The way we do things.
Stories and images from the SDT world.

Who are SDT? What do they do? How do they do it? Who is involved? In this section of our website we would like to acquaint you more closely with the SDT world – in a more personal way, at first hand and with clear statements and authentic images directly from our daily lives.

“Our technicians sometimes even fly to the Maldives for an assignment – without grumbling.”

Eberhard Starke, Shareholder of SDT, on SDT’s past and future.

It is unusually warm for a northern German day in May. The sun is shining and the air is warm. We are sitting in the conference room of SDT in Rendsburg. The extensively glazed facade offers a view of the confluence of the upper Eider and Kiel canals. Water has always been a central element in SDT’s activities. This is because the company’s main business activity is in the marine sector. Since 1976, SDT has designed, manufactured and maintained power units for an extensive range of ship types. First in Kiel and, then, in 2008 when the location became too small, in nearby Rendsburg. Playing a leading role in the move at the time and in the further expansion of the company: Eberhard Starke. A man with an eventful maritime past.

Mr Starke, you have been the shareholder of SDT since 2006 and managing director until 2019. What were your previous activities before you joined SDT?

I really learned the job from scratch. In the dim and distant past I studied marine engineering in Flensburg. Right after school I went to sea, sailing around the world on freighters for a Flensburg shipping company, finally in the position of senior engineer. During my seafaring days I completed my upper secondary level education, via distance learning. Then I also passed the university entrance examination and later studied marine engineering. On becoming a father I decided to give up seafaring. I became a sales engineer, then the technical manager of a shipping company, and then I ended up at Motorenwerke Bremerhaven, where I worked for exactly 10 years, finally becoming the chief technical officer there. During this period I began working for SDT on the side. Then, in 2006, I took up a full-time position at SDT.

What is so special about SDT? Why should customers come to you in particular?

Here we need to draw distinctions. We have many different mainstays. Firstly, new construction: the customer receives customised power units from us. Upon request, we can even offer our suport right from the project phase. How might the engine room look? What drive and energy generation solutions are possible? Our second major focus is the service area. We have highly trained employees who are well-acquainted with the installations of our long-term customers. It even happens that fitters take on sponsorships for specific ship engines or power units. They will be personally requested by the customer, and our fitters may then have to fly to the Maldives for an assignment on board a yacht there. They do that without grumbling (laughs). And it is really a good sign when the customer says that he also wants the SDT service and not that of the nearest local provider. That is truly a proof of their confidence, and also shows that it it is worth it for our customers.

Since its founding, SDT has, to date, serviced more than 5,000 power units and engines. How many do you currently service?

It must be pointed out that engines actually have a lifetime of about 30 years. In this time frame we will have carried out at least three or four overhauls. Of all these engines 60 percent are still being serviced or supplied with spare parts. Engines built by SDT in 1977are still in use. “Service throughout an engine’s lifetime”: that is the claim that we consistently put into practice – provided the customer wants to have this complete life-cycle servicing. Most of them do.

SDT’s philosophy includes a commitment to quality. This is demonstrated, among other things, by the fact that only original spare parts are used. But is this not self-evident?

No, it is not. And we go even further in that regard. When we have performed an engine overhaul we provide the same guarantee as that given for a new engine. And this can only work when original spare parts are used and replacement is performed strictly according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Keyword “environmental protection”. Diesel has a bad reputation right now. Are you also feeling this? Are you having to adapt yourselves to this situation?

Of course. We have been doing that for a long time now and, together with our customers, we are implementing appropriate solutions. We build diesel exhaust systems ourselves and also represent manufacturers of exhaust gas purifiers. This means that we also have extensive know-how in this field. What makes the whole thing difficult is that globally uniform standardisation – like the Euro emission standards in the automotive sector – does not exist for ships. Here there is a real thicket of innumerable different regulations. Even in inland waterway transport. We have done some research – if you travel by riverboat from Rotterdam to Basel, you must observe nine different regulations along the way. A lot needs to be done here.

Keyword “scarceness of future personnel”. How do you recruit new employees for your company? Why should someone join SDT?

Even though we are a mid-tier company, we offer a training concept similar to that of large companies, and with equally favourable prospects. In principle, everyone is welcome in our company, regardless of their school education, and everyone can undertake further training. After passing the skilled worker examination, the employee can take an examination to become a master craftsman, technician or engineer. We also support parallel studies in business administration. With success. In the last two academic years we had the best in the class in one year and the best in the German state in the other year. And in recent years we have taken on all of our trainees – they are now part of the company and enjoying it. So we seem to doing something right (laughs).

How will the story of SDT go on now?

The clock is ticking, not that the changes in our market segments are occurring at ever shorter intervals, but my personal life planning has now reached a point where I am retiring. I have steered SDT through calm and turbulent waters, always ensuring a balanced relationship with my staff. During the last years I focused on my succession, which I have now recruited from SDT's own ranks. At the turn of the year 2019 / 2020 I resigned from my position as managing director and passed this role on to my previous commercial manager, Mr. Thomas Schwarke. Mr. Schwarke and I have been leading an excellent exchange in all things SDT for four years now and share the same entrepreneurial spirit that I still wish for my company. At his side we have put a young man, Mr. Fin-Olav Wittstock, who has also been working for SDT for more than five years and who has essentially shaped the ever increasing service and spare parts business of SDT. Due to his professional past he has a very good knowledge of the project business.

The cooperation of the managing director Schwarke and the technical sales representative Wittstock is perfectly prepared to steer SDT through every channel.

I am looking forward to further nice years of my SDT.