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 If it can sail KNUD E. HANSEN can design it | KNUD E. HANSEN
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Danish article translated by KNUD E. HANSEN

By Magnus Eg Møller from Sjællandske Nyheder

KNUD E. HANSEN has been at the forefront of ship design since its establishment in 1937. With a rich history spanning over eight decades, our team of dedicated engineers and designers have been responsible for crafting ships tailored to meet the diverse needs of our clientele worldwide. From cruise ships to warships and efficient container carriers, our portfolio encompasses a wide range of ship types. Headquartered in Helsingør, our company takes pride in its extensive track record, having successfully launched 8,900 new ships and executed 4,500 ship conversions.

The man behind the company, Knud E. Hansen, originally worked at Helsingør Shipyard until 1937. However, a disagreement with management regarding the design of the funnel for the Kronprins Olav ferry led him to make a crucial decision. This is when he decided to quit and embark on a new venture, starting his own design and engineering firm that would offer consultancy and innovative ship designs to shipping companies and shipyards worldwide.

Under Knud E. Hansen’s leadership as Managing Director the company flourished until his tragic drowning in August 1960. Despite the tragic loss, the company continued, guided by its senior employees. Eventually, it transitioned into new ownership when it was acquired by a Swedish enterprise and today it is now part of the large Dutch company, Damen Group.

KNUD E. HANSEN excels in the art of ship design and conversions, catering predominantly to shipping companies in Europe and North America. When these companies conceive an idea for a new vessel, they entrust KNUD E. HANSEN with the task of translating their vision into an initial concept design. Once the concept design receives approval, a more detailed design process begins, delving into the specifications required to generate a comprehensive design package capable of obtaining accurate construction pricing from shipyards.

Never Been Bigger

Leading the company today is CEO Finn Wollesen who has successfully held this prominent position for the past two decades.  Under his leadership KNUD E. HANSEN has experienced a transformative journey, marked by many changes and achievements.

“We’ve never been bigger than we are now. When I joined in 2003, we had 23 employees. Today, we have 100. That’s because we’ve expanded abroad and been successful in finding markets where some ship series have emerged, including RoRo (roll on, roll off). We’re the best in the world at designing them,” he says and continues:

“The tasks don’t change so much, but the types of ships do. New regulations come into play, forcing us to think differently. The Scandinavian Star changed the rules for ship fire safety, and the Estonia disaster changed stability regulations. Today, there’s a lot about limiting CO2 emissions.”

The Market is Changing

KNUD E. HANSEN’s possesses an extensive and diverse portfolio that spans a wide spectrum of ship types. With a room at the headquarters in Lundegaarden, Helsingør, there resides a pigeonhole filled with fact cards, each representing a ship meticulously designed by the company.

Their portfolio encompasses an impressive array of vessels, ranging from luxurious cruise ships and cutting-edge research vessels to specialized oil spill response vessels and enormous container ships but the demand is constantly evolving:

“Now we see Car Carriers and Live Fish Carriers being strong, and we may be entering a market for CO2 capture ships. We have developed designs where CO2 is stored in a tank, cooled down until it becomes liquid, and then injected into old oil fields. It’s a new type of ship where Denmark has a chance to become a world leader. And then there are the warships. There’s clearly a greater demand due to the war in Ukraine,” says Finn Wollesen.

Corona and Financial Crisis

Although the company has experienced growth during Finn Wollesen’s 20 years in office, there have also been some downturns.

One such challenging period occurred during the financial crisis in 2008, when the company faced uncertain prospects. However, a significant turning point came when a major order from the British Navy provided a lifeline for the company’s financial stability. KNUD E. HANSEN was tasked with designing the ventilation systems for two large aircraft carriers.

“They’re massive projects, and we were fortunate to get them during the financial crisis. I didn’t thank the heavens, but the British taxpayers because it came at the right time,” says Finn Wollesen.

Similar to numerous businesses worldwide, KNUD E. HANSEN faced significant challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The company experienced losses in 2020 as the pandemic disrupted global economies and caused project delays and cancellations. However, there were signs of recovery in 2021, showcasing a positive trajectory for the company. Unfortunately, in 2022 there were some setbacks with financial deficits. Nevertheless, there was optimism within the company, as the Managing Director confirmed that, “the tide is turning, many projects that were put on hold due to the pandemic are now being resumed, indicating a positive outlook for the current year.”

Shortage of employees

KNUD E. HANSEN operates with a dedicated team of approximately 50 employees at its headquarters in Helsingør, Denmark. However, the company has additional offices located in Odense, England, Spain, the USA, Australia, and the Faroe Islands. KNUD E. HANSEN benefits from a global presence and a diverse workforce of around 100 talented professionals.

“We’ve never been as busy as we are now. It’s the first time in my 20 years where we’ve had to say no to projects. We’ve always found a way to handle it, but now we’re at a point where we can hardly take on more. We need to find more people, and it’s extremely difficult to find qualified workers, especially in Denmark. This is reflected in having 22 different nationalities employed in the company,” says Finn Wollesen.

He doesn’t rule out the possibility of opening another foreign office, but the priority right now is finding employees.

“Except for HVAC (ventilation and air conditioning), we don’t do detail engineering, which requires a lot of manpower, so we probably won’t get much bigger than we are today, but we might reach around 150 employees. In my time, assuming I have another five years, I think we’ll reach 120-130 people. So, we’ll probably add another 10 employees here in Denmark and at the offices in Spain, the USA, and England. And also, preferably the Faroe Islands if we can find anyone,” he says and continues:

“There’s plenty of work right now. Our biggest challenge is finding employees to carry it out.”

