Who is who in Polish offshore? Fem4Cad - MarinePoland.com
Who is who in Polish offshore? Fem4Cad
Date of publication: 02.04.2024

Jan Gortatowski and his company Fem4Cad were practically at the dawn of Polish offshore, when no one saw it as a business. They have watched the industry grow from a front-row seat. And although they have long proven to the doubters that they can be an important element of the supply chain in the construction of, for example, installation ships, in Polish offshore they are still a spectator, not a participant – like the entire shipbuilding sector.

It would seem that the company, which is involved in design work on the largest and most technically advanced installation ships at the time, would be one of the first addresses to which the largest players in the Polish offshore wind energy industry will direct their steps. After all, they must organize themselves in such a way that they will be able to implement several projects at sea within a dozen or so years. However, the Gdynia-based company Fem4Cad participates in the offshore market, but not yet in the domestic market. Our domestic shipbuilding industry has been almost entirely omitted from the offshore market, and installation ships will come from other countries.

– My colleagues from the time I worked at the Gdynia Shipyard dreamed of designing and building an aircraft carrier (laughter). I would like to design and build a jack-up – says Jan Gortatowski when we talk in the Fem4Cad office.


Fem4Cad, as Gortatowski himself says, supports design offices in specific types of calculations and simulations necessary to complete full construction or reconstruction projects of ships.

– The analyzes we deal with in the case of offshore vessels are mainly analyzes related to the durability of these vessels, but there are more problems with such vessels, so we also deal with other types of simulations. It used to be that we could say that we performed strength calculations, but currently there is no good definition of what we do. That's why I often say that we deal with simulations. Using numerical methods, we analyze issues that we may have problems with on vessels, starting from hydrodynamic analyses, through strength and fatigue calculations, then vibrations and, for example, noise forecasts... – explains Jan Gortatowski descriptively. – We operate in the broadly understood marine & offshore industry. The projects we implement come from virtually every part of this large market – he sums up.

The company itself was established on the basis of another one, in which Jan Gortatowski was the head of the Marine & Offshore department. However, the business was taken over by a larger organization from the automotive industry, so the unit design department was separated and began to function independently. In this way, it filled the gap left by the dissolution of very large design departments in shipyards. Their task was to support production. However, the private offices created on their basis had to focus on making money. They could not afford to maintain teams of several hundred people. Therefore, gaps were created in this field that could be filled by small but highly specialized teams, like Fem4Cad. It's no wonder that the vast majority of it's employees has been working together for 15 years.

– We wanted to support design offices in the most difficult specialist issues related to broadly understood calculations – says Jan Gortatowski. That is why Fem4Cad's direct clients are design offices that subcontract complete or partial analyzes of projects carried out for their clients to the company.

Waiting for Polish offshore

Jan Gortatowski says directly that his company has plenty of work, but during the conversation we inevitably talk about Polish offshore. Fem4Cad was one of the few Polish companies that cooperated in the design (and subsequent redesign) of several high-profile offshore vessels, so it is no wonder that Gortatowski and his team kept their fingers crossed for the development of Polish offshore wind energy. It could bring them important orders and give them the opportunity to consolidate their position in the supply and development chain.

– We were very much involved in the creation of the offshore market while working in the previous company – recalls Jan Gortatowski. He adds that the first ideas for organizing Polish offshore appeared right after the implementation of the Vidar installation ship project, on which engineers from Fem4Cad cooperated with its designer, StoGda, and which was built in the Crist shipyard in Gdynia.

– A very nice ship was built, with which the shipowner was very satisfied. Back then, people were just starting to talk about Polish offshore, but no one wanted to invest yet – says Gortatowski. He mentions a number of initiatives that involved, among others large Polish companies. The projects sometimes dissolved over time, sometimes crashed due to simple problems, sometimes disappeared from desks along with personnel changes. – I remember the first meetings of PTMEW (Polish Offshore Wind Energy Society – red.) It was said that, taking into account our potential in the offshore industry, we could have our local content at the level of 70%, maybe even 80% with good management... Currently, it is said to be 5%...

The potential therefore remains untapped. As Gortatowski points out, it is not only about his company, but also about the entire shipyard and design industry.

– As for our company, we cooperated with StoGda on all projects related to installation ships. It was Vidar, and on the way also Zourite – although it was not a vessel for installing wind farms, it was also a jack-up. Then we participated in the Voltaire project together. This is the largest ship built by Jan De Nul. In the meantime, we were making upgrades on existing ships, mainly on Vidar, which is now called Vole au Vent after a change of shipowner. Practically once a year we had a task related to changing the field in which we operate or other reconstruction resulting from current operation. Therefore, it seems that when it comes to installation vessels, we could freely design and build them on our market – says the head of Fem4Cad. However, he points out that no company has been established in Poland that could manage this type of ship, although there have been several attempts. – I think that if there was only good will on the part of potential operators of Polish offshore wind farms, such as PGE, Orlen or Polenerga, a ship dedicated to the conditions of the Baltic Sea could be designed and built for a Polish shipowner. Virtually all countries around the Baltic Sea are interested in offshore wind farms. I think that such an investment could not fail to pay off.

