The director of the institution, Wojciech Zdanowicz, talks about the history and the latest activities of the Maritime Office in Szczecin, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
The beginnings of the Maritime Office in Szczecin date back to the end of 1945 - it was on December 2 that a decision was made to organize an independent unit of this type. In July, the first delegation from the Main Maritime Office in Gdańsk visited the port of Szczecin.
- This team was to prepare a report on the condition of the port facilities and its vessels in the ports inside the new borders of Poland - reminds Wojciech Zdanowicz (pictured left), who has been the head of the Maritime Office in Szczecin since 2017. - In fact, these were the first attempts to create a separate institution in Szczecin.
There was a lot of work ahead of the organizers of the office. The preserved documents show that the decision of the then minister of shipping and foreign trade to officially establish a new institution was issued on September 24, 1946. The first director of the Maritime Office in Szczecin was captain Jan Godecki.
Szczecin and Świnoujście. Organization from scratch
- On the coast, we took over two large ports of significant economic importance - in Gdynia and in Gdańsk. While the traditions of the administration were large there, the situation was different in the ports of Szczecin and Świnoujście. Therefore, an organization from scratch was needed. In the first years, the Office covered all port-related tasks. Among other things, it supervised the demining of the fairway with the approach to Świnoujście. It was only in the 1950s that it was recognized that the first part of the fairway was cleaned - says director Zdanowicz.
The area of the Navigation Marking Base in Szczecin, 1949 / photo by Maritime Office in Szczecin
Important decisions were also made in the 1950s: the deepening of the fairway for ships with a draft of 36 feet, or 9 meters deep. Until the early 1980s, this track was dredged up to 10.5 meters.
The inhabitants of Szczecin associate the seat of the Office with the building of the Red Town Hall, which is an outstanding example of monumental architecture in neo-Gothic forms. Its construction started in 1875. The historic building was destroyed in 1945.
The neo-Gothic Red Town Hall, the seat of the Maritime Office in Szczecin since 1963 / photo by Maritime Office in Szczecin
It was here that the Maritime Office moved in 1963 - after its reconstruction. Previously, the institution was located in the current seat of the Maritime University in Wały Chrobrego.
Leader in implementing new technologies.
Breakthrough times for the Maritime Office in Szczecin came with the new century.
- It is here, as part of the Szczecin-Świnoujście port complex, that the first vessel traffic management and control system (VTS) was created. Then, the Maritime Office built the first base station in Poland to receive the ship identification signal - reminds director Zdanowicz.
Tugboat "Władysław", which sailed under the flag of the Szczecin Maritime Office until 1970 / photo by Maritime Office in Szczecin
At that time, in 2000, the first stage of modernization of the fairway to Szczecin took place.
It included the construction of new breakwaters at the exit of the Piastowski Canal to the Szczecin Lagoon and the reconstruction of the bank fortifications of the Piastowski Canal on a section of approx. 3 km of the fairway, adapting them to the planned track depth of 12.5 meters.
Dredging the Świnoujście - Szczecin fairway up to 12.5 meters / photo by Maritime Office in Szczecin
At that time, it was about preparing the banks for future investment. From 2013 to 2015, the second stage of the modernization of the fairway to Szczecin took place, which included bank reinforcements of subsequent sections of the Piastowski Canal and the Mieliński Canal. This task still concerned the regulation and strengthening of the shore (over 8 km).
- We are currently working on the third stage of modernization - the longest and the most expensive. It is an investment worth PLN 1.9 billion over a distance of 62 kilometers: from the port in Świnoujście to the port in Szczecin, deepening the fairway to 12.5 meters. We will finish the contract in March. There is no indication that the deadline is endangered - informs director Zdanowicz.
Shipping safety and environmental protection are the priority
The key tasks of the office include maintaining the safety of navigation and environmental protection, protection of the seashore, and thus - navigation markings on the fairway. An important task of the institution is also the development of Polish sea areas, and recently - an electronic register of yachts (units up to 24 meters), of which the Maritime Office in Szczecin is the creator and administrator (the registering authorities are starosts and sports associations).
- It is worth noting that on our fairway we have over 80 buoys and four gates in the form of navigation ponds. We have a fleet of about 25 vessels of various sizes. Some of them are inspection units, others are used to perform hydrographic measurements, others are used to operate buoys - lists director Zdanowicz. - The largest of our ships is Planeta I. It is a flagship, acquired in 2020, for which we received EU funding.
Let us remind you that Planeta I was created as one of the two state-of-the-art multitaskers commissioned by the Maritime Office in Szczecin. The second one is Zodiak II, which went to the Maritime Office in Gdynia. The entire project was worth PLN 240 million.
Modern multi-task vessels "Planeta I" and "Zodiak II" / photo by Maritime Office in Szczecin
- These are ships that can function as an icebreaker, fire-fighting vessel, rescue vessel, anti-pollution vessel or a vessel for navigational support, explains the director.
Let us add that from April 2020 there are two maritime offices in Poland: in Szczecin and in Gdynia. The exact tasks assigned to offices are presented in the video available on the institution's website.
What does the maritime industry need in the new year and what does the director of the Maritime Office in Szczecin want on its 76th birthday?
- Like any other industry, like the whole world, we would like to see the decline of the global Covid-19 pandemic somewhere on the horizon, regain a sense of security, peace and stability. In the upcoming new year, we wish ourselves, and the entire maritime industry, to successfully complete all planned investments and projects without any obstacles, on time and within the assumed budget. Thanks to really hard work and commitment of our employees, the Maritime Office in Szczecin managed to do it for two years of the pandemic and I have no doubt that it is possible - summarizes Wojciech Zdanowicz.