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Poland - Shipbuilding

Gdynia Group240,0009
Szczecin New 184,0008
The Polish shipbuilding industry collapsed in 2009, with employment will declining from 11,000 in the Gdansk, Szczecin and Gdynia yards in May 2009 to about half number the following year. Most of the work could be done elsewhere at lower cost without sacrificing quality. On 06 November 2008 the European Commission concluded, following four years of investigation, that state aid granted to Gdynia shipyard and Szczecin shipyard gave rise to disproportionate distortions of competition within the Single Market, in breach of EC Treaty state aid rules, and must be repaid. Since 2002, Gdynia Shipyard benefited from various aid measures (in particular capital injections, loans and tax write-offs) amounting to 700 million and from production guarantees of 916 million (both in nominal value). The pro-business Civic Platform party, which gained power in the November 2007 elections, was unsympathetic to shipworkers, regarded as too supportive of the euroskeptic Law and Justice party, the main right-wing party which blocked reforms and opposed cuts in public spending.

Polish shipbuilding was one of the most widely recognized Polish commercial activities, formerly representing 4 percent of the world's total shipbuilding industry. Polish shipbuilding expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, spurred by the Soviet drive to become a maritime superpower. In the 1980s, the industry included six shipyards, twenty-one equipment factories, and three research and development centers, altogether employing about 57,000 people. In that decade, Poland became the fifth largest producer of ships in the world, exporting most of its products to the Soviet Union. Some 1,000 plants all over the country supplied materials to the shipbuilding industry.

The Polish commercial shipbuilding and repair industries increasingly benefitted from work placed in its yards by the Soviet Union, the 1986-1990 Soviet 5-year plan called for the acquisition of 500 ships from Polish yards. This compared with expected deliveries of 180 ships during the 1981-1985 5-year plan and the 76 ships which were delivered during the previous 5-year plan (1976-1980). If future goals with respect to the Soviet Union were met, only approximately 25 percent of Polands's shipbuilding output would reach purchasers in the West, compared with 50 percent to Soviet Bloc countries and 25 percent to Polish shippers.

These developments would mean that deliveries from Polish shipyards to Western customers would be expected to decline by 25 percent when compared with those in the first half of the decade. Meanwhile, Polish shipping companies, reportedly desperate to replace out-of-date and commercially uncompetitive vessels, would be forced to go out of business, cut back their operations, or turn to Western suppliers of vessels to meet their requirements.

By the end of the Cold War the Polish industry was composed of six shipbuilding and six ship repairing concerns. Employment in the Polish construction and repair industries declined only slightly during 1979-81 from 59,500 workers to 59,200 workers. Declines in recent years have been more pronounced, however, with reductions decreasing the workforce by 9 percent to 54,100 workers in 1982 and then by 3 percent to 52,600 workers in 1983. Data are not available for employment in Polish shipyards in 1984. The level of commercial shipbuilding and repair operations in Polish shipyards declined during 1979-83. Commercial shipbuilding fell from 484,200 grt in 1979 to 416,000 in 1983, or by 14 percent. The number of ships repaired in 1979 totaled 768 (2.5 million grt). Repair activity decreased annually through 1982, when it totaled 588 vessels (2.0 million grt). In 1983 the Polish ship-repair industry repaired 599 commercial ships.

Before 1989 the metals and defence industries were very closely linked. The break-up of the Warsaw Pact, the main customer of goods manufactured by these sectors, hit these giants of the Polish economy sectors particularly hard, cutting off the contracts from which they had depended.

Before the transformation, the Polish metals industry, as many other sectors, was characterised by over-employment, high energy insensitivity, low productivity and low quality of production. Restructuring was therefore inevitable. The reform of the metals industry is a long-term process, although the first effects are already visible. One success is the reduction in employment in the sector and the rise in the quality of products offered, today on a world standard. The industry has a chance in the nearest future to compete successfully on the competitive market and make a stand against the flood of cheap, but low quality, products from Asian countries. Consolidation is designed to aid the process, lowering production costs, more effective and dynamic development and greater competitiveness. A step in this direction was the creation by the government of the Polskie Huty Stali S.A. consortium. The goal in setting up the Consortium is was the creation of an attractive economic entity from the point of view of foreign investors.

The entry of the Polish army into NATO has also meant the need to have the latest equipment, fulfilling the organisation's standards. Poland?s defence industry, which before 1989 produced for the Warsaw Pact, was not in a state to meet these demands and it was essential to rebuild this important branch of the Polish economy.

The project for restructuring the Polish defence industry was comprised of purchasing military equipment from abroad and simultaneously rebuilding and privatising existing defence factories. The first step is striving to consolidate the production facilities with an R&D component on the Western model. The offset system, obliging purchases from foreign producers, is designed to support the process of reforming the sector.

