Fer van de Laarstarted his professional career as an officer in the Dutch merchant navy reaching the rank of Captain; he also served in the Royal Netherlands Navy. In 1973 he joined the Health and Safety Executive in Rotterdam and in 1984 he became the Chief Superintendent of Ports in the Netherlands.

At the beginning of the nineties of the last century, as an independent consultant he was exposed to the commercial side of shipping and port operations. In 1994 he joined the Amsterdam Port Authority to become the chief of the Safety and Environmental Department.

At the start of the new millennium he was responsible for Infrastructure Projects in the approaches of thePortofAmsterdam. In the same period, he was appointed chairman of the Committee on Port Safety, Environment and Marine Operations of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), a post which left when in 2005 he was appointed as the managing director of IAPH, a position he still holds. IAPH is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

He is responsible for liaisons with international organizations and bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank, etc. In November 2008 he became the Director of the World Ports Climate Initiative (WPCI) which is chaired by ms Geraldine Knatz, CEO of thePortofLos Angeles.