Following his study at the Nautical Academy of Antwerp, Niels Vanlaer took a post-graduate at the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) where he became Master in Safety Engineering.
Having started his seagoing career on Reefer vessels and a combined Bulk/Container vessel, he joined Exmar Shipmanagement in 1998 where he mainly sailed on midsize gas tankers and went through the ranks up to Master.

In 2006, he took the position of HSEQ Officer within Exmar Shipmanagement where he was involved in (occupational) accident prevention and investigation and in the development of the HSEQ system.

Captain Niels Vanlaer has a particular interest in behavioural safety, in statistics and in international security. In 2010 he followed a course in Lean Six Sigma (Black Belt) at the University of Amsterdam and further training in Business Process Management (Vlerick Business School) and in International Conflicts and Security (The Clingendael Institute).
He is also involved in guest lectures at the Nautical Academy of Antwerp and the training institute of the Port of Antwerp (APEC).

Since 2011 he is the HSEEQ & Marine Director of Exmar Ship Managment.