Danish article

Af Magnus Eg Møller fra Sjællandske Nyheder

Siden 1937 har KNUD E. HANSEN tegnet skibe af alle typer for kunder over hele verden. Krydstogt, krig og containertransport. Ingeniørerne og designerne i virksomheden KNUD E. HANSEN tegner skibe, der kan det hele, og siden 1937, hvor virksomheden blev grundlagt i Helsingør, er 8-900 nye skibe og 4-500 ombygninger af Knud E. Hansen-design stukket til søs.

Manden bag virksomheden, Knud E. Hansen, arbejdede oprindeligt på Helsingør Skibsværft, indtil han i 1937 blev uenig med direktionen om designet af en skorsten på Kronprins Olav-færgen og sagde op for at starte sit eget design- og ingeniørfirma, der kunne rådgive og designe skibe for rederier og værfter i hele verden.
Frem til august 1960, hvor han led en tragisk druknedød, stod han i spidsen for firmaet, der efterfølgende blev drevet videre af ledende medarbejdere, indtil den blev solgt til et svensk foretagende, og i dag er den en del af den store hollandske virksomhed Damen Group.

KNUD E. HANSEN lever af af designe skibe og skibsombygninger for hovedsageligt europæiske og nordamerikanske rederier. Når rederierne har en idé til et skib, sender de den forbi KNUD E. HANSEN, der laver et indledende konceptdesign. Når konceptdesignet er godkendt, indledes en mere detaljeret designproces, der er specifik nok til at få en pris på byggeriet hos et værft.

Aldrig været større

Ved roret står i dag direktør Finn Wollesen. Det har han gjort i 20 år, og de 20 år har budt på store forandringer i virksomheden.

– Vi har aldrig været større, end vi er nu. Da jeg kom til 2003, var vi 23 mand. I dag er vi 100. Det skyldes, at vi har ekspanderet i udlandet, og at vi har været succesfulde i at finde markeder, hvor der er kommet nogle serier, blandt andet RoRo-skibe (roll on, roll off, red.), som vi er de bedste i verden til at tegne, fortæller han og fortsætter:

– Opgaverne ændrer sig ikke så meget, men skibstyperne ændrer sig. Der kommer nye regler, som gør at vi må tænke anderledes. Scandinavian Star ændrede reglerne for brandsikring af skibe, og Estonia-ulykken ændrede regler om stabilitet. Nu handler meget om, at vi skal begrænse udledningen af CO2.

Markedet ændrer sig

KNUD E. HANSENs portefølje er bred. Meget bred. I et lokale på hovedkontoret på Lundegården i Helsingør står et dueslag fyldt med faktakort for mange af de skibe, virksomheden har tegnet.
Her er alt fra krydstogtskibe og forskningsskibe til olieopsamlingsfartøjer og enorme containerskibe, men efterspørgslen udvikler sig hele tiden:

– Nu ser vi Car Carriers (skibe til biltransport, red.) og Live Fish Carriers (skibe til brug ved fiskeopdræt, red.) være stærke, og vi ser måske ind i et marked med CO2-capture-skibe. Vi har lavet nogle designs, der får CO2-en i en tank, køler det ned, så det bliver flydende, og presser det ned i gamle oliefelter. Det er en ny type skibe, hvor Danmark har en chance for at blive førende i verden. Og så er der krigsskibene. Der er en tydeligt større efterspørgsel på grund af krigen i Ukraine, siger Finn Wollesen.

Corona og finanskrise

Selvom virksomheden har haft vokseværk i Finn Wollesens 20 år på posten, har der også været nedture.
Først så det sort ud under finanskrisen i 2008, men her reddede en stor ordre fra det britiske søværn regnskaberne. KNUD E. HANSEN fik nemlig til opgave at tegne ventilationssystemerne på to store hangarskibe.

– Det er kæmpestore projekter, og vi var heldige at få dem under finanskrisen. Jeg takkede ikke vorherre, men de britiske skatteydere, for det kom på et godt tidspunkt, fortæller Finn Wollesen.

Senest har virksomheden ligesom så mange andre været hårdt ramt af coronakrisen. I 2020 tabte virksomheden penge, mens 2021 så bedre ud. Igen i 2022 var der underskud, men det ser ud til, pengene bliver tjent hjem igen i år, fordi mange af de projekter, der blev sat på hold, nu bliver genoptaget, fortæller direktøren.

Mangler medarbejdere

På Hovedkontoret i Helsingør sidder cirka 50 mand. Derudover har virksomheden kontorer i Odense, London, Spanien, USA, Australien og på Færøerne, og de i alt 100 mand, der er ansat over hele verden, har nok at se til.

– Vi har aldrig haft så travlt, som vi har nu. Det er første gang i mine 20 år, hvor vi har måttet sige nej til projekter. Vi har altid løst det på en eller anden måde, men nu er vi der, hvor vi næsten ikke kan tage mere ind. Vi bliver nødt til at finde flere folk, og det er ekstremt svært at finde kvalificeret arbejdskraft. Især i Danmark. Det afspejles i, at vi har 22 forskellige nationaliteter ansat i virksomheden, siger Finn Wollesen.

Han udelukker ikke, at endnu et udlandskontor kan komme på tale, men der skal først og fremmest findes medarbejdere.

– Med undtagelse af HVAC (ventilation og aircondition, red.) laver vi ikke ’detail engineering’ som er meget mandskabskrævende, så vi bliver nok ikke meget større, end vi er i dag, men vi kan måske nå op på 150. I min tid, hvis vi antager, jeg har fem år endnu, tror jeg, vi når op på 120-30 stykker. Så skal der nok smides 10 mand mere ind her og på kontorerne i Spanien, USA og England. Og også meget gerne Færøerne, hvis vi kan finde nogen, siger han og fortsætter:

– Der er arbejde nok lige nu. Vores største udfordring er at finde medarbejdere til at udføre det.

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