Legislation lays down that the suppliers of equipment to the Polish army are obligated to buy from Polish producers or related arms firms a similar or higher quota. This principle also holds in the tendering process for multi-purpose planes for the Polish air force worth about $4 billion. Evaluations of three similar offers would be determined by the preparedness to invest in Poland?s arms industry.

An attribute of Poland's arms industry is above all its huge scientific potential: in engineering and R&D. The projects of Polish engineers are highly evaluated by Western armies. Arms factories have well-educated and flexible personnel and are able to adapt rapidly to the production of modern weaponry. Several Polish firms already co-operate with foreign companies. A further argument in favour of production in Poland of modern arms is the still relatively low cost of labor.

This temporary crisis in the industry did not hit factories producing army electronics, though. Warsaw's Radwar, which makes high quality radars, is turning increasingly high profits counted in the millions of zlotys. The situation at Gdynia-based Radmor, which enjoys great success on the international radio station market, is also positive. Its communications products are seen by many foreign companies as of a higher quality than many foreign rivals. Przemyslowe Centrum Optyki (industrial optical centre), which deals with developing and producing targeting systems, and explosive materials producers also hold strong positions on the arms market. WSK PZL Rzeszw, which makes engines and jet plane parts, also does not complain from a lack of customers. Supply contracts to Asian, African and South American clients also represent opportunities for the sector.

Poland is one of the largest ship makers in the world, successfully competing with the Asian shipyards. In 2000, Poland was in fourth spot, after South Korea, Japan and china, in the world ranking of ship-building, with 5.7% of world orders on trading vessels. It was in top spot in Europe. The strong shipbuilding industry will help the EU compete with the shipyards of the Far East.

At the end of the 1980s, the industry suffered greatly from drastic reduction in orders from the Soviet Union and other customers, the loss of government subsidies in the midst of production, and a rapid rise in domestic material costs for ships already contracted. Nevertheless, the shipbuilding firms were able to attract many Western licenses, and they retained a highly skilled labor force.

Polish ships had a strong reputation even before the changes of 1989. Stocznia Gdynia S.A. was set up in 1922 and in 1952 started to build large freight ships. Today, Poland has two main centres of shipbuilding: Gdynia and Szczecin. Grupa Stocznia Gdynia S.A. (to date, about 550 ships built there, a hundred different types for fleets from 20 countries; in 2000, it completed the largest ever freight ship ever built on the Baltic, with a capacity of 165,000 dwt) and in Gdansk (the largest repair yard in Poland; its main clients are fleets from the Baltic region ? Germans, Norwegians, Danes). Stocznia Szczecinska, over 50 years old, has built more than 600 ships. In 2001, it had orders for 32 ships from German, Dutch, Russian and Danish fleets with a combined value of over $1 billion. It specialises in building large chemicals tankers and container ships.

If modernized and restructured, the industry had the potential to significantly accelerate its production of modern ships, including fishing vessels, factory ships, trawlers, car ferries, container vessels, roll on-roll off ships, and tankers. The wellequipped Gdynia Shipyard was capable of building very large bulk cargo ships, but it operated at only 30 percent of capacity in 1991. Large new contracts were expected to more than double that level of production by 1994, however. In 1992 it seemed probable that the shipyard's very high debt would be eased by a two-step transition, first into a partnership with the State Treasury and ultimately into a private enterprise.

In 1991 the Ministry of Industry completed a restructuring program for the entire shipbuilding industry in cooperation with Western experts. In the larger size band, up to 20,000 dwt, European shipyards predominate with a strong export order book. The Gdansk Shipyard became a leading builder in this sector, and has taken over from Danyard. The problems of the Gdansk Shipyard highlight the potential problems of emerging Eastern Bloc shipyards and casts some concern over the very large number of orders taken by other Polish builders. Gdansk was unable to cope with the backlog taken and spent 1993 and 1994 extricating itself from bankruptcy.

Shipbuilding, including ship repairs, plays a significant role in the Polish economy. The industry was the third major Polish export in 2001, and it accounted for 5.2 percent of total export sales of industrial products. Between 1996 and 2000, Polish shipyard production was stable, at the level of approximately 500,000 compensated gross tons. Polish shipyards have always main?tained good portfolios of orders. They built a reputation for quality and timely execution of orders.

However, the industry faces enormous competition from shipyards in South Korea, Japan, China, and Germany. Internal and external factors pushed the Szczecin Shipyard into bankruptcy. The problems at the Szczecin Shipyard resulted in problems in arranging financing from Polish and foreign banks not just for this shipyard but also for the whole shipbuilding industry in Poland.

In 2003 the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) agreed to provide a $10 million loan to a U.S. company to undertake the development of a downtown hub in the former Gdansk shipyard in Poland. The project -- a business and cultural center, plus housing -- "will ensure the preservation of key Solidarity buildings and monuments, as well as the environmental remediation of a former heavy industrial site, while ensuring continued productive use of the slipway area by the shipyard".

