New Ideas to Boost Maritime Business: Conference
December 30, 2016
A host of businessmen, policy makers, academics and others with ties to the maritime and shipping industries gathered in the Polish seaside resort of Sopot in September to debate ways to boost Poland’s maritime sector.
The conference, called the 1st Mare Forum Poland 2016, was part of a global series of conferences focusing on the development of the sector in various countries.
The event was co-organized by the Polish Maritime Cluster, a business cluster based in the port city of Gdynia on the Baltic coast.
Attendees discussed how Poland’s “competitive, innovative and promising” maritime sector could expand and enter global markets for maritime products and services.
The conference opened with an address by Mare Forum founder and head Jannis Kostoulas, who praised the Polish Maritime Cluster for its “high potential.”
Wiesław Byczkowski, vice-chairman of Poland’s northern Pomerania province, of which Sopot is part, said his region was eager to make the most of its location on the Baltic Sea, with a growing role for maritime and related services.
The conference’s first panel discussion focused on macroeconomic factors driving the maritime industry. The discussion was moderated by Apostolos Poulovassilis, chief operating officer at Eletson Corporation, and the speakers included Guy Verberne, chief economist at PGGM Investments.
Verberne spoke at length about the latest trends in the global economy, noting that many of the world’s regions have been affected by a slowdown. According to Verberne, the economies of many developed countries will weaken in the coming years while developing countries, especially those in Asia, will be going from strength to strength.
Wojciech Ponikowski, a senior official at the Polish Foreign Ministry, reflected on the political context of globalization, including threats and tensions within the European Union. The discussion that followed tackled political and economic changes taking place in Europe as a result of the Brexit referendum in Britain and the situation in Turkey.
The conference’s second panel discussion focused on global trade, transportation and energy. It was moderated by Zhongyi Su, CEO of the Erasmus Shipinvest Group. Piotr KuŚ, director of the Brussels office of Poland’s natural gas transmission system operator Gaz-System, gave a speech about energy security, and Jerzy Majewski, senior vice-president of HSH Nordbank AG Shipping Europe, told the conference about selected financial issues related to shipping. Finally, Marcin Białek from the Polish Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation briefed participants on a government program for developing Poland’s maritime sector and inland navigation.
The third panel discussion, moderated by Zbigniew Kurowski, CEO of Mars Design and Solutions, focused on the innovation potential of Poland’s shipbuilding industry. Participants discussed potential gains from growing demand for innovation and agreed that innovation largely depends on information technology, which plays a crucial part in the modern maritime industry.
The IT aspect was discussed in detail by Pino Spadafora, Northern Europe area manager at RINA Services. His presentation concerned the use of cloud technology in maritime traffic management and threats posed by cybercrime. The discussion closed with a presentation by Andrzej Rodziewicz, board advisor for strategy and development at Mutual Funds Society.
Marek Grzybowski, head of the Polish Maritime Cluster, moderated a panel discussion that sought to identify the main development opportunities for Poland’s maritime sector.
Together with the cluster’s deputy head, Capt. Alfred Naskręt, Grzybowski conducted a brainstorming session that produced a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the Polish maritime industry, combined with a PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental) analysis. Poland emerged from these analyses as a leading European producer of yachts and small recreational boats and one of the largest producers of processed fish. Discussion participants also identified strengths such as quality Polish maritime products and services coupled with low labor costs. They agreed that high demand for innovation and skilled human resources could be a major opportunity for the local maritime industry and services.
However, Poland’s maritime sector needs to do more in terms of marketing and public relations efforts, discussion participants said.
On closing the conference, Kostoulas spoke about why Mare Forum had chosen to hold the conference to Poland. “We have come to Poland for the first time knowing that the local maritime market has traditions going back centuries and presents vast potential that has yet to be tapped to the fullest,” Kostoulas said.
The Polish Maritime Cluster is a key organization of this kind in Central and Eastern Europe and the most active maritime cluster in the Baltic Sea region. It is also a leading member of the European Network of Maritime Clusters.