Understanding the Machine: The Mindset of an Offshore Crane Operator

Throughout our network of professionals it seems that the varying skill sets and thirst for knowledge is only half of what you need to work in the offshore industry. Experienced crane operator, Joeri Van Den Steen explains how developing a mindset keeps you focused in pushing yourself to the limit.

Looking for the Challenges

“In 2006 I went to work for Mammoet as an onshore crane operator. I learnt how to operate different cranes such as Mobile Towers and Crawlers. Eventually I wanted to train for a SOMA licence,” a qualification for the infrastructure sector and vertical transport, “I decided that I wanted to work for Onstream and they paid for my training. However, after working onshore for so long I realised that the challenging aspects from my previous career weren’t there for me anymore.”

Military Precision

Before starting a career in the offshore industry, Joeri served in the military, “I was in the Navy for ten years so I had developed a different mindset to others. I knew how to deal with difficult situations and learning not just to say no, but to find an alternative solution. You also need to listen to others and be willing to compromise if someone else has a better suggestion.”

Joeri explains how this has helped him to develop a control during a crane manoeuvres, “you have to have feeling for the machine. We call it feeling in your fingertips, it’s a feeling that you have or you don’t. If you have transferred from onshore to offshore work, you need to adapt to a new working environment. With my experience from working on land then to offshore you become confident with the more difficult manoeuvres. At the end of the day I am responsible for the lift, if I don’t trust it I don’t lift it.”

Knowing the limits

As a regular employee of Workfox, Joeri has gained bigger aspirations for his next job with this company. “One day I want to work on the Seafox 5 as this has a bigger crane. It’s not only the challenge with the crane operation I find interesting but also putting your trust in the crew. This can happen in situations such as lifting something out of my line of sight, you have to trust that the crew will move accordingly otherwise I can put them in danger.”

After ten years in the marine industry, Joeri has gained the experience to know his limits, even if they may seem extraordinary to others. “The last trip I was on, I did 30-35 lifts in two hours. When I got out of the crane the deck foreman was shocked, there were seven or eight important lifts but I was just on a roll. If you can use your experience to improve how you work on the job then the compliments you receive can be really satisfying.”