Thanks to innovative projects, it has become one of the most renowned player in the marineindustry sector. We had an opportunity to talk with Ireneusz Ćwirko and Krzysztof Kulczycki, creators of ship manufacturing shipyard in Poland, about tough , pandemic Times, untapped national potential to construct cruise ships and what’s more, about new possibilities, which can be utilized due to setting up new offshore wind farms on Baltic Sea.
CRIST shipyard has been established in the 90s. At that moment, you have been already experienced in the industry. What brought you to a cooperation?
Krzysztof Kulczycki: We have been working together in the Stocznia Polnocna. In te mid-70s, we were both heads of different departments. A little later, Ireneusz and I travelled abroad. I have been working as a manager on shipyard contracts in Libia, Dubai Kuweit. I came back to Poland in 1990, after the Kuweit conflict has escalated.
Ireneusz Ćwirko: In the end of 70s, I worked as a warranty engineer on a tuna vessel, which beloged to a Soviet Union. After the contract, it appeared that I was competent enough to avoid most of the defects and breakups, so shipyard management decided to redirect me to different tasks. I was assiged to a painting department, which was not my thing at all. On the other hand I was young and ambitious. It took me 3 years to clean up the mess and make it eficiently operative once again. Throughout next 8 years, I was the Chief of the biggest department in Stocznia Polnocna. My next step was to compete in recruitment proces for technical director. Unfrtunately due to lack of any backing at all from the party, I had no chances. Actualy this event made me quit. Not so long after, I have met Krzysztof and with two more friends decided to settle up our own company.
Have you had a tough start?
Krzysztof Kulczycki: It wasn’t easy. At the beginning we were a really smal group, hired to work with air-vent instalation in one of the Poznan’s halls. Determined to take up any kind of job, we have been constructing pipelins, tanks and even equipment for coffe roasting.
Ireneusz Ćwirko: Each shift lasted for almost whole day and night – first salaries needed to be organized utilizing our own resources. I remember the moment of getting to manufacturing plant with the case full of cash. We were solid and fair, so the numer of employees was growing. More and more contracts emerged, so we concluded that quality we offer and the attention to deadlines, mad clients come back for more.
Which moment was a gamechanger for your company?
Ireneusz Ćwirko: Definately it was the moment of accepting the contract for construction of Thor vessel, designed to offshore wind farms. This succesful project has given us an opportunity to enter the worldwide competition in this sector. I strongly believe that today, we are the leader in manufacturing jack-up units of this type in Europe.
Krzysztof Kulczycki: Thor is a jack-up platform produced for German syndicate Hochtief in 2009. It took us 9 months and opened doors to our succes, as well as the next purchase orders.
Ireneusz Ćwirko: Our next project was construction of most innovative Heavy Lift Jack-Up Vessel unit for German – Belgian outfitter HGO, which served during ther cooperaton with French company Areva. „Innovation” unit with the length of 147.5m, carrying capacity of 8 000 t was equipped with the crane with lifting capacity up to 1 500 t, 29.000 kW power gear and four 95m foundations legs, steered by electrical system of lifting/lowering, as well as integrated with the positioning system ofa unit, DP2. This setup allows to perform hydrtechnical works, with the possibility to preserve a full autonomy.
Krzysztof Kulczycki: Construction of such highly developed unit, was a great challenge and even greater risk. During negotiations, haven’t been owning productional area here in Gdynia. The was no dock, no gantry and any infrastructure crucial for the process. Fortunately, after the contract signup, we were able to acquire required areas, which previously were occupied by Shipyard Gdynia. Manufacturing of this kind of units, intended to install and service offshore windfarms was a factor, which elevated our company to the level of the industry leaders.
In 5 years time, which is pretty soon, the Pomeranian region is going to be supplied with the first energy prodced by first Polish Offshore wind farms. Does the CRIST shipyard is able to add to it?
