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A chance for the Polish shipyards

- COVID-19 literally knocked out Europe. The industries in which EU member states have been strong, namely passenger ships, cruise ships and offshore vessels - technically complex, with high added value - have been hardest hit by the decline or even a complete disappearance of orders. Poland, which is an integral part of the European supply chain, has not escaped this decline either. Its full effect will reach us this year. If we look at the structure of the Polish shipbuilding industry, we can see that, to a large extent, we are an important partner of the European shipbuilding industry: we are a manufacturer of partially equipped hulls, of shipping equipment, and Poland is where numerous design offices as well as companies providing equipment and maintenance services are located. There are really difficult times ahead - believes Ireneusz Karaśkiewicz, director of The Association of Polish Maritime Industries FORUM OKRĘTOWE.

Until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation in the European shipping industry was not too bad. Admittedly, this was far from the boom we experienced prior to 2008, but the situation was relatively stable. Our continent has found a lucrative niche for itself in the manufacturing of cruise ships and passenger ferries, and both of these sectors have been experiencing a boom. It was much more difficult in the offshore industry, the production of fishing vessels, tugs or dredgers, but here too there existed a stable demand at a lower level. However, the pandemic has greatly complicated the situation.

That is why in May last year the European Commission prepared a package of measures to rebuild European economies affected by the crisis related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them is the EU recovery Instrument called Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), under which massive financial resources are to be allocated to the economies of the European Union countries, designed to revive them. Individual countries prepare their own national reconstruction programmes, which will be financially supported by grants or low-interest loans, and submitted to the Commission for approval. It is up to the government of the country concerned to decide how these funds should be spent. If they are also allocated to the shipbuilding industry, the bleak scenario for this sector need not come true.

- The governments of Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, which are the leaders of the European shipping industry, are preparing programmes to rebuild the shipping industry on the basis of the RRF instrument. But let’s not delude ourselves - they do it for their own domestic companies. That is why The Association of Polish Maritime Industries FORUM OKRĘTOWE has prepared and presented to the government the Programme for the Reconstruction of the Shipbuilding Industry in Poland, which is to be a part of the National Programme for Reconstruction prepared by the Ministry of Finance, Funds and Regional Policy - adds I. Karaśkiewicz.

As its initiators emphasise, the recovery programme is not just about surviving a difficult period, but about making the technological leap, acquiring know-how and entering sectors of production that offer a long-term perspective, so that once the crisis is over, we can start from a stronger position and better utilise the returning prosperity. This includes the modernisation of the Polish fleet, carried out by the Polish shipyards, design offices, sub-contractors and equipment manufacturers, which will adapt our shipowners’ ships to the requirements of the European Green Deal, a programme aimed at creating a climate-neutral economy. As part of these measures, it envisages building a fleet of LNG carriers, modernising the propulsion systems of vessels owned by Polish shipowners to low-emission ones and, in the longer term, to zero-emission, as well as building and converting vessels required for the implementation of offshore wind energy investments. As the Head of the Forum Okrętowe emphasises, this programme is intended for all Polish companies from the shipbuilding industry.

However, to finance it, money is needed, and this can come from the RRF. Especially as the Commission looks favourably on the possibility of investing these funds in the wider maritime industry, including shipbuilding. Provided, however, that it meets the key principles of the European Green Deal.

- What is needed now is the will of those in power in Poland to assign some of the RRF funds allocated to Poland to the shipbuilding industry. Especially since all the 3 pillars of the Reconstruction Programme fall in line with the European Green Deal - concludes I. Karaśkiewicz.

Article developed with Namiary na Morze i Handel magazine

phot. W. Jakubowski

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