The Gdynia Shipyard and Szczecin Shipyard have been in difficulties since the 1990s. Since 2002, Gdynia Shipyard benefited from various aid measures (in particular capital injections, loans and tax write-offs) amounting to 700 million and from production guarantees of 916 million (both in nominal value). Szczecin Shipyard received aid of 1 billion as well as production guarantees of 697 million (again, in nominal value). The decisions require that Poland recovers from the yards all state aid unlawfully granted since May 2004. In April 2004, Poland notified restructuring aid for the two yards and the European Commission opened formal investigations in June 2005. Poland submitted restructuring plans for both yards in September 2005 and September 2006, both with substantial delays. None of the plans would have ensured long-term viability to the yards and the restructuring would have been financed entirely by state aid.

In December 2006, Poland decided to privatise the shipyards, a process, delayed several times, that eventually progressed in the course of the year and lead to potential investors submitting restructuring plans for the two yards on 12 September 2008. The plans represented an improvement in comparison to previous versions. However, despite further large amounts of state aid and substantial job losses foreseen in these plans, the yards would still not have been commercially viable. The Commission therefore concluded that the subsidies received by the Gdynia and Szczecin shipyards did not comply with the guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid but rather constituted illegal operating aid. The Commission decision requires repayment of the illegal aid.

On 06 November 2008 the European Commission concluded, following four years of investigation, that state aid granted to Gdynia shipyard and Szczecin shipyard gave rise to disproportionate distortions of competition within the Single Market, in breach of EC Treaty state aid rules, and must be repaid. The Commission simultaneously agreed to accept commitments from Poland for the implementation of the decisions in a way that will quickly create opportunities for viable and sustainable economic activities at the Gdynia and Szczecin sites and so maximise the number of sustainable jobs there.

Poland committed that the recovery will be implemented by way of a sale of assets or small bundles of assets in an open, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional tender. The proceeds from the sale of the assets will be used to repay creditors, including the recovery claim of the state related to the unlawful aid. The existing companies owning the yards, with the remaining assets and liabilities, will be liquidated. The assets have to be sold at market price to the highest bidder. The tender must be non-discriminatory, ensuring access to all profiles of potential buyers, irrespective of the purpose of their investment. No conditions can be attached to the tender (for example, a requirement that a bidder purchases all the assets of a given yard). The sole award criterion for the selection of the winning bid will be revenue maximisation for the benefit of the yard's creditors. An automatic transfer of employees to the new economic activity cannot be imposed.

By 2009 the Polish shipbuilding industry faced one of the biggest challenges in its history. Assets of shipyards with a huge production potential were offered for sale. The sell-off rules, conditions and procedure are set out in the Polish Act on the compensation procedure at entities of special importance for the Polish shipbuilding industry, agreed upon with the European Commission. The Act, which became effective 6 January 2009, governs the sell-off of assets of Stocznia Gdynia S.A. (Gdynia shipyard) and Stocznia Szczecinska Nowa sp. z o.o. (Szczecin shipyard).

In May 2009, Warsaw announced the yards had been sold. The following month, it identified the buyer as Qatar's largest investment bank, QInvest. The bank later said it was only representing other clients in the transaction (Stichting Particulier Fonds).

No payment was received by Poland for two troubled shipyards by a midnight Monday 01 November 2009 deadline, threatening the deal meant to save them. The Treasury Ministry said the approximately $130 million offered by a private investor had not arrived. The two Baltic Sea yards in Gdynia and Szczecin could now face bankruptcy and the loss of thousands of jobs. Confusion reigned in the sale of the yards, which were the cradle of the Solidarity trade union that helped end communist rule in Poland.

While the privatisation of Poland's shipbuilding industry continued to cause headaches, the privatisation of the steel industry has been described by analysts as a success. The EU shipbuilding industry was hit particularly hard by the current crisis, characterized by a complete lack of new orders, major problems in financing existing orders, overcapacity for construction of commercial vessels, irreversible job losses with further lay-offs forecast, and an ever growing number of bankruptcies and closures of shipyards and ancillary businesses. Additionally, in Poland and Romania specific circumstances contribute to a profound crisis of the industry. The situation in Poland was reflected in the collapse of two major production shipyards in Gdynia and Szczecin.

The CRIST company was established in 1990 by shipbuilding engineers Ireneusz Cwirko and Krzysztof Kulczycki, its sole owners. Since the beginning, CRIST has been building and repairing sea-going ships and steel structures. Currently, the production potential of CRIST S.A. includes: Plant No. 1 in Gdansk, covering about 2,5 ha: Plant No. 2 in Gdynia (premises of the former Gdynia Shipyard) area 28,1 ha with full production equipment. On 25 July 2012 the European Commission concluded that a PLN 150 million loan (around 37,5 million) granted by the State-owned Polish Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to Crist Shipyard was in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the loan was granted on market terms and therefore did not give Crist an undue economic advantage. As a result, the loan did not constitute state aid in the meaning of EU state aid rules.

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Page last modified: 14-08-2012 14:40:12 ZULU