Sebastiaan started at Bemo Rail in 2005 after a technical education and additional specialised courses in metalworking. He first worked as a mechanic in the Bemo workshop, but soon he moved to fieldwork.
Sebastiaan: “I have travelled all around the world on behalf of Bemo Rail. I have been in Laos, Thailand, Ghana, Hong Kong, Egypt, Morocco, Brazil, Peru, French Guiana, Aruba, Curacao, Finland, England, Germany and Belgium.”
Sebastiaan: “I started in Waarland, with a team of new mechanics. At the time, I was not the average Bemo employee and stood out with my diamond earrings, Nikes and Indonesian complexion. However, I quickly felt at home and have been working at Bemo for over 14 years now.
“The first three months, I spent drilling sleepers; then I was asked to join the field team. The colleagues were somewhat stiff and reserved at first. But then I got to know them and they got to know me and fortunately I found my place. We are a very close team, I wouldn’t call them family, but if you spend a long time together on a job on site, you get to know each other very well. We know we can count on each other.
“The first year and a half, I was assigned to do welding jobs. Together with colleague Wouter, we drove across the Netherlands for various jobs. Then the opportunity arose to become a foreman and I seized that opportunity.”
The Egypt Project: Installing 2,000 Metres of Rails on the Dock
Sebastiaan: “In 2008, Bemo needed someone for a project in Egypt. I didn’t know much about the country, but I was asked and I went; it was my first international project. The project site was located only three hours from Cairo and I was shocked when I arrived. I really hadn’t expected the difference in culture to be so significant! The project was led by a Chinese company and the working methods and conditions were different compared to what I was used to in the Netherlands. Communication was difficult at times.
“The project involved installing 2,000 metres of rails on the dock. We had to install 250 metres in each phase; around 1,500 people worked on that same piece of 250 metres. Every time we finished 250 metres of rails, this was handed over to the terminal and a container crane was put on the rail immediately. It was a battlefield! Nowadays, this kind of practices do not exist anymore, and I have never experienced anything like it again. I certainly learned to stand up for myself! It was tough, but we made it work. We finished the job and I am proud of that!
“There were quite a few tensions in Egypt at the time. The locals warned me that it was not safe and that I might have to leave. I remember thinking ‘they are exaggerating’. But I was wrong, because in 2009 the war began in Egypt and I was still there. The hotel next to us was on fire, we heard guns, there had been an outbreak in prison and thousands of men were rioting in the streets. Our hotel was guarded by tanks and the cook made Molotov cocktails from beer bottles from the bar to protect us. We waited for a quiet moment to leave. Two days later, that moment arrived: it was a bit quieter and we left with all the foreigners present in a column of 3 cars. When we arrived in Cairo, we were surrounded by a crowd with shotguns and bats. They were locals protecting their properties. Fortunately, they saw we were foreigners, let us pass and we were able to get to the airport. Bemo managed to arrange a ticket for me and I have never been so happy to be home again in my life!”
Hong Kong Cruise Terminal:
Sebastiaan: “The next project was in Hong Kong. The first time I went there for four and a half months; it was a project in a Cargo Terminal at the airport. We installed a unique earthquake-proof rail system on seven floors. Shortly after, in January, we had the chance to do a second project in Hong Kong, this time for a Cruise Terminal. We laid rails commissioned by a Spanish company. In addition to work, leisure time in Hong Kong was also unique. It is a diverse and international city and I had a fantastic time there! I remember going to a “Rugby 7” match with a group of colleagues and acquaintances; we were able to get cheap tickets at the door. We had seats right behind the goal and I caught a ball. It was broadcast on TV! It was such a unique experience and the atmosphere was great!”
Sebastiaan: “I spent a year and a half in Tangier to oversee the construction of a port rail system. We helped build the largest container terminal in Africa there. This project was the icing on the cake. What Bemo does is very special, and the confidence Bemo has always placed in my abilities is also very special. Just like my colleagues, I am always ready and willing to take on any challenge. I went to Morocco with colleagues Mark and Marcel and it was great. Sometimes lonely, too, but the experience helped shape me. I am very proud of that project.
Sebastiaan: “I think that in the coming years we will become even bigger and better than we already are. I want to continue to use my experience to take the projects on site to a higher level.”