A dream? Or a nightmare?

If you want to believe the forums on the Internet, you rarely find a shipyard with which all customers are satisfied. So there are also lawyers specialising in shipping law who recommend their involvement before you even think about an order. Exaggerated? If only we had done that.

In view of our early retirement, we were looking on the «Boot Düsseldorf» for a slightly larger ship. As we passed by, we grabbed various brochures at a booth for second-hand boats. Among them the folder of Kees Cornelissen and Euroship Services bv.

 

Kees Cornelissen offers Luxe Motor Barges in modular design. Exciting – we thought. So one could acquire, for example, only the steel hull; or the hull with the propulsion or the hull with the interior fittings without propulsion or of course also a ready-made boat. Everything was possible. That sounds good – we thought. So let’s go to Heerewaarden – we wanted to have a closer look.

 

Euroship Services, Heerewaarden, NL

Shortly after the fair we met the owner of Euroship Services / Kees Cornelissen Shipyards. Kees Cornelissen showed us the shipyard and apart from his demo boat, two 15 meter yachts he had under construction for Swiss. He said he likes to work with Swiss people. They are so correct.

We were not so convinced by the design of the Luxe Motors, because life on the upper deck was not ideal for our needs in terms of space and comfort and you only get to the lower deck via a steep staircase, where again you don’t have much of a view.

Cornelissen led us into the hall again. He had a Casco, which he would have built for himself. In it he had combined all his know-how from the last 30 years of professional experience. He would leave it to us.

 

Decksalon 2000
Decksalon 2000

In fact, we liked the 19.95 m long «Decksalon» exceptionally well, although it was much longer than we had planed to buy. Around 50 m2 space on the upper deck, many windows, another 50 m2 space on the lower deck and – what made my amateur interior designer heart beat faster – we were able to design and furnish the interior completely by ourselves, according to Cornelissen.

A boat like this isn’t cheap. Without any options and bells and whistles, the finished boat should cost several hundred thousand euros. No trifling matter, but we had counted on a little more and so we could even afford some options.

After careful consideration, we obtained references from Swiss customers, both of which were very positive. And on the Internet we couldn’t find anything negative about the shipyard. We hadn’t even dreamed of involving a lawyer back then.

So we negotiated about pin anchors (pure luxury, unless you have four dogs. Then they are very practical, one wants to anchor in the middle of nowhere), solar collectors, a floor heating, so that we can inhabit the boat also in the winter and a few smaller conveniences more.

 

Deck Plan

At the end we signed a contract for this hull including the extension and propulsion in the value of a small house. After all the boat should become our home for the next years. Shortly after signing the contract at the end of February 2018, we ordered an electric hybrid drive instead of the traditional diesel engine. We wanted to do something for the environment – of course electric drives are also controversial, but we can’t row either.

The contractually agreed deadline was set at 12 months after signing the contract, with Cornelissen assuring us that the electric drive system would have no influence whatsoever on the deadline.

The expansion progressed and we visited „our“ boat every few months. We also paid «like correct Swiss people“ all contractually defined instalments until – in our opinion – apart from the not yet installed electric drive, nothing more was to be paid. The last instalment was to be our „old“ Linssen yacht – in exchange. In December 2018, we had the „ship under construction“ entered in our name in the Dutch ship register in Rotterdam. A good decision that we can only recommend to anyone who is building a boat in the Netherlands.

We became a little suspicious when the ship of one of the other Swiss customers had not been completed a year after the delivery date and there was no end in sight. (In August 2019 it was still not completely finished). But our Swiss friend assured us that he had always said he was in no hurry. Well – we were in a hurry – and so we communicated this to Cornelissen during each of our visits. Kees Cornelissen assured us every time, even before witnesses, that the boat would be delivered on time on 1st May 2019.

 

At the beginning of April 2019 Cornelissen ordered us to the shipyard. Our boat was to be launched and we were to check whether everything was as ordered so that any additions could still be made in the hall.

So, we went to Holland. To cut a long story short, we drove 800 km twice to find out that the boat was by no means finished, let alone could be launched into the water. Not everything was done as agreed. But these are suddenly small unimportances, in view of a only half-finished ship, which should be actually ready to sail.

 

Neither the ordered Generator nor the ordered engines. . .

We stood there with our mouths open. The boat was not painted yet, neither the solar collectors nor the engines or the generator were installed, the interior work was not finished. . . . We estimated the degree of completion on approximately 50 %.

Confronted with our unbelieving frustration Cornelissen said quite succinctly „never have I agreed to a deadline for May 1st“. Well – we didn’t record May 1st in writing; but we did record the contractually guaranteed deadline „12 months after signature“. And this signature was made on Sunday 4th March 2018 at the shipyard, also by Cornelissen.

Now we wanted to know and started to communicate seriously with colleagues from boat clubs, in internet forums and on Facebook. We came across the story of a Canadian who could have been our story one to one. We corresponded with an Englishman who had to sign a contract not to publish anything detrimental about Kees Cornelissen against a high penalty; we heard from Englishmen and Swedes who had to commission other shipyards to correct Cornelissen-mistakes for expensive extra money and and were made aware of the miserable reputation of Cornelissen in shipping circles by a Swiss club mate, a former judge.

After Cornelissen’s tone became ruder and louder with every mail and telephone conversation and suddenly flat-rate invoices about „additional work“ that was not further defined arrived, it seemed to us appropriate to call in a lawyer.

A shipowner, John Teed – he wrote his horrible experiences off his chest in a blog and in the forum of the DBA – The Barges Association – kindly mentioned the name of his lawyer specializing in shipping law, who has a lot of experience with lawsuits against Cornelissen.

