Spotlight Innovation

Humans of METSTRADE with Thom Pijnenburg

Kim Hollamby
Friday, 21 July 2023

Kim Hollamby speaks with Thom Pijnenburg, account manager at Yanmar Marine International, about his pathway into a marine career, why he enjoys his work and what trends he expects to shape the future.

What attracted you to working in the marine industry?

When I was a child, I loved to go sailing with my parents in Greece, Italy and Croatia during the summer holidays. My love and my passion for the marine industry ultimately led me to taking a bachelor’s degree in Nautical Business Management at IVA Business school in the Netherlands. This four-year course is unique in focusing on technical and business management aspects of working in the leisure marine sector.

From there I started my career at YachtFocus, a CRM and media company dedicated to boat brokers. I was happy but wanted to work on a physical product and use my technical knowledge, so I moved to Yanmar at the beginning of 2020.  I started there just a week before COVID-19 restrictions hit so I found myself working from home almost immediately! 

As an account manager I am responsible for the Benelux region – Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg where Yanmar has 28 dealers and a lot of boat builders. I really enjoy the fact we get to work with all sorts of boats – from tenders, sloops and sailing yachts to bigger motor yachts, light commercial workboats and many more.

Tell us about your department’s role within the Yanmar global organisation

I’m based at Yanmar Marine International, the global headquarters in Almere, Netherlands. My role involves working within the marine leisure industry, selling engines and connected options to boat builders and dealers for new builds and repower. It is a nice balance to have the advantages of being employed within a global corporation but also having a feeling of being a part of a very informal business when working with my marine clients. 

In the Netherlands today a lot of the activity I am involved with relates to sloops, tenders and sailboats, and we deal with a lot of engines each year. I always tell people within our organisation that we are not selling engines – we are selling pleasure and safety on the water. That’s the most important thing. 

What interesting trends are you seeing in the industry?

The environmental impact of boating is very important. A lot of the time people are focused on electric propulsion, but I think we must look at other solutions too such as sustainable fuels, engines that consume less fuel and hydrogen. It’s not just the younger generation wanting improvements in sustainability for themselves – we are also already thinking about our children too.

What I really love about Yanmar is its focus on cleaner engines, with less fuel consumption and emissions, and its strategy for developing electric and hybrid propulsion. There is a trend that boat builders want to source packages rather than individual components. We are responding by offering a one-stop-shop for builders to supply the engine, control system and other engine-related products. This has the advantage that full support for the whole package is provided by our global dealer network which consists of more than 2000 authorised dealers.

The industry also needs to focus on how it manages product lifecycles from A to Z. Most of the time it is too easy to focus just on the end user, but we need to examine how a product is made, shipped, and recycled for a new life. Without that assessment, you can make uninformed mistakes and cause more harm to the environment than the solution you are replacing.

Take the ban on boat diesel and gasoline engines in Amsterdam from 2025. That means a switch to electric propulsion. But most small leisure boats on waters only burn 40-50 litres of fuel per year. A switch to electric propulsion for these boats is not only expensive but involves the production of components like lithium batteries that have a negative environmental impact when manufactured and replaced. We must push for the right sustainability policies to avoid unintended consequences for the environment.

What is your top tip for a young professional wishing to enter the marine industry?

The most important things are that you love boating, and you understand customer needs. You need to be proud to see your product, in my case engines, being appreciated by boat builders and by their customers, the end users.

The industry itself needs to be more open to change and to newer people joining it with fresh ideas. Technology is changing fast – there’s no way back – and there needs to be fresh young talent in your business to support that. I hope to see more young people starting in marine businesses and more established older people encouraging that.

What is the importance of METSTRADE to your business?

Yanmar is a METSTRADE exhibitor with a large stand – that is a strong indicator of the importance of the show to our business. It’s a very nice place to speak with our boat builder and dealer customers from around the world and I like too that they get to interact with each other. 

METSTRADE also enables me to see what is happening with developments and brands across the sector. Often, we are not only delivering an engine but combining it with components from other companies, so it’s important that we know what innovations are being introduced.

Which METSTRADE areas and activities do you most look forward to?

I like to visit the DAME Awards area to catch up on the latest products highlighted there. I also look out for presentations on how we can make our industry more sustainable.

How do you plan a typical METSTRADE visit?

A lot of the time is spent meeting customers on our stand. I also look on the internet to check exhibitors and make appointments with relevant ones that we work with or that have new products to us that we would like to investigate. I like to do a lot of background research on companies and the full range of equipment they are making.


Read more from Humans of METSTRADE

Ana Čalić (Navela) Marieke de Boer (IMPACD Boats)
Rory Coase (Coase Design)

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