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The Warsaw Voice » Business » October 8, 2008
ECONOMY AND POLITICS
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Shipyards Doomed?
October 8, 2008   
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EU Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes has turned down Warsaw's plans to rescue Polish shipyards. If the European Commission adopts her recommendations, the shipyards will go bankrupt.

After a meeting with Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad Sept. 30, Kroes hinted she would recommend that other Commissioners reject the restructuring plans for the shipyards in Gdynia, Gdańsk and Szczecin. If that happens, the enterprises will have to return the public aid they have received since Poland joined the EU in 2004, estimated at zl.8.5 billion. That would mean bankruptcy for the shipyards.

Grad is not giving up. "I have asked Commissioner Kroes and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to present, in writing, an analysis of the restructuring plans we submitted in Brussels," Grad said. He has also called on Barroso to appoint an independent team of experts to re-evaluate the Polish plans.

Kroes refrained from commenting on her decision. Her spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said that any analyses will only be contained in the final decision on accepting or disapproving the public aid. A decision is expected soon. Kroes told Grad that the only shipyard which still stands a chance of surviving is the one in Gdańsk. She proposed that the Treasury Ministry sends a separate restructuring plan for the shipyard to Brussels.

Oct. 2, Grad announced there was a "plan B" in case the shipyards had to declare bankruptcy, adding that the ministry was prepared to help the shipyards and their workers. He added the plan, drawn up together with other ministers and local government officials, consisted of two sections, covering aid for shipyard workers and the rescue of the enterprises after bankruptcy. No further details of the plan have been revealed so far.

L.Ż.


Factfile
Gdynia Shipyard has received around zl.2 billion in state aid over the past several years. The shipyard employs 7,507 people. From 1996 to October 2007, it formed a single enterprise with the Gdańsk Shipyard, but when the latter was privatized, the shipyards were divided. Under plans prepared by the Treasury Ministry, the Gdynia Shipyard would be sold to the Ukrainian corporation ISD, which already owns the Gdańsk Shipyard. The two enterprises were supposed to merge again and apart from ships, they would produce wind turbines and steel.

Gdańsk Shipyard has received around zl.750 million in public aid, according to estimates by the European Commission. The shipyard employs 3,049 people. It lost zl.71.5 million last year. In October 2007, it was sold to the Ukrainian corporation ISD. Under the plans submitted in Brussels, alongside with ships it would produce wind turbines and steel.

Szczecińska Nowa Shipyard has received over zl.2 billion in public aid and under the plans compiled by the Treasury Ministry and rejected in Brussels, it was supposed to receive an injection of another zl.600 million. Last year, the shipyard reported a total loss of zl.100 million. Under the restructuring plans, the new owners would be the Mostostal Chojnice company and the Norwegian shipyard consortium Ulstein Verst. Apart from ships, the Szczecińska Nowa Shipyard would produce cranes, construction materials, steel and furniture. The shipyard has 5,000 employees.
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