Double Hull, Double Standards

There’s something a bit odd about this whole Pieter Schelte business:

Allseas Group president Edward Heerema said late Friday that the company would change the name of the giant platform installation and removal vessel Pieter Schelte after an uproar over the Nazi ties of the ship’s namesake.
The twin hull unit, billed as the the world’s largest marine vessel, was christened after Heerema’s late father, Pieter Schelte Heerema – a Dutch pioneer of the offshore construction industry who also served as an officer in the Waffen-SS during World War II.

The father’s wartime affiliations have caused outrage among Jewish groups in Europe, which intensified after the ship’s arrival in Rotterdam last month.

On the face of it, this is probably fair enough.  Naming a vessel after a Waffen-SS officer is probably not the smartest move.


Let’s look at the history here.  After WWII, Heerema moved (or probably, fled) to Venezuela returning to Europe some time later where he pioneered the concept of the massive, semi-submersible lifting vessel.  He had somehow figured out that semi-submersibles enable lifting operations to take place in rougher waters than crane vessels with conventional hulls, and set about building two giants – the Hermod and the Balder – in the late 1970s for work in the choppy North Sea.  With his vessels being the only ones able to install modules and carry out such heavy lifts, he cleaned up in the booming North Sea oil industry throughout the 1980s making himself extremely rich in the process.

There is no doubt that Heerema was a genuine pioneer in the offshore oil industry, his vessels were truly visionary and represent not only outstanding engineering but also extraordinary business presience.  This is the point made by his son Edward, the boss of Allseas who has had the Pieter Shelte built, in a letter:

He developed his company further until his death in 1981. By that time he had built several technically innovative crane vessels and became known as the pioneer of the offshore construction industry, making the installation of large platforms in the rough North Sea possible. He installed the majority of all large offshore platforms in that area. He was widely respected by the oil companies.
Right.  So looking at this, if there was ever a time when people should protest about Pieter Schelte Heerema’s Waffen-SS background it is at the moment he turns up in the North Sea with two rather handy heavy-lift vessels that nobody else has.  That would be a real statement of principle.  But where were the protest groups then?

The ITF also launched a petition calling on Dutch supermajor Shell, which has contracted the Pieter Schelte to remove platforms from its ageing Brent field in the UK North Sea, to cancel the contract or pressure Allseas into re-naming the catamaran.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin said the vessel’s name is a disgrace and suggested it should not be permitted to operate in UK or European waters.

Now presumably the ITF didn’t – and still don’t – have any problem with Hereema Snr’s flagships Hermod and Balder making millions of dollars first for himself and then for his sons, probably because their members were doing rather well out of each operation.  But when Hereema Jnr names a ship after him 34 years after he died, they start kicking up a fuss?

This sounds like empty posturing to me.

Schelte_1109991f“What’s that? Hermod and Balder? I was thinking Adolf and Eva.”


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