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Dutch rules on foreign workers push Boskalis to expand in UAE –



Photo: Boskalis

Dredging and maritime services company Boskalis is moving part of its headquarter operations to the Middle East and will decide on a definitive departure from the Netherlands later this year, chief executive Peter Berdowski has told the Telegraaf in an interview. 

Boskalis, which also provides services to the offshore industry, is setting up a regional HQ in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Berdowski said, in an interview to coincide with the company’s annual results presentation.  

“We have operations all over the world but the fact we are building up a regional HQ in Abu Dhabi has more to do with parliament’s plans to limit the number of highly skilled workers moving to the Netherlands and the shortage of technical staff,” Berdowski said. 

“There we have a window on all Asia and an endless supply of talent. In Abu Dhabi, we can get a visa for personnel within two weeks. Here it can take two years if we succeed at all.”

The Abu Dhabi office currently employs 300 people with 20 different nationalities and will double in size in the coming years. 

Berdowski said he would not speculate about where an entirely new HQ would come if the company decided to leave the Netherlands altogether. “But we are not sitting still and will look at it again this year,” he said. 

A move has been on the cards for longer because of new laws covering responsible business practices which could leave the company wide open to law suits, he said.

Dutch judges, he said, are increasingly applying international treaties in the courts which could be a risk if they start putting extra-territorial considerations above civil law. “That would be a nightmare and I want to make sure we don’t miss out on contracts,” he told the Telegraaf.

Boskalis booked sales of €4.3 billion in 2023, a rise of over 50% on the previous year. Operating profit doubled to €1 billion for the first time and net profit rose from €241 million in 2022 to €601 million. All divisions contributed to the results. 

Berdowski’s comments come a day after it emerged the government has set up a special task force to ensure that chip machinery maker ASML does not leave the Netherlands because of concerns about the business climate and plans to limit the number of foreign workers. 

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