Wärtsilä’s propulsion field service team – the expertise, quality and experience to keep your vessels running optimally

Wärtsilä’s propulsion field service team packs the experience and expertise needed to keep customers’ vessels in action and operating optimally.

With world-class maintenance, repair and upgrade services Wärtsilä Field Services & Workshops is the global engine room that keeps our customers’ assets running optimally. Among the division’s almost 3,000 service professionals is Carl Reijs, whose encyclopaedic knowledge and vast experience with propulsion components and systems plays a vital role in propelling customers vessels’ – and businesses – forward.


When customers engage Wärtsilä to perform maintenance, repairs or upgrades on a vessel they are engaging a reliable service partner with a wealth of knowledge and expertise and a truly global presence. The numbers tell their own story. Field Services & Workshops counts over 2,900 professionals in its ranks, operates in close to 70 countries and handles in the region of 30,000 work orders every year.

The division’s promise to customers is a simple one: We deliver what we promise and continuously optimise our customers’ asset performance.

The Propulsion Field Service team manages all aspects of operational scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, system upgrades and modernisations for propulsion systems on vessels of all kinds. One of the team’s dedicated service heroes is Carl Reijs, Global Technical Expert, Propulsion Field Services. Carl is part of Global Expert Operations, a crack team of experts who have been hand-picked as the best-of-the-best in their respective fields and are the go-to contacts for complex, unusual or otherwise challenging cases. 

Carl Reijs, Global Technical Expert, Propulsion Field Services

From packaging to propulsion

Fittingly, Carl began his career at sea, as a merchant marine engineer, before making the move into the packaging industry as a troubleshooter on packaging production lines. His passion for travel, however, soon drew him towards new challenges. “The prospect of a desk job scared me, so I jumped at the opportunity to move into field services as a service engineer, first in printing business and then later working with automated guided vehicles,” he begins his story. “In 1996 I started work as a field service engineer at the LIPS B.V. workshop in Drunen in the south of the Netherlands.” LIPS was acquired by Wärtsilä in 2002, and today the Drunen site is home to the Wärtsilä Land & Sea Academy (WLSA) Netherlands. 

“I first worked as a service engineer and service specialist, and then as a superintendent until 2004, after which I was given the task of establishing our in-house triple-A propulsion repair shop as team leader together with my manager at the time;” Carl continues. Today Drunen is one of Wärtsilä’s 10 global centres of excellence for propulsion technology and service.


One of the go-to guys for prickly propulsion problems

Carl’s responsibilities are largely focused around advising on repair techniques and tackling jobs that fall on the unusual or challenging end of the manufacturing, service or repair spectrum. “I’m usually the guy who people come to for advice on difficult or highly specialised repairs, or when we need to source custom parts in a really short timeframe from other machine shops,” he explains. The cases Carl tackles cover the complete shaft line up to but not including propeller blade tips. “Our field service network is the first point of contact for the customer, and they can turn to our Global Field Service organisation and also us Global Technical Experts for help and support.”

Carl is quick to remind us that the kinds of propulsion cases he works with are not jobs that can be done while the vessel is in operation, so time – but also quality – is of the essence. “The components and systems we work with are for the most part underwater and inaccessible when a ship is operating, so we need to be sure that we can not only get the job done right first time every time, but also that we get it done as quickly as possible so that the vessel can continue to turn a profit for its owners,” he highlights. “Before you give the go-ahead for a vessel to be put back into the water you need to be 100% sure the propulsion elements have been properly repaired because if they haven’t, it’s not only a safety risk but it also means massive cost and disruption if the vessel needs to be taken out of service again for further repairs.”

In a recent example Carl was involved with the repair of a cracked propeller hub on a vessel that was moored in Turkey. The job involved removing the entire six-tonne hub and transporting it safely back to the Schiedam workshop in the Netherlands for repair before returning and reinstalling it. All of this was managed within 14 days with the combined efforts of Wärtsilä’s Field Services, Global Technical Expert group and metallurgical repair experts. 

“Whatever the problem is and wherever a vessel might be, we can come up with a solution, whether it’s an individual component like a propeller hub or shaft, a complete propulsion line, or something in between,” Carl says. “Each and every case is unique, so there is no one-size-fits all thinking. Of course, we have established repair methods to follow, but as experts we always have to treat every repair as a new one, and every case as a learning experience.”


Expertise is everything

With cost often being the first concern when customers weigh up their options, it’s worth reiterating the advantages of choosing to partner with the OEM to explain why looking beyond the price tag is a good idea. “First and foremost, it’s about the expertise at your disposal,” says Carl.

As an OEM we have world-class engineering and technical support capabilities and a global service network and can handle projects from end to end. Every single piece of work we do is stored in our system down the very last detail – including the parts that were used and who performed the work – for full traceability.

Wärtsilä’s extensive network of experienced engineers and product experts are continuously trained on component upgrades and enhancements as well as the latest service methods. When combined with a broad range of field data from thousands of installations, this creates a unique knowledge base that is global, in-depth and always being updated. It’s also important to remember that Wärtsilä’s capabilities extend to third-party equipment too. 

With so many years of experience under his belt Carl is never afraid to try new things and develop new repair methods to address unique problems, always with a focus on quality and an eye on the overall propulsion system: “Each and every shaft or other component I see can have a different problem or be damaged in a different way. Despite over 25 years of doing this kind of work and thousands of different jobs, there is always a new challenge to tackle. There are lots of ways to repair an individual component, but the trick is to bear in mind the potential knock-on effects on the overall vessel behaviour and performance. Regardless of what we are working on and how quickly the job needs to be done, quality is always our number one priority,” he says. 


A touch of class goes a long way

Collaboration with classification societies is naturally a big part of Carl’s work, and this is an area where his own knowledge and experience and that of the entire Wärtsilä Field Services organisation is a valuable ally. “The societies of course provide the frameworks and rules that it is our job to follow,” Carl highlights, “but as propulsion experts part of our work is to think outside the box and come up with new approaches to problems too. Then we use our experience, OEM knowledge and thorough testing to show them what is possible – and sometimes what’s not possible.”

In one example, Carl and his team developed a completely new method of welding a damaged prop shaft using a complex process involving preheating, then presented the idea to the class society in question for approval. “All the non-standard repairs we do are discussed with the relevant classification society, and we of course perform calculations for material strengths and tolerances, machining and so on. All of this information is carefully record to ensure full traceability and reported to the classification society.”

In Carl’s opinion Wärtsilä’s number one advantage as an OEM is the vast depth of expertise and competences it can offer in propulsion service on a global scale. “Although we are dealing with complex technologies and systems built from highly specialised components and machined to precise specifications using the latest tools and techniques, without the knowledge of our people we would be nowhere.”  

Written by
Ian Hamilton

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