The yard workers in blue, green and maroon jumpsuits fill the yard with activity and color on land and on several vessels that are already in the water. The workplace is the yard Remontowa in Gdansk in Poland, where modern technology is coupled with buildings from before the fall of the Soviet Union. They constitute the mix that is currently one of Europe's largest shipping yards and a trend-setter in the yard industry of the Baltic region and Scandinavia.
In 2014, the yard experienced its best year since being privatized in 2001. The aim is to break the record again this year, says chairman of Remontowa Holding, Piotr Soyka to ShippingWatch.
"Our earnings for 2014 came to USD 534.9 million, and next year we expect to reach earnings of USD 588.4 million. Over the next five years, we generally predict a growth of between five and ten percent a year," says the chairman, who has been the head of Remontowa Holding since the privatization.
Half of the earnings in 2014 came from the two divisions Ship Repair and Ship Conversion, which as the name implies are behind the reparation and conversion of vessels, while the other half was made in the newbuilding division Ship Building. The three divisions contain more than 30 sub-groups including a department for ship design with 250 employees. All the companies were combined in 2014 in a new company structure with Remontowa Holding as parent company.
Specialization to ensure growth
Remontowa Holding has specialized in the different divisions that collectively employ 8,000 workers. The Ship Repair unit receives an average of 200 vessels a year, especially from traditional shipping nations such as Greece, Germany and the UK, while in recent years more work has also been coming in from offshore countries such as Norway.
In 2014 alone, the Ship Repair unit achieved a revenue of USD 160 million from the renovation of three drilling platforms. The Ship Building unit mainly has its customers in the Baltic countries, and carriers such as Stena, Royal Arctic Line and Siem Offshore are among the customers currently having items built at the yard.
The focus of the yard is specialized vessels such as RoPax ferries and the constant optimization of designs for smaller ships, which will support growth in the coming years.
"It's very important for us to exceed the global competition. We aren't competing with the major Asian yards, but we're far more specialized than them in the development of sophisticated designer ships for North Europe," says Piotr Soyka.
He highlights that the yard works alongside some of the best technical universities in Poland in order to cultivate and maintain the engineering talent that the company thrives on.
Will continue private ownership
The Remontowa yard's area is a five-ten minute drive from the old city center of Gdansk, and on the way one passes the former Lenin Yard, which is now the bankrupt Stocznia Gdansk (Gdansk shipping yard), from which Poland's former president Lech Walesa led the Solidarity trade union movement in rebelling against the communist authorities. The yard only partially survived the Soviet decline. A portion of the yard is now under Ukrainian control, while the rest is abandoned in contrast to the bustling activity at Remontowa, and is a testimony of the private ownership prevailing in the Polish yard sector.
Piotr Soyka does, however, not believe that the yard should take the next step towards a new company structure with a potential IPO and access to extra funding for the yard in years to come.
"The yard will remain under control of Remontowa Holding," says the head of the yard, who since he was 24 has worked for the company with only small interruptions living abroad.
Today Piotr Soyka is around 60 years old and in the meantime he has worked his way up from being the head of a gang of workers of just 10 men.