Port of Gdansk: we want to compete with the biggest players around the world [interview]
Port of Gdansk: we want to compete with the biggest players around the world [interview]
Date of publication: 17.11.2020
- The whole of Poland and its southern neighbors are within our reach - completed road investments have speeded up the transfer of cargo, and the soon to be finished improvements in the railway network will add to this – assures Lukasz Greinke, CEO of the Port of Gdansk Authority, who we speak to about dynamic investments, broad interest in terms of the Central Port concept, competition with the biggest players around the world, and the responsibility of being a host.

Four years have already passed since you started in your new role as CEO of the Port of Gdansk Authority. What are your thoughts about this time?

What is most important is that we have finally started to operate as a commercial company. We have become aware of the direction we would like to follow and which partners we should focus on. The conclusion was that they are entities operating in our Port area and utilizing our infrastructure. The aim of each of our investments is to improve the processes implemented by our current and future clients, and to maximize their efficiency.

Since taking on my new duties, I have had a vision of the way I would like to develop the Port of Gdansk. The host, managing and maintaining the infrastructure, should be visible. Not so long ago, the whole area consisted of degraded buildings, with no real economic purpose. The first steps were to bring some order into this space: reforming empty spaces and implementing a much more modern infrastructure, which is expected to highly improve the pace of any operations within the Port of Gdansk.

During the last four years, we started a very rapid process of completing previously planned investments. By these, I mean the deepening of the fairway in the internal port, the modernization of a 5 km length of the harbor and the improvement of the rail-road system in the external port.

Thanks to the change in attitude towards management, we have attained a very different level of cooperation with our clients. Our financial results are on a very satisfactory level. In our process of continuous improvement, we invest constantly in our port infrastructure. Beyond that, we dynamically adjust our investments to developments in the shipping world, so as to compete with the best.

Building a Central Port in Gdansk is a truly impressive investment yet still one which generates high costs. What stage is this project at right now?

We have finished the work with our consulting body, whose role was to assess the best potential investors and clients capable of participating in such a wide-scale project as the Central Port. This decision-making process is very complex. We have to find the ideal balance between the interests of operators with land-access infrastructure, for which the port is responsible, and hydrotechnical infrastructure, which is governed by the Maritime Office.

Our goal is to prepare the investors and the investment itself in such a way that there can be no doubt on a governmental level concerning dedicating resources to hydrotechnical infrastructure, which is crucial for the operation of the terminals.

Obviously, the Central Port is not the only one in search of investors. Very soon, just like in Poker, we will need to publicly “check” other players. We constantly monitor any increasing interest amongst the biggest operators – the next step is to transform their curiosity into solid declarations. We do not want to restrict investors, which is why we encourage open dialogue regarding their concepts of cooperation. I am deeply convinced that if those concepts are consistent with our strategy, we will have another discussion by the end of this year about even greater investments.

You mentioned the rearrangement of the road-railway system. This project is almost finished. How will it influence the operation of the port?

That is right – it will be 100% ready to use by the end of October.

It involves the building of a new railway track system from the Northern Port harbor train station up to the gate of each particular terminal. In DCT, the terminal which generates most of the cargo transport, two dedicated lines are being constructed, which will afterwards be employed as railway sidings. DCT will not only have new tracks, but highly innovative handling facilities, which will significantly increase the amount of containers reloaded with the railway system.

What is more important, this investment includes establishing a new road system – any crossings with collision potential will be eliminated and made safe. Two dedicated tracks to the container terminals, in a 2+2 system, will make the cargo transfer process one of the easiest in Europe. To simplify this concept, the only place with a strict speed limit will be the entrance gates at the connection to the highway.
Right now, the road network is extensive enough to make the whole of Poland and its southern neighbors easily reachable. This gives huge added value to our port.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a huge challenge to be faced by ports around the world. How have operational limitations and international restrictions introduced by governments influenced the Port of Gdansk?

Throughout the whole time we have remained fully operational. We have ensured that access to any goods has not been disrupted by any means in our country. All of our operators met expectations, which avoided even a single day of downtime.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the pandemic and resulting worldwide crisis has affected us in some ways. We can feel its impact through a 15% decrease in the amount of goods being reloaded in comparison to the same time period last year. Nevertheless, we aim to finish this year with 48.5 mln tonnes of reloaded cargo. To illustrate our progress, 4 years ago this value was equal to 36 mln tonnes. I am sure that this predicted growth, after a recalibration due to the Covid-19 situation, will gradually and significantly increase.

What is the vision of the Port of Gdańsk for the next ten years?

I would love to have one or two big, effectively functioning container terminals, the reloading capacity of which will reach collectively 5.5 mln TEU. Apart from that, I would gladly see some new working positions available in the Naftoport fuel depot, and the adaptation of the massive harbor for visits of the world’s largest cruise ships. Another thing I have in mind is the national operator PŻB, who definitely deserve their own terminal, which will improve their potential to compete with others on the Baltic Sea.
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