Polish Baltic Ports set for massive investments

Świnoujście, Poland (Kancelaria Premiera, Public domain)

The Polish Baltic ports of Świnoujście, Szczecin, Gdansk and Gdynia are set for expansion in infrastructure and carrying capacity.

June 2017 saw the first American LNG carrier discharge its cargo at Świnoujscie port, the ports of Szczecin and Świnoujście received a PLN2.5bn financial boost. In May, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda signed off a bill that enables maritime traffic between the two ports, deepening the channel between the ports and form them into a twin port hub. This will increase their competitiveness with northern German ports, such as Hamburg and Bremerhaven, according to a daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita. Business daily Puls Biznesu reported that these ports could also rival those of Gdańsk and Gdynia.

The projected development of Szczecin-Śinoujście should see these ports handle maritime container traffic on a north-south axis linking the Baltic to southern Europe (the ‘intermarium’ concept – a regional alliance of Central and Southeast European states) but also along the west-east coast of the old Hanseatic area. Included is an investment to build a major container terminal in Świnoujście. The LNG terminal there began operating last year.

The weight of cargo has increased steadily over the last decade. For instance, from just under 20 000 tons in 2006 to over 24 000 tons in 2016. Container handling almost doubled since 2010 from 56 503 to 90 869 in TEU volume terms (TEU, twenty-foot equivalents, i.e. the volume of a standard shipping container=1 TEU). Over the last year alone, during the Q1’2016 to 2017 this was recorded as an increase from 26 599 to 29 624 TEU.

As the port authorities stated, there is also a change in the type of transported goods. No longer coal and ore but more of grain, fuel and break bulk cargo (over 41 000 tons in the Q1’ 2017, up by just over 1000 tons over the same period in 2016).

Not only are the ports of Szczecin and Świnoujście, including the development of the major road and rail links to ports themselves, getting a fillip but also Gdynia and Gdańsk.

Gdynia is to get a new swinging area and a dredging of the approach canal. Gdansk will see the modernization of roads and rail links. All this is to cost EUR28.7m with the EU financing EUR24.4 m, according to Rzeczpospolita. Puls Biznesu was more cautious. Acknowledging the scale of the investment it reported that the infrastructure investment funds are interested in the project but are awaiting more detail and preparation on the government side.

The Yanks are coming…and the Qataris

On June 8th the first American LNG delivery was officially greeted in Świnoujście and widely covered by the Polish media. Prime Minister Beata Szydło in her welcoming speech linked security and development, two government priorities. Maciej Woźniak, the Vice-President of Polish state energy supplier PGiNG, commented that he saw no threat to supplies of LNG from Qatar (the contract for deliveries was signed last tear), despite the international tensions around the country.

Maciej Jakubik, editor of Business Alert magazine was optimistic about the impact of the US and Qatari deliveries on the future negotiations with Gazprom, set for 2019, over deliveries through the Yamal pipeline. The American gas, and the Norwegian transiting through the Norwegian corridor will be a source of real diversification, he commented

And the Russians

Nord Stream 2 will not go away, and Poland suffered strategic setbacks lately. The energy independence from Russia is the major priority of the government. Thus it is trying to block the project through. Poland’s hope, according to comment portal www.forsal.pl, is to stretch out EU negotiations with Russians for as long as possible and meanwhile continue apace with its own programs.

These include the US LNG, as well as the Qatari option (heavily dependent on tensions easing there). Furthermore, there is the Baltic Pipe linking Norway and Poland via Denmark. The agreement about co-financing the project was signed on June 16th.

Nord Stream 2 embarked on a charm offensive in Szczecin. During a meeting at the voivodeship (regional) head offices, representatives from the consortium tried to assuage local feeling about the project. One revolved around the prediction that in 20 years’ time Nord Stream 2 will be able to deliver only 50 per cent of the EU demand for gas, therefore will be ineffective. Lying at 18 meters below the sea level the pipeline will pose no threat to shipping, Nord Stream 2 representatives said and riposted that the Baltic Pipe project itself will have to be agreed with Nord Stream 2.

The Polish side is still lobbying against Nord Stream 2, according to a weekly magazine Wprost. It reported that during a meeting of the Transport, Telecommunications Energy Council (TTE) of the EU Council in Luxemburg in June, Poland’s deputy Minister of Energy Michał Kurtyka stated: “We cannot say anything other than it is a political project.” He said that out of the 28 member states present at the meeting , 13 drew attention to the political nature of the project, including Romania, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia and Portugal. “We need to make sure that the EU speaks with one voice that will guarantee that any agreement between The European Commission and Russia will clearly confirm that the law of the EU will unconditionally be applied to the entire pipeline,” Kurtyka added, referring to his insistence that the pipeline will be in line with the Third Energy Package (the 2009 EU legislative aimed at opening up internal energy markets), as well as conforming standards of legal transparency. Kurtyka stressed that in the Polish view, Nord Stream 2 is in contrary to the EU’s energy policy.

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