The Polish Offshore Wind Sector Deal signed on 15 September 2021 is another milestone in the development of this sector in Poland, next to the Act on the Promotion of Electricity Generation in Offshore Wind Farms of December 2020. This article is part of a series of comments on the main challenges to be met in order to make the plans contained in the sector deal a reality. It has been published in the Quarterly Country Report – Poland Q3 2021.

Patrycja Rapacka:

„Basis” for the Polish offshore wind sector, „condition” for the development of Polish windmills in the Baltic Sea, „opportunity” for Pomerania – these are the statements that have been coming from the mouths of politicians, experts and industry representatives over the past months in discussions about the development of installation and service ports, which are crucial for the construction and operation of offshore wind energy in Poland. Several documents, reports and announcements have been made, but everything seems to indicate that it will not be as easy as originally announced. There is a lack of efficiency in decision-making and communication. There is no clarity what offshore developers’ needs the port will have to meet. Nevertheless, the Port of Gdynia assures that it conducts preparatory work. Moreover, the potential of small ports was analyzed but here too, decisions and concrete actions are needed.

The installation port

A few months ago, the choice of location for the installation terminal for Polish offshore wind farms was finally settled – the choice fell on the Port of Gdynia, which did not seem surprising. The first clear commitments were included in the National Reconstruction Plan, which assumed construction of a deepwater installation terminal in Gdynia with an area of approx. 30 ha, enabling simultaneous handling of 2 installation units. According to the National Recovery Plan, the installation terminal will be ready in the fourth quarter of 2024. The cost of construction of the infrastructure including the installation terminal and service terminals assumed in the National Recovery Plan is 437 million EUR.

On July 30th, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution on the installation terminal submitted by the Minister of Infrastructure. It is worth mentioning that a similar resolution was also submitted by the Ministry of Climate and Environment – also pointing to Gdynia. However, this document was not adopted.

Doubts about the role of the port in Gdynia have been dispelled, but what next? Maciej Krzesiński, director for marketing and international cooperation at Port Gdynia, explains in an interview with BalticWind. EU that the government has already made the final decision.

– The government has passed a resolution, which has not been published. However, all the information we receive from the owner, i.e. the Treasury, indicates that the installation port will be in Gdynia. The main service ports will be Ustka and Łeba. Our task is to prepare the infrastructure in Gdynia in such a way to be able to service, first of all, the installation ships with the existing limitations in the Inner Port in its western part and eventually in the Outer Port. I think that among all Polish ports we have the greatest “know-how” in wind energy, because we have been collecting it for 2-3 years. We have a dedicated team and a number of studies and scenarios that specify where we can build the infrastructure and where we cannot. We have also held numerous talks with developers and we continue them – both with those who will build farms in the so- called first phase and those who will build later – says Krzesiński.

Even before the resolution, the Port of Gdynia had made a number of efforts to prepare the concept of construction of the installation port and worked on its own. – As the Port of Gdynia, we have been trying to be chosen to be the installation port – says Krzesiński.

– Such infrastructure is built for many years, but it is not built overnight, because it requires a lot of preparation, and first of all, it requires going through the whole process of preparing documentation. It covers 2/3 of the total time which has to be spent in the investment schedule. Only then we have the construction, which in this case will also take no less than 2-3 years, depending on the size of the installation port and the scope of work. The scale of the difficulties is evidenced by the fact that at this stage we do not know exactly which vessels will be used to service the construction of offshore wind farms. Today’s units are too small for the planned 14-16 MW turbines. There are no new units yet – they are just being designed. None of the developers has contracted them yet, and for us this information is crucial, so we are trying to collect as much information as possible in order to determine (perhaps a bit exaggeratedly) what parameters the port should have,” explains a representative of the Port of Gdynia.

„We are building an ecosystem for offshore wind energy”

After analyzing many scenarios, the concept of locating the installation port on the external pier, outside the main breakwater, was selected. The installation terminal will be prepared not only for phase one, but also for phase two of project implementation. What is more, the port authorities are thinking not only about the farms in the Polish exclusive economic zone. – We also see the potential boom in the Baltic states of our sea as an opportunity – informs Krzesiński.

There are claims in the public space that Poland will not have time to build the port for the first phase in 2024. Krzesiński disagrees with these opinions. – The discussions have been going on for a long time and I do not think that anyone has presented and reached out to the interested parties as strongly as the Port of Gdynia has on this issue – he explains.

– In the case of the installation port in Gdynia, everything depends on how the final investment decision will be accepted. There are several important aspects connected with the pier construction element itself, e.g. the ownership decision allowing to complete the recapitalization of the company with bonds, which have already been issued in order to, for example, build the access infrastructure in the form of breakwaters. If the decision is made and the company is recapitalized by the end of the year, we can, or actually must, start building the breakwaters in parallel with the pier. Of course, this variant does not allow us to build the installation port for 2024-2025. We have another solution and proposal for this, that is, the use of the existing infrastructure in the western part of the port – he explains.

Currently, the Port of Gdynia is finishing construction of large storage yards in the western part, which could be used partly to service offshore farms. It also has the Bulgarian quay, which can be adapted accordingly. Krzesiński states that it will not be an ideal terminal, but it will be enough to start handling projects, and in the meantime the external terminal, which is the only one capable of handling projects on the scale announced by developers, will be completed.

– Most important, however, is the communication we expect from the developers i.e. what specific vessels will be contracted and how many towers will be handled. This determines most of what happens next. We can start in the western part of the port, but we can’t run the target service there. So I disagree that we will not be whatsoever prepared in 2024 – we just won’t be able to handle a very large amount of component shipments right away. The installation of all the turbines on many projects at once will not start right away, because environmental decisions do not allow it. Eventually we will do it at the External Port – he explains.

What are the plans for the coming months? The Port of Gdynia assumes that by the end of 2021 the recapitalization of the company will be completed, which will enable the construction of breakwaters for the installation terminal at the external pier. Within the next month it should launch a tender for geological studies. Krzesiński informs that an environmental decision is also necessary. – As a port we are already building an ecosystem for offshore wind energy – he emphasizes in an interview with BalticWind.EU.

Service ports – potential is there, communication and decisions are missing

Such cities as Władysławowo, Kołobrzeg, Łeba, Ustka or Darłowo appear on the list of service port locations. Ultimately, Ustka and Łeba were indicated in the National Recovery Plan project, and the deadline for their construction is set for 2026. From the finally approved recovery plan, we will find out whether other locations will also be able to count on EU funding. Some investors are already active in their field. In May this year, Equinor, which implements investments together with Polenergia, informed that it finalized the purchase of a land plot in Łeba, where a port for servicing their wind farms on the Baltic Sea will be located. RWE has plans for Ustka – on the 24th of August 2021 the mayor of the city met with the representatives of this energy concern. The company plans to build a service base in the western harbour of Ustka for its wind farms on the Baltic Sea.

A comprehensive report „The role of small and medium- sized seaports in the Pomeranian Voivodeship in performing service functions for wind farms” prepared by the Pomeranian Marshal’s Office in cooperation with MAG Offshore raised high hopes for the project. The authorities of the Puck Poviat and the town of Władysławowo together with the port manager in Władysławowo – Szkuner Sp. z o.o. company – have prepared a concept of port expansion in the eastern direction by adding reinforced quays and storage areas. Within the framework of the investment, the