The largest Dutch courthouse, the New Amsterdam Courthouse, is undergoing a complete renovation. It is a project being headed up by Heijmans, a leader in the construction industry. Amer Mahmutovic is a crane operator, and one of the many people working on the site.
This interview took some preparation as we needed to go high up. I met him at ground level, wearing who wears the expected combination of work shoes, hi-vis jacket and hardhat. From this staggering height. Firstly, we went up three levels on a ladder, and then a further three levels via an elevator. Once sixty five metres above ground, we were in a cabin, from where Amer is key to the realization of the renovated courthouse.
Before we set foot in the tiny space, we changed our shoes for slippers. Once inside, the hand-held vacuum cleaner, baby wipes and bottles of surface and window cleanser reveal his love of a tidy workspace.
Up until last year, Amer was a driving instructor. Nowadays he is operating the enormous crane we find ourselves near the top of.
“I was fed up with giving driving lessons; youngsters have changed so much. So, I re-trained to become a crane operator,” he says. “I had to get used to life in the construction industry. And in my case, this is quite a lonely life, being up here. I was always used to always having a student sitting next to me. But, this isolation is for the best, because for this job you need to be fully concentrated at all times.”
Amer has been working as a crane operator for eight months. His first job was contributing to the building of the nhow Amsterdam Rai Hotel (the one with the three triangles). He is currently watching the New Amsterdam Courthouse grow beneath him at a great speed from a dizzying height.
“Whether I am lifting a beam, a wire construction, a block of concrete or braided concrete, it all adds something to the Courthouse. Sometimes it is a serious piece of craftsmanship if I might say, with real military precision. But at the end of the day, that gives me my satisfaction. On the other hand, it is a hazardous job. Everything here is about safety.
When working with this kind of machinery, you have to be careful, we lift it safely or we do not lift at all! Do you see those other two cranes over there? My colleagues and I are in touch constantly via radio. However, on the rare occasion our booms are too close, they are brought to a halt automatically, just like the automatic distance device in the latest cars.”
Amer’s crane weighs 32 tons. When dual wired, the boom (the long, moving arm) can hoist up to eight tons, and, when four wired, at least sixteen tons, which is comparable to the weight of ten cars.
As well as taking into account the weight, there are also weather factors to consider, like wind.
“Everything here is checked, checked again, and then triple checked. From the moment I start to lift, it is all about millimetres. With the utmost accuracy, I hand the boys down there their goods. They advise me via their radios. Another two metres, one more, fifty centimetres, thirty, ten, etc. Though I am physically secluded, we have to work together as a team in order to avoid accidents.”