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Grondwerken Marcel Aertssen
Initially, Marcel Aertssen worked as a farmer in the polder village of Oorderen. At the end of the fifties, the government decided this small place had to make way for an extension of the port of Antwerp. Marcel doesn’t rest on his laurels and decides to sell his farming machinery and replace them with trucks and cranes. With these new machines and his business ‘Grondwerken Marcel Aertssen’ he starts as a subcontractor for the dredgers and building companies involved in the extension of the port of Antwerp. His business takes off at quite some speed…
Being agile in times of change, grabbing opportunities and diversifying: today still, the entrepreneurial spirit of founder Marcel Aertssen is engrained in the Aertssen Group DNA.
Over the years, ‘Aannemingsbedrijf Aertssen’ evolves into one of the largest earthmoving companies in Belgium. The group continues to benefit from new opportunities, for example when in 1976 the first subsidiary was founded in Zeebrugge, to be part of the build of the LNG terminal.
New generation, new activities
In the eighties, Marcel Aertssen’s children, Greg, Luc, Raf and Saskia, are being geared up to take on key positions in the business. They start to look for new activities to support further growth. Meanwhile, Aertssen continues to work on important infrastructure works, such as the Berendrecht Lock – the largest sluice in the world at that time – and the Liefkenshoek Tunnel.
In 1980, a new business specialised in exceptional convoy is founded: Aertssen Transport. The first customer is the in-house earthmoving business that requires heavy diggers to be transported. Just shortly after, other clients start calling upon the expertise of this transport firm.
The group then identifies potential in large hoisting projects in the build and manufacturing industry, and in 1990, Aertssen Kranen (Cranes) comes to exist.
Foundation Antwerp Recycling Company
Once the Berendrecht Lock finalised, Aertssen and Herbosch-Kiere decide to launch a business to process building and demolition waste from the port area: Antwerp Recycling Company. Interesting detail: our own recycling standards would later become legal standards. Talking about being ahead of our time…
Subsidiary on the other side of the language barrier
In 2000, Aannemingsbedrijf Aertssen founded subsidiary Aertssen Terrassements in Liège, focussing on extraction of quarries, transport and construction projects in Wallonia. Since 2021, Aannemingsbedrijf Aertssen and Aertssen Terrassements have been merged into Aertssen Infra.
Shipit, G. Smeyers and Rollit
In 2003, together with other businesses, Aertssen invests in three companies: Shipit (multimodal logistics and inland waterway transport), G. Smeyers (dewatering works) and Roll-iT (vertical transport). Soon they become leading names in their industry. The service offering of Aertssen in fact has now been greatly extended with complementary solutions.
New horizons in the Middle East
At the start of the 21st century, Aertssen decides to explore new markets, since the Deurganckdok project has come to an end. Grandson Yves Aertssen heads to the Middle East - and with success. Large contracting assignments follow, such as the build of an airport in the sea (Doha), a 12-kilometre dike and artificial islands in front of the coast of Abu Dhabi. A little while later, the crane business also expands to the Middle East, for, among other, the build of the football stadia for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Today, a third of the group’s turnover is realised outside of Europe and the Middle East has become a second domestic market.
The group made sure to steady their local presence in Abu Dhabi to ensure successful international earthmoving and hydraulic engineering projects. Since the start of Aertssen Machinery Services, Aertssen also rents out cranes in these regions.
In 2008, the group moves to a new HQ, located at Laageind 91 in Stabroek, Belgium. The two-story building is the workplace of approximately 130 employees. At the back of the site, Aertssen Services looks after the maintenance and repairs of the machine fleet.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Every year, the Chamber of Commerce Antwerp-Waasland and the province of Antwerp present a Lifetime Achievement Award to an exceptional company based in Antwerp. Aertssen Infra was granted this prestigious award in 2014.
Mega contract during the Princely Mission to Qatar
In 2015, GEM gained its first contract as a main contractor in Qatar: the expansion of the port of Hamad. During the Princely Mission, headed by Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, the contract was officially signed.
Typically, digitisation trickles through slowly in the building industry. Aertssen wants to be a pioneer and launched Smartyard. Via this digital platform, developed in-house, Aertssen envisages to optimise the rental and hiring of building material, a market worth 40 billion in the EU, by linking up supply and demand using the latest technology.
First strategic acquisitions
After a strong and wholly organic growth, at the start of 2018 Aertssen signs its first strategic take-over: family business Michielsens, specialising in mobile cranes, transport and industrial assembly, becomes part of the group. In 2019, this is followed by the acquisition of Envi, Ecosol and Willy Crommen, a group of Limburg-based companies with over 50 employees, active in brownfields, treatment of sewage sludge and road and infrastructure works. Lastly, ADM Team Heavy and AltéAd Devriendt are taken over, enabling us to expand our transport and logistics activities.
Roll-iT and Aertssen Cranes become one strong partner
Aertssen Cranes and Roll-iT have been working together for over ten years. Complex hoisting and assembly projects often require close collaboration. By combining our activities, Aertssen is perfectly placed to offer all-in-one, futureproof solutions. Thanks to our expertise and engineering know-how, we are a solid partner for one-stop shop solutions, that help you in every stage of your professional challenges.
Verrebroek: Aertssen Transport & Logistics
At the end of 2020 we moved into our prestigious office building in Verrebroek. All activities of Aertssen Transport & Logistics are centralised on this new site. This way we are, more than ever, ready for the challenges of tomorrow!
Acquisitions G. Smeyers & Van Rooy
With the acquisitions of G. Smeyers and Van Rooy, Aertssen Infra wants to use the best of our companies strategically. This way, Aertssen Infra can offer even better total solutions for all underground works. We now have the specialist knowledge in the field of groundwater drainage, concrete works, foundation and shoring techniques to offer our customers integrated solutions for dry excavations and infrastructure works.
Onderneming van het Jaar
In 2022, we were awarded the prestigious title of Onderneming van het Jaar (Enterpreneur of the Year). A magnificent crowning of our success story of the past decades. Also a feather in the cap of the second generation Aertssen (Greg, Luc, Raf and Saskia) and all employees who contributed to the group's growth. We are very grateful to the organisers EY, De Tijd and BNP Paribas for this beautiful recognition.