choose one

Remontowa celebrates 50th Anniversary

In 2002, Remontowa S.A. is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. The shipyard was established in 1952 as a state enterprise. Over the following fifty years, Remontowa became the unquestioned leader amongst Polish shiprepair yards and a major player on the world market. The management was able to make the most of the opportunities offered by the economic and political transformations in the 1990's and converted a state enterprise into a joint-stock company, a mere workplace to a global brand name.

Mr Piotr Soyka, the Chairman of Remontowa S.A. has been awarded the Officers' Cross of Poland's Restitution Medal by the President of Polish Republic Mr Aleksander Kwasniewski, for his achievments in development of shipping industry.
During the solemn academy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Remontowa S.A., besides the Chairman, high national badges were also awarded to 55 shipyard's employees and 25 employees were awarded resort badges.

The extent of time, the extent of matters

The jubilee conversation with Mr Piotr Soyka - the Chairman of the Gdansk Shiprepair Yard Remontowa S.A.

- Let's start the conversation on the shipyard's jubilee in a traditional way.
50 years, are there many or not?- Obviously it's a very important anniversary. I have experienced it myself and I know what 50 years mean. I have been working at this shipyard over 30 years , with breaks, and I realize that the flow of time is the most vital factor both for the company and the human. So much has changed within these last 12 years. I have already been here a Director, an Executive Manager and at present I am its Chairman and co-owner, together with over two thousand employees. This is the scale of changes only within the recent years, however those years gave us a chance for undertaking of dynamic activities.

- At the beginning there was.....- A production plant. Not too bad, however typical for its times. The market was substituted by the plan. The USSR and Poland were using most of their production powers. It was certainly very comfortable and didactic , because in both cases the ships built in Poland were repaired and our shipping industry was modern from the beginning. Even though we were starting from workshops only, they quickly transformed into a huge shipyard employing 7.000 people, at the quays of which over 40 vessels could have been placed. The whole effort must have been concentrated on so called production. There was no problem in obtaining such a number of vessels for repair, there were no major financial problems either, even though there were some executory difficulties. Thus it was a typical socialistic manufacture.The new times - I mean the last twelve years - have caused such changes that shipyard had to change from an ordinary workplace into a full profile company, i.e. such a company that has to find its place on the market, must keep searching and care of its clients and must function globally, on such markets as the USA, Far East or Africa.Furthermore such a company must be fully responsible for its finances, settling the incomes and expenditures in different currencies. I think that we managed to do it. It is probably one of our greatest success. It was also enriched (within the last 12 years) by the diversification of production. The shipyard's name is "Remontowa". This is our logo, but we also build more and more ships from the area that I would call a technical fleet.

- This is a history of the shipyard in short. Which of those 50 years would you consider as key years?- This was undoubtfully year 1952, when the Gdańsk Shiprepair Yard was established being born from the body of the Gdansk Shipyard. The following years were marked by gradual development up to 1970 when on the basis of the floating dock built by the Gdansk Shiprepair Yard at DWT over 25.000 tons, the shipyard opened the bulk carriers repair plant. Then it appeared that we went one step forward, towards big ships, which was not so popular in the world that time and for sure not in Poland. I remember that time because I already worked here. We were to erect stagings around the first vessel we had on that dock and all the stagings collected from the whole shipyard were not enough to complete this task. And then, I - a young engineer, realized that there was already a different shipyard, so our ideas should also have changed. The next dock, at 33.000 DWT, which appeared at the shipyard in mid 80's, it was already a continuation of previously taken course. The next key stage were the 90's , specially the beginning of this period, when we had to start functioning in the market economy.

- And the shipyard's privatization and change of its property structure?- On the way there was another important stage of shipyard's managing through the Executive Manager. Not many in Poland have experienced this. Suddenly it appeared that I could manage such a big structure in one-man mode. It was almost like being its owner. Of course I was controlled, but actually the whole power was concentrated in my hands. I was only dependent on the results, also my salary depended on them only. This form of company managing helped me a lot in its privatization later on. The employees perception of my person was already different. They experienced that promises are followed by actions and were not afraid of coming through the final stage, being the privatization, which was a longlasting, difficult and expensive process. It was not a manager-employees privatization. We did not get anything. It was a real market privatization based on the auction. We had a serious competitor, who was raising the price, so we have put cash on the table and we bought our shipyard. In such a difficult period for a shipping industry, we paid 120 mln PLN. It was like somobody wanted to create difficulties to us. Actually we can say that affection to the shipyard took victory over reason...

