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Interview with Krzysztof Urbaś, President of the Management Board of The Szczecin and Świnoujście Seaports Authority.

Interview with Krzysztof Urbaś, President of the Management Board of The Szczecin and Świnoujście Seaports Authority.

Świnoujście is a perfect place for a container terminal!

Mr President, the  concept of a deep-water terminal in Świnoujście has entered the next phase. The Port Authority is awaiting offers from parties who are interested in implementation of the project, and later will work as the  terminal operator. The message is sent, what is the response?

This is already a second tender.  The deadline for submission of offers is January 28th  2021. During the first procedure, the materials were downloaded by 10 companies, in  the current -  7  companies. There are 4  new entities in this group. In total, more than a dozen companies seem to be  interested. There are serious players in that number:  consortia consisting of operators and contractors, large companies operating terminals around the world. Also companies directly connected with logistics, distribution of containers in international relations on terminals scattered around the world are involved. Some of those interested have their terminals around the globe.

Most of them are corporations from Europe and Asia  – between those continents the most intensive exchange of goods takes place currently on the ocean routes.

DCT Gdańsk develops excellently, BCT and GCT operate in Gdynia. Further investments are planned in both  ports. There are also other container terminals in other Baltic Sea ports. Is this cake big enough for everyone?

The situation is very interesting. Currently, there are two container terminals in the inner port in Gdynia, and  a  new one is planned later - in  the external  port. DCT  operates two  quays in Gdańsk North Port, and the third stage of expansion of this terminal is already planned. Szczecin and Świnoujście port complex has no terminal of that size. Small internal terminal in Szczecin with one quay, with handling capacity of about 100 thousand TEU is a different scale. In this respect I am sometimes surprised by the questions – why do you plan to develop a terminal in Świnoujście?

Is this cake enough for everyone? I have no doubts. There were 3 million TEU handled in Polish ports last year.

Analysts forecast that in 15-20 years the volume of containers in Polish ports could reach 8  million TEU. We are not even dealing with half of this  potential now. Between 8 and 9 million TEU are  currently being handled in all Baltic ports. And the forecast for the Baltic is about 15 million TEU in a similar time horizon. New terminals are being built. Hutchison Ports Group launched Port  Norvik in Stockholm with a deep-water quay with draft of more than 16 m,   for 400-meter  ships. I would add that Hutchison  already operates in Poland – in the Port of Gdynia.

Growth dynamics and forecasts show that investments are required, to prepare ports to handle the potential of these 8-9 million TEU in a period of 15-20 years.

Why should shipments from all over the world choose the terminal in Świnoujście?

It is simply related to the perfect location of this port - in the south-west Baltic region, on the Baltic-Adriatic axis, between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean Sea.

In the context of  Świnoujście, we are dealing not only with the Polish hinterland, but also about east Germany. The distance to Berlin is very short from here, it is also closer to south-east German destinations than for example, from Hamburg. We would like to recover what was once the strong side of Polish ports – the transit to/from the area of former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria. All kind of goods, bulk and general cargo are  today handled via Hamburg. It is estimated that this port handles approximately 1.5 million containers  to/from south western Poland and central Europe, south of our borders. For this market  we want to  prepare the new terminal. Of course, nothing will happen automatically. The DCT terminal was building its current position for around 3 years form the moment of commencement of operations. Presently the largest ships in the world are calling that terminal.

Does the terminal fit into the formula of socially responsible investment?

This is one of the conditions for the implementation of this project. The lease agreement conditions will oblige the investor to act  for the benefit of the local  community. We’ve done public consultations, meetings with local government. These are not always easy conversations, due to the lack of recognition for such investment sometimes. During  these meetings we’ve heard various ideas of actions for the benefit of the local communities. They were noted. The result of this consultation is the list of several  projects which President of the City of Świnoujście has given us on behalf of the residents. We treat them as a base of further so-called social offset, to be implemented. These expectations have been included in the vision of the terminal, we will present them to the future leesse.

An integral part of the vision of the new project is the green terminal concept: very modern, automated and environmentally friendly terminal. Fully automated handling, human activities limited to a minimum, similar to the ports in Rotterdam or Hamburg. About 1000 people shall be working at the terminal.

Of course, we deal with socially responsible investment in a broad context. The perception of port of Świnoujście shall change. Until now, it has been dominated through the inner port – bulk terminal and ferry base in the Świna River, and for last several years - LNG terminal.

Our vision of  Świnoujście includes remodeling of the inner and outer port. In the external part we see at least 3 terminals: the current LNG terminal, container and GP terminal (located on the pier, east of the container terminal, where we want to move the activities of the current inner port). This will free  the spa city on the left bank of the Świna River from all of the nuisances associated with the activity of the inner port, where we will  be able to create facilities for containers, logistics centers,  warehouse parks, appropriate conditions for companies associated with the distribution of containers, indeed the clean, green port.

We want to work in symbiosis with the city, provide sustainable development for the common benefit. It is possible. In Gdynia, housing real estates are being developed in the immediate vicinity of the port, new houses are being built directly around the bulk terminal. And there are customers willing to buy these apartments.

Benefits for city, region, country?

The benefits to the country's economy are, of course, state budget income. In 2018, Polish ports have brought more than PLN  40 billion (10% of GDP) to the state budget. The income from the activities of the Szczecin Świnoujście port complex only in various types of fees, taxes, etc. accounts to PLN 5 billion. We assume that the container terminal in its full scope of activities should provide at least  PLN 10 billion in revenue to the state budget per year.

For the region and the city? One person employed directly in the port generates work places for 10-15 people in the industries around the port. The city's budget will be supported  by taxes. Terminal itself can also be an additional tourist attraction. People are keen to watch big ships. We even think of a special viewing platform.

A pandemic does not constrain your actions?

We are working very intensively actually. For example, the first indication of the external port in Gdynia appeared in 2011, and about Central Port  in Gdansk – in 2007. I remember those dates, as I was the author of both of this information. As far as DCT is concerned, preparation works began in 1998. And  now,  after more than 20 years, the third phase of expansion of this terminal is planned. In case of Świnoujście terminal we can really point at the year 2015, when the first concept and spatial plan were prepared. Then the work  was slowed down a little. But over the last year we have prepared the necessary documentation  and procedures for the tender. We’ve also had discussions with  the Defence Ministry regarding  additional features of the terminal.

Offers will be opened open on January 29th. The Management Board is confident that during next year the agreement will be negotiated and signed, and work will begin, so that in 2024 the terminal can become fully operational.

We are in a full swing. Presently – in our ports: the LNG terminal is being expanded, the Dębicki Canal and Kaszubski Basin in Szczecin are being modernized, also an intermodal terminal in Świnoujście with all facilities  is being built. In short – an investment plan worth more than PLN 4.5 billion is being implemented. The value of Port Authority’s investments in both ports is PLN 1.5 billion, cost of the deepening of the Szczecin-Świnoujście channel is more or less the same,  and another PLN 1.5 billion is being spent by PKP PLK to modernize the railway network in both ports. This scale of investment is presently not realized in any of Baltic port.

Behind us a difficult period, Christmas and New Year before us. What should we wish for?

First of all, I wish all a lot of health and faith that we are able to overcome the nasty virus. Let the Christmas time be full of joy and rest. Special thanks and wishes go to the employees of the Szczecin and Świnoujście Seaports Authority, and our cooperating companies. Let’s hope the New Year will bring us the improved conditions to fulfill our dreams in normal, healthy environment.