In any case, we are very happy to have ended up with Joris Klompé from Scheepsrecht Advocaten in Loosdrecht NL, as he knows exactly how to proceed. After all the attempts to settle the matter with Cornelissen had failed, we tried to get an expeditious trial before the court in Arnhem. Our only goal was to get a concrete delivery date for our boat – ready to go and in accordance with the contractually agreed specifications. According to Guido Beekmann from Beekmann Expertises in Muiden, an experienced ship expert called in, this should be possible by the beginning of September.

The trial date was set and took place on August 5, 2019 .

Joris Klompé presented our request objectively and competently. It was all about setting a delivery date for the boat, which had been overdue for months. We had already been warned – Cornelissen and his lawyer Frits Hommersom were known to argue loudly, excessively and not necessarily thematically. Surprisingly, Kees Cornelissen asked for the floor before his lawyer could speak.

In addition to dismissing our lawsuit, the counter lawyer also demanded that I be muzzled immediately so that I could not publish anything detrimental about Cornelissen and his companies. Fines should not only concern my articles, but also the articles that appear somewhere on the net and could have been mine. As if that weren’t enough, he wanted us, also under threat of a fine, to keep the trial and its outcome completely confidential.

After Cornelissen’s extensive digression, Frits Hommersom wanted to start with his introductory presentation. But this caused the immediate resistance of the judge and also of our lawyer. It was then agreed that Hommersom was allowed to make a few additions – which Cornelissen had not yet mentioned. It took him another 30 minutes.

The judge then came back to the actual topic; we and Cornelissen were questioned directly. She wanted to know from us why we thought it was a „spoedeisend geval“, an urgent case? Well – until April 10th, 2019 we were left in the belief that we could take over our boat on May 1st, 2019 and had sublet our house accordingly. This delay has now brought with it many, very unpleasant consequences, including the fact that we live like nomads with our four dogs.

And she wanted to know how we came to a delivery date May 1st, 2019. „Well – the contract says delivery 12 months after contract signature. The contract was signed by both sides on Sunday, March 4, 2018. We had ordered the electric drive on May 8, 2018 under the condition that the change in the drive would have no effect on the delivery date. Otherwise we would have left the engine at Diesel. Cornelissen has confirmed this to us several times. However, we promised him that we would not take over the boat until May 1st, 2019, as we would not be sailing before that date. On 25th September 2018 we were with my cousin, who is Dutch, at the shipyard. She had the impression that the boat was not so far yet and asked Cornelissen directly if the delivery date on May 1st was safe. Cornelissen answered yes.“

Now the judge turned to Cornelissen and asked how the delivery delays came about and on what date he now planed to deliver the boat.

Cornelissen again began to explain in detail that he wanted to make the boat safe to sail and that it takes time and couldn’t be rushed and the engines had been delivered too late and the mechanic was no longer available etc., etc. (Bellmarine confirmed, however, that the engines were in stock and the mechanic was available on call). Why the boat was not even painted on August 5th nor the interior was finished, was not mentioned.

The judge intervened and wanted to know when the boat would be delivered. It should be possible for Cornelissen to give a concrete date now.

Now Cornelissen really got the hang of it. He would not be forced to give specific dates. After all, we are private individuals and not a company that has to earn money with the boat. We have the time and he doesn’t understand our hurry at all. Of course he keeps the agreed delivery dates for companies. But we wouldn’t even have an agreed delivery date. And we only wanted to take over the boat and then complain about his work and continue to litigate against him.

Our attorney replicated in accordance with HISWA’s general terms and conditions, which are an integral part of the contract, would be allowed 15 % timeout. These have long since been exceeded. Our expert, Guido Beekmann, had stated at the end of June that the boat could be ready in 4 weeks. Cornelissen’s counter-expert stated around 1st August that the shipyard still needed 7 weeks. We accept these 7 weeks and – assuming that the shipyard had continued to work at full speed on the boat since July 2019 – we would agree with a delivery date of 16th  September. We would even have agreed to a delivery date of 1st October 2019. We just wanted to get a delivery date.

The judge then said that this was an honest proposal and she would find it better if we could agree among ourselves here.

Now Cornelissen became really loud – quintessence: He would not be forced.

The judge then decided that she would make a decision and inform us by 19th August 2019 at the latest.

This decision has now been made:

The action against the shipyard Kees Cornelissen Shipyards bv is hereby approved as follows:

The vessel must be launched, ready to sail and ready for service by 18th September 2019 at the latest, including all agreed options and accessories, ready for acceptance testing, on pain of a penalty of €500 per day/part per day and an order to pay the costs of the proceedings.

The counterclaims were dismissed in all respects.

Meanwhile another expert, this time for electric engines, has established that neither the motor nor the generator offered, were ordered from Cornelissen. Cornelissen has changed the order for lesser  parts – without consulting us. On the other hand, he has – also on his own initiative – already installed an „upgrade“ for the batteries, which are of course correspondingly more expensive.

The dispute will probably last a little longer. Cornelissen has been litigating against John Teed for years because of «additional work and options» charged by the shipyard. It doesn’t seem to matter that the contract stipulates that additional work must be announced in advance and with a price tag in writing and that the customer must also explicitly place the order.

We will probably have to continue to follow in the footsteps of Teed.

If you would like to find out more about the further course of the story, please follow us on www.my-caro.ch.

For the time being – who wants to read the court decision – it is of course written in Dutch – can find it here.

And on www.kinette.ch – the website of Charlotte and Christian Huber, which is worth reading, not only for „boat people“, the former judge, Christian writes about the case.