- How do you see the nearest 50 years of the shipyard? Is it going to be a repair shipyard or shiprepair-production yard, or maybe a property managing group will be formed out of it in order to manage a growing fortune?- I think that there will be such a structure, that will be demanded by the market. We have no declared "golden aim" or construction, that we have figured out. Our present plans do work, but in some years we will have to look for new solutions. What kind of solutions? This will be defined by our market. We will stand firmly on the ground of marine economy, dealing with repairs, conversions and building of ships and floating structures. We cannot take distance from such actions as we are familiar with them. Of course we will not ignore the opportunity of purchase of any other property in a different branch, however the general structure will be maintained. We have no doctrine in this question. However we are not going to spread our interest in the ships and in the future there will be floating objects or the objects connected with our work in the sea. Probably in 50 years time there will be mainly on-water platforms or underwater structures, not necessarily the ships. However the marine technique will remain and our knowledge and people dealing with it, constitute our treasure. This will be the only thing that we will be able to sell well. Now and in the future in order to give a chance to the environment we are living in.

- Such a programme requires partners....- For sure we would like to have them in Pomeranian Universities and in the scientific-research area. However it is not simple. They have not only to keep up with our tasks, but they have to precede them. We have a very good cooperation with a group of specialists from the Gdansk Technical University, they deal with strength calculations. In the future our activity will be more international. Already today, thinking about certain projects, we place advertisements and we want to attract specialists from different parts of Europe. At the moment there are high disproportions with regard to salaries between our country and Western European countries, however not as high as some time ago, specially in case of managers. If we are on the market, we will be surrounded by wise people. It is already happening. For many years we have been employeeing people with IQ higher than 130. It must bring results.

- Is there a possibility of obtaining a constant approach to the repairs and conversions of the ships from the highest shelf? I mean the passenger vessels and offshore projects. Which steps should be taken in order to achieve it?- The beginning has already been done, because the repairs of prestige, such as conversions have already been completed by our shipyard. This programme should be continued. The Western Europe helps us a bit in this area with the new ISO standards and other quality regulations, that we enter, comply with them and formally having the same quality certificates and acceptance regulations, we are equally good. On the other hand, there is still much to be done. I think about the logistics. We are not weak at this point, because through the fact that everything here was more complicated, we are more resourceful, however our market of co-operants is still not well developed. In the west the shipyard employeen 100 people is able to perform a huge repair, because they can rely on reliable co-operants. Unfortunately in Poland there are not enough reliable companies , which are responsible for the time, can take financial guarantees etc. For all these things the shipyard is solely responsible and in the final stage, when problems appear, the shipyard also must solve them. This is the area where a lot has to be done. On the other hand, we do have our own, very good desigining office, which was established within a short period of time. Some time ago we did not have it. Nowadays, when talking about ferry boat conversion, we do not have such problems with quick design preparation.

- The mobility of working teams and the quality of their work are good according to your opinion. There is also an access to the financial capital. Can the technical means and technologies constitute a barrier for obtaining a lucrative contract?- We mainly render services, so if the vessel we are going to repair or convert is modern, then we need to possess all the technologies, that have been applied on this vessel by the shipbuilding industry.

- Do you see any need and possibility of co-operation coordination of already big executive potential, being at the possesssion or under management of "Remontowa", for example in the building of steel structures?- In case of hulls building we will co-operate with the Northern Shipyard in Gdansk, where we do have the majority of shares. We want to invest together in the development of this activity. The common projects, co-ordinated within this group are foreseen. However, we are not going to deprive any of the companies of its independence and responsibility for their own existence and survival. This is a matter of control ability over the posssessed property. In Poland not much is being said on this, but this is a matter of high importance.

- Thank you for the conversation and I wish good luck in the following 50 years.

Wladyslaw Jaszowski

Copyright 2005 Remontowa