“It’s a bit like a business card for Atlas; it shows other companies how we can fully support them during these major projects.” Representing the Consortium at the Suez Canal Project

In February 2015, one of Atlas’ Account managers based in Hoofddorp, Tim van der Stelt, left the Netherlands for a year to become the HR Consultant for Boskalis at the Suez Canal. He was given 48 hours to pack up his life and travel to Ismailia, Egypt. Tim chats to Atlas about working on this pioneering project.

“Back in the Netherlands, I was used to working five days a week, eight hours a day but here its non-stop, so now I have to programme myself to work seven days a week twelve hours a day.” Tim’s role as HR Consultant allows him to have an overview of 1600 personnel working on the project. “I’m involved mainly in the accommodation and transportation for all personnel,” explains Tim. “We are currently dealing with four accommodation barges and one cruise vessel.

For transportation we also have a deal with Europcar where they have supplied 75 cars & 150 drivers across the whole project. My role is to keep track of each vehicle and who is operating it.

Not only do I have to deal with the logistical side, but also I’m involved with work permits for personnel. This job is mainly focused on local Egyptian content, I work alongside the Egyptian Business Advisor where he sorts out all of the applications and I monitor the process. In this role, you have to be thorough and confident about the applicant before you can apply for their work permit.”

The challenge consortium for the Suez Canal is made up of some of the world’s leading dredging companies, Royal Boskalis Westminster, Jan de Nul, NMDC and Van Oord. “Due to the demands of the project we all have to work as a team in the HR department.

You try to plan each day; yesterday I planned several things that I wanted to accomplish, but every day is a challenge here which makes it difficult to stick to the plan. Working with the local content can be quite challenging as everyone has a different method of working and you have to learn how to adapt to the different working regimes. The other challenge for me is working on rotation and being away from my friends and family so often.”

Boskalis requested Tim as their HR Consultant while he was holidaying in Vietnam. 48 hours later, he was on a plane heading towards the Suez. “In this job you have to be flexible and adapt to the environment you will be working in. This does not only happen within specific niches it happens across the board in the offshore industry.”

As the one year deadline approaches, Tim explains the demands of the project, “it’s an ambitious deadline that’s for sure, but you can see that everyone has a responsibility and is using that responsibility to hit that project deadline. The latest update of the planning & production department is that we are on schedule to make that deadline, but you face new challenges and you never can fully prepare for what can happen next.”