The lack of orders from Poland does not mean that Fem4Cad has no orders at all. The topic of installation ships returns to the desks of employees of the Gdynia office from time to time.

– New generation ships are designed a bit more universally, but Vidar-class ships were designed for the conditions of a specific field. The ship works in a field for a year or two, then moves to another one. The conditions in which the vessel operates change, for example the type of ground on which it will stand. This means that something constantly needs to be redesigned and changed – explains Jan Gortatowski. – One of such large reconstructions in Vidar was the relocation of chimneys. In the first version, the chimneys were placed symmetrically, on the starboard and port sides. But on the starboard side, on the rear leg, we had a crane installed. The smoke from the chimney disturbed its operator. So it was decided to move all exhausts to the port side. It was a large reconstruction that took place at the Nauta Shipyard in Gdynia – he says.

Technology is also constantly changing. The power of wind turbines is increasing, and the foundations are growing. All this requires increasingly larger ships with increasingly greater capabilities.

– When Voltaire was built, he was able to guarantee the installation of all possible types of foundations existing at that time. The ship has a crane capacity of 3,000 tons and is able to operate at a depth of 80 meters. These parameters have never been seen before. And now it is already being said that 3,000 tons may not be enough. The Chinese are talking about turbines above 20 MW... Shipyards and design offices have to keep up – notes the head of Fem4Cad.

Offshore is not everything

Although Fem4Cad has experience and competences in the field of installation vessels and other jack-ups that could significantly facilitate the construction of offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea, its capabilities do not end there. Therefore, the company does not intend to wait idly for potential orders from Polish offshore.

– We're not complaining. We really have a lot of work to do. We would love to take part in the construction of a Polish jack-up, but we are not sitting idle. Currently, we have been working on new car carrier projects for almost three years. This is a reviving market – says Jan Gortatowski. He recalls that Poland used to be a leader in the design and construction of this type of ships. Currently, they are about 25 years old, so it is time to replace this fleet. However, they are currently made in China. – Fortunately, their projects are still being created in Europe. In the case of car carriers, our direct client is the Deltamarin design office from Finland – adds Gortatowski.

Fem4Cad is also active on the oil & gas market, where the FPSO ship sector has emerged. Over the last few years, the company has conducted several crash analyses.

– This is a bit unusual in our industry, we rarely hear about "crashes" in traditional vessels. However, in the case of FPSO units, this is a fundamental problem. These vessels are moored and filled with oil or its derivatives. Service ships or ships receiving or delivering crude oil dock there all the time. Therefore, there is a great risk that such a ship will collide with the side of the FPSO – describes Gortatowski.

In this case, the company performs, among others: "crash" analyzes necessary to design protective structures for equipment elements mounted on FPSOs. All this is done by 8 Fem4Cad employees and, if necessary, 4 collaborators.

– We have been working together continuously for 15 years. No one from this team left during this time, except for one person who completely changed the industry. There were situations when we could have had even more work, but then we told the client honestly that either we would do it later or, unfortunately, we would not be able to quickly increase the processing capacity, for example twice, because we could not do it responsibly. Our team consists of experienced specialists, the likes of which are simply few on the market – explains Gortatowski.

During the six years of work under the Fem4Cad banner, this well-coordinated team had the opportunity to take part in large, high-profile projects in the maritime industry. Which of them make Jan Gortatowski most proud? In response, he mentions the car carrier project carried out a year ago for Deltamarin. It is a modern vessel, very large, for 9,000 cars. Fem4Cad performed an almost complete strength analysis for this project. Currently, the shipyards are working on three such ships in parallel, and a total of a dozen of them are to be built, which confirms that this is a good project. The head of Fem4Cad also recalls the first order that the company completed immediately after its establishment – the Ro-Pax project for the DFDS shipowner, for which it also performed a complete strength analysis.

– We don't have much competition at the moment, at least here, on our market, so the more difficult the issue, the greater the satisfaction. During the 6 years of the company's existence, almost every subsequent project was completely different, it is difficult to find two identical topics, so we do not have repetitive work, each subsequent topic is a challenge – says Gortatowski.

At the very end, however, we return to the installation ship. Considering the full schedule, would Fem4Cad still be able to involve a Polish jack-up in the project?

– In fact, we currently have a full workload for about half a year. If I received information today that such a ship would be built, I could immediately say that the project would not start before the end of the year. Then we are as available as possible (laughter). There is no problem – concludes Jan Gortatowski.

Most recent