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Patrick Aerts
News 09|02|2023

Car constructor becomes detail engineer

  • Maritime & Offshore

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In December 2010, Estonia became a member of the OECD and it was a white Christmas in Belgium. But Patrick Aerts mainly remembers that December as the moment when Opel Belgium closed its doors, marking the end of his 22-year career with the car manufacturer. Now, more than a decade later, Patrick is involved in detail engineering in the Maritime & Offshore department of

In his previous job at Opel Belgium, Patrick was doing paint inspection and minor repairs. He would never have imagined that ten years later, he'd be making overview drawings of the watertight doors and mooring equipment for a ship. "That's what I'm currently working on at Maritime & Offshore, as part of the refit of a cargo ship into a fallpipe vessel. Some of the cargo space will be reused for the transport of boulders during the excavation of a tunnel between Denmark and Germany. In addition to the detail engineering for the refit, I also compile all the information and carry out checks based on the technical specifications."

New field of activity

After the closure of Opel, Patrick was forced to shift his field of activity from cars to ships. Through the outplacement programme, he followed a course in 'Ship tracer & boiler construction' – in modern terms: 'ship repair'. The training programme was organised in collaboration with and four other companies with the objective that Patrick and his fellow students would learn to assess damage on board ships, draw up the solution in a plan and then assist on board with the repair works.

On-the-job training

"It was all completely new to me. Every Monday for a year, I had lessons in Offshore assets & systems engineering and 2D drawing. For the rest of the week, I received on-the-job training at There were thirteen of us in the training programme, but in the end, only two were left. The rest dropped out because at the time, the future of pure ship repair in Belgium was no longer looking promising. Fortunately, also received many commissions for new-build projects and, after an additional IVT process (Individual Vocational Training), I was able to get a permanent contract with them. After I was hired, I still received a lot of guidance from my colleagues and I followed an extra Nupas-Cadmatic training."

Drawing pontoons

For his very first project, Patrick processed the feedback on the detail drawings of a pontoon. Immediately after that, he was allowed to draw a new pontoon himself. "I think that was's way of testing how I would apply the things I'd learned so far on this new project. And apparently, I passed the test."

From factory to drawing office

Patrick managed to adapt quickly to his new employer. "The biggest change was actually the transition from a job with a lot of physical activity to sedentary work. But it's fascinating and I feel at home here. During my training, I already noticed that stood out for its professionalism and atmosphere. I still experience those values every day."

Would you also like to switch to a new field of activity? Check out the profiles we're currently looking for here.

During my on-the-job training I got up to speed in detail engineering for the construction and refit of ships.


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