Ireneusz Ćwirko: Renewable energy is a future and we have a solid experience in this sector. We are unique on the European scale. It means that CRIST was the only shipyard being ble to produce 3 jack-ups designed for offshore installations. We simply know how to do it properly. Whole Polish shipyard industry, needs to be stimulated and these projects seem to be a perfect tool for that. It is an amazing opportunity to create, an almost new for our country, market. It is important especially during economy crisis.
Krzysztof Kulczycki: Offshore wind farms is a vast, multi bilion industry – most of it could have remained in Polish companies. Construction an consequently service vessels and the whole construction of a turbines itself requires tremendous amount of steel and job for many years. With the size increase of the building units, mounting even bigger turbines are constructions, which weight even up to 15 000 tonnes. It is not a job for a single entitity and we are able to point out the direction due to broad and unique experience in the process.
Ireneusz Ćwirko: To take care of Polish economy, we need to unleash the local potential we have. If the decisions would have been made on a governemental level, we would be ready to finish this kind of unit in 3 years.
How do you deal with pandemic?
Ireneusz Ćwirko: Covid 19 pandemic significantly influenced global economy. When it comes to shipbuilding industry – the cruise ship building was heavily impacted. All of us, hope that it is temporary and soon, the economy will recover. Crist shipyard is going to handle it. One of the cruise shipbuilding projects was slightly postponed, but in exchange we have signed up some other contracts.
Krzysztof Kulczycki: Recently, we have just signed up to construct an electrical ferry for Finferries. Moreover we continue to deliver, equipped hulls for Ulstein. In September, fully equipped 172m floating block was sent in terms of our cooperation with one of the largest French ship owning companies, Chantiers de l’Atlantique. At the same time, we build up smaller vessels, designed for polar areas for the outfitter organizing touristic cruises in that region.
Ireneusz Ćwirko: Most of the ships and modules produced by Polish shipyards is based on the scheme of a cruise ship. These projects flourished throught last couple of years and in this area of business, we have a constant chain of orders up to 2023. Having actual situation on mind, the is no doubt that this sector will definately slow down. We remain in close relations with our clients, who assures tht all signup projects are going to be finished. On the other hand, from our perspective the financial decisions of ship owning companies are not 100 % sure. We need to take under consideration the impact of pandemic on orders. This is another factor, why we can’t wait for the decisions to be made on governmental level when it comes to offshore windfarms. We, as a Crist shipyard are confident that we have the potential to play a key role due to our experience.
Construction of ferries for Polish shipowners might be another important impulse for ship building industry. Would take up this kind of contract as well?
Ireneusz Cwirko: It was known since the beginning that a ferry of this size, cannot be manufactured in Szczecin. The harbour is not properly adapted and the unit would have hit the banks. Gryfia Shipyard has not completed any ferry independently for 3 years. To work with this kind of projects, at least 50 mln euro should be invested in proper equipment. It is renovation facility, which setup significantly differs from building from a scratch. There are as well not enough qualified personnel. Currently finishing projects like ferry ro-pax is simply impossible in Gryf Shipyard. Fortunately, units of this type, can be smoothly constructed in Tri City.
Krzysztof Kulcxycki: We have already presented our recommendation for possible solutions in terms of ro-pax construction. Boundary conditions were defined as well as the time required to prepare required documentation and construction itself. This is actually the moment we have stopped in our negotiations. During oir assesment, we assumed cyclic production of 1 ferry each half of the year. First was supposed to be finished in 2023, and the next one consequently in 6 forthcoming months. It is the last call for action to meet those deadlines, but it is still achievable.
What should I wish to Crist shipyard for next 30 years?
Ireneusz Ćwirko: wish us a great substitution! We work with really capable and creative managers and directors board. Their great effort is defining our succes. It is thanks to them that everything operates so smoothly. We have knowledge, people and possibilities – we wait for the decisions to be taken. If so – in the forthcoming tens of years, shipbuilding industry in Poland will have plenty to do.
Source: Gospodarka Morska