Channel cleaning on boats: meet the globetrotters of the cleaning industry

Channel cleaning on boats, it is a profession in itself. That is why the cleaning company Cleaning Masters has trained a special team for these jobs, which take place on the largest seagoing vessels and dredgers. Commissioned by customers such as Jan De Nul these cleaners travel all over the world.

“We have indeed seen a bit of the world,” says Ibrahim Bakouri. As an inspector at Cleaning Masters he manages the team of channel cleaners. “We have been doing this for about 15 years now. Of course we have worked in all the Belgian ports: Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ostend. But on behalf of our customers we have also travelled to Turkey, Curacao, Mumbai and Singapore.”

That sounds tempting. “That’s right, but these are not pleasure trips,” says Ibrahim. “It is hard work. Our assignment must be finished by the agreed deadline. It cannot be that a boat cannot go out because we have not finished our job.”

Cleaning Masters has a team specialised in the channel cleaning on boats. They execute this job all over the world.

Channel cleaning on boats requires thorough preparation

Executing the work is only part of the job. Ibrahim puts a lot of time into preparing each project. “The customer provides me with detailed plans of the installation on the boats. He clearly indicates what he expects from us. Based on this information, we draw up a detailed schedule. Day by day, we plan when which task must be done.”

Ibrahim is responsible for the Cleaning Masters' team that is specialised in channel cleaning on boats.

“These are not pleasure trips. Channel cleaning on boats
is hard work. It’s not for everyone.”

Once the planning is done, Ibrahim makes sure the right equipment and people get to the site. “The equipment is similar to that used for duct cleaning in buildings, with the necessary adjustments of course. With the inspection cameras, we pay attention to the thickness of the cables, among other things. The brush machines must be adapted to the diameter of the channels to be cleaned. For distant destinations, our crate with the material for cleaning the canals on the boats leaves about a week in advance by plane.”

Ibrahim and his colleague execute a channel cleaning on one of the boats.

For a ‘regular’ job, Cleaning Masters sends a team of three ‘masters’ to the vessel to be cleaned. “We have a team of 12 permanent employees who are trained for this type of jobs. Besides that we have a pool of about ten people that we can deploy flexibly, depending on the need. For each project, we look at who is best suited for the job and who is available.”


Channel cleaning on boats, it sounds like an adventurous job. “It is, but it is certainly not for everyone. Firstly, there are the specific skills you need to master. There is, of course, the channel cleaning in itself, but you also need to have a technical background. Think, for example, about dismantling and putting back a false ceiling.”

“Secondly, the environment we work in is very specific. It is not without risk. Often we are working in small, cramped spaces. In those circumstances, the slightest mistake can have serious consequences. You don’t want to see something catch fire. So you have to have a constant eye for the smallest detail and be able to fully trust your colleagues. These are things you have to be able to deal with. And finally, of course, there is the family aspect. Not everyone likes to be away from home for ten days at a time.”

Cleaning Masters executes the channel cleaning on this and many other types of boats.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim is all set for the next assignment. “The destination is Hamburg, in northern Germany. (laughs) No, you can’t call it exotic, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

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