at Schiphol? First of all, build a better reputation, as can be read The Telegraph. ‘As a frequent flyer, I was concerned about the condition of the airport last year.’

Schiphol has now taken steps to prevent new suitcase chaos and hours of waiting for security checks in the future.

Experienced leader

This is already enormous progress for passengers, but there is more work to be done. Schiphol needs an experienced leader ‘who can build teams and strengthen trust among its own employees and the outside world’, according to the press release about his appointment yesterday.

KLM CEO Marjan Rintel expects Schiphol to also improve commercially. ‘Van Oord knows the international business community and with its experience in project-based work, which requires close attention to costs, we expect this to improve at Schiphol as well.’

Schiphol Chairman Jaap Winter points to Van Oord’s ‘intensive experience in the field of logistics operations and asset management, two areas with major challenges for Schiphol in the coming years.’

That’s already a big achievement, but the ambitions are even greater. Schiphol wants to become the most sustainable airport in the world by 2030. And Van Oord may/must now accelerate that process as well.

Also read: Zita Schellekens must make KLM greener

Care is a core value

He is happy to take on all of this himself, ‘based on the responsibility I feel for our society.’ Van Oord’s commitment has always been ‘caring for your people, for society, for the environment’.

That is one of the core values ​​of his company, he says in the YouTube interview. Leaving the world a better place for future generations. ‘That is really in the DNA of this company and it comes from the family.’

Also in the DNA of the 155-year-old Van Oord: transitions. From dike builder, to dredger, to offshore infrastructure for oil and gas. The current CEO is busy with the two most recent ones: wind energy and becoming climate neutral. The one at Schiphol also suits him.

Van Oord in Dubai

After studying economics at the VU in Amsterdam, the fourth generation Van Oord starts his career in the US for another Rotterdam company, Van Ommeren. He still came on board Van Oord in 1994. He first gained international experience in the United Kingdom and Dubai. There he is responsible for the construction of Palm Island and The World.

Complex and very drastic projects. ‘People look critically at what we do. We therefore look at how our intervention in the natural and cultural landscapes can have a positive effect on the environment. For example, we have built many islands around Dubai.’

‘Ecologically, the Persian Gulf is quite dead. If you look at the desert, it just continues below the waterline. Due to the introduction of stone, which we have done in this wave, the ecological diversity is now much greater in Dubai. It’s great that you can contribute to society with your work.’

A bit stubborn

When he succeeded CEO Koos van Oord in 2008, he stuck his neck out and fully focused on wind energy. Even though the first steps in 2002, together with Mammoet, were disappointing. ‘The fact that we continued was partly due to the entrepreneurship that is anchored in this company.’

‘That means doing things in your life that you have never done before. And yes, we are also a bit stubborn,” he explains in an interview with Shell. Van Oord sees more than just an interesting market emerging in building wind energy parks.

The Netherlands is also ‘lucky’ with its location on the North Sea. ‘Shallow, a sandy bottom and the wind always blows. That’s a pretty unique combination in the world.’ And that situation suits the risks he likes. ‘The risks I can manage.’

Pieter van Oord will start at Schiphol as CEO on June 1, 2024. Photo: Schiphol

Good luck with wind energy

Wind energy has now become Van Oord’s success. The company takes care of projects from A to Z (engineering, purchasing and construction). He himself remains modest about it. ‘We were just lucky. We enjoyed contributing to a better world and that turned out well. But we have also tried things that didn’t work out, such as tidal power stations.’

Van Oord’s latest hobbyhorse: being completely energy neutral by 2050. He does not yet know how he will approach this with a fleet consisting of about sixty ships. “The fuel technology is the biggest challenge,” he told earlier MT/Sprout.

’98 percent of our CO2 emissions are created by our ships. So we need something with engines and fuel. The nice thing about that is that – with 27 years to go – we don’t even know exactly which path we are going to take.’

‘We are moving towards a world with e-fuels, with hydrogen, methanol, ammonia… This requires different engine technologies, engines and fuel tanks, with different risks.’ Another link with aviation: the search for aircraft is also still in full swing.

Also read: Another billion is needed for this Dutch battery-powered aircraft

Negative sentiment

Political The Hague is also located on the road from Rotterdam to Schiphol. He has long had ties with that too. Van Oord was asked several times to become minister, but he always declined. He’s more of the ‘don’t talk, just polish’ type. He does think it is important to build a ‘much better coalition between business and politics’.

Van Oord runs a large company. Last year it achieved a turnover of 2 billion euros, with a net profit of 60 million. The company has 5,800 employees and is active on more than 190 projects in 42 countries. Wind farms have become one of the main pillars, but it is also still active in oil and gas infrastructure.

Van Oord is perfectly aware of the ‘negative sentiment’ about large companies. ‘I think that is absolutely not in the interests of the Netherlands. Foreigners say there are no countries in the world where multinationals are so bashed in their own country, by their own people. Somehow we have made it a top sport to be negative about Shell, to be negative about Unilever.’

Also read: These 425 carbon bombs will help kill the climate bombs

Tropical years

This is not only a cultural thing, he realizes, but it also has to do with the fact that the business community is insufficiently aware of its social role. Over the past twenty years we have missed a few turns in the interaction between society and business.’

Too few CEOs ‘stand on a box to tell their story’. He himself has ‘no difficulty in explaining what Van Oord does for society’.

The fact that it is a family business with ‘one hundred family shareholders’ plays a role in this. ‘Most of them live in the Netherlands. I also have to explain to my family shareholders why we do what we do.’

Van Oord has now proven itself on land and in the sea, and now also in the air. Although he is still taking his new job quite lightly for the time being. ‘I will be leaving Van Oord in April and will then go on holiday for a month to recover from thirty tropical years at our family business.’

Meanwhile, the fifth generation at Van Oord is eager to take the helm: Govert van Oord.

The post first appeared on mtsprout.nl

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