Navigating the North: Summer Internship at Conoship

Luca Van Den Berg shares his journey of growth with Conoship International

As I made my way towards the office each morning, the sights and sounds of Groningen became a familiar backdrop to my internship journey. Climbing the stairs that led to the bridge, I couldn’t help but notice the unfinished train station on my left – I guess it stands as a symbol of the city’s constant evolution. I crossed the bridge with caution, the serene journey to Conoship International each morning brought a sense of routine and familiarity.

Groningen - The Netherlands

Finally, I took a shortcut through the Stadspark Groningen, arriving at the office I started reminiscing about the first time I set foot in this grand grey building, two-and-half months ago, nervous, and excited about starting my Summer Internship.

Being a young adult who had returned to the Netherlands just a year before, after a four-year adventure as a tennis player in the South of France, despite having competed against aspiring and professional tennis players, I had never experienced the level of nervousness I felt walking into this new world, the world of ship-design and engineering, the Shipping World. I took the elevator up to the 5th floor and the sight of the familiar Conoship International logo at the reception reassured me that I was in the right place.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a tall man with a big smile; Nanne Sluis, the General Affairs Manager and a former Olympian Rower, that competed at the 2012 Olympics in London. Meeting my colleagues on the 4th and 5th floors further dissolved any anxieties I had. My worries and nerves quickly dissipated in the welcoming atmosphere, created by the team of friendly and skilled naval architects, engineers, and maritime experts that were now going to be my colleagues.

Conoship’s long and illustrious history, dating back to its foundation in 1952, was evident in the expertise and dedication displayed by my colleagues. It was an honour to be part of this company that designed cargo ships to specialised vessels for various purposes and helped to shape the Maritime Industry in the Northern Netherlands. Throughout the weeks that followed, I settled into my role with growing pride.

Render of LOLO vessel for UPM

Under the mentorship of Maarten Sickler, the Sales Director at Conoship International, I felt privileged to learn from such a knowledgeable and supportive leader. His patient explanations on technical, financial, and commercial matters made me eager to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

“A theory without practice is like a ship without a sail; it may chart the course, but it won’t reach the destination”

The internship at Conoship International was an adventure by itself, it wasn’t just about desk work; it was about immersing myself in the real-world aspects of the shipping industry. From visiting clients in a variety of countries to giving lectures at NHL in Leeuwarden, I was exposed to a diverse array of experiences, I even found myself attending the BreakBulk 2023 event in Ahoy, where I met influential individuals from across the globe.

The exposure I gained was both eye-opening and transformative. The real-world application of classroom knowledge was a bridge between theory and practice, making me appreciate the importance of internships in personal growth and career development.

Beyond the office walls, whilst living in the Northern Netherlands, the cities of Groningen and Leeuwarden added to the richness of my experience. Groningen’s lively atmosphere and Leeuwarden’s picturesque canals provided a perfect blend of excitement and tranquillity. As a newcomer to Leeuwarden, I was delighted to find convenience stores, public gyms, supermarkets, and pubs all within walking distance, creating a cosy and homely ambience.

Groningen - The Netherlands

As I sit at my desk, writing this article about my internship experience, it becomes obvious why Conoship International is such a tightly run ship, seamless coordination, and commitment to excellence ensure smooth operations and continued success in the Maritime Industry, as well the camaraderie among my colleagues; from Thayse’s efficiency to Wouter’s helpfulness, Roel’s humour, and Jacqueline’s nurturing presence with her sausage dog; Jip. Jan Jaap’s calm demeanour, Lihua’s kindness and advice, Geert’s leadership, Maarten’s charisma and vision, and all my other colleagues that get to work passionately every day.

The internship made me understand that the engineering and designing of ships were not merely technical endeavours. It is the first step in making the world go round. From the toys for children on Christmas morning to the flowers sent to loved ones, from the convenience of online shopping to the delivery of essential aid during emergencies or the cultural exchange fostered by the industry allowed for the sharing of books, artwork, and cultural items between countries, promoting cultural understanding and appreciation. – All are made possible by the shipping industry. Conoship International, allowed me to understand my strengths and weaknesses as a young student, it reinforced my passion for the shipping industry. Looking back on this journey, I can leave the North light-heartedly. I look forward to what lies ahead, thanks to their guidance, knowing that the internship provided me a head start, marking just the beginning of my journey to becoming a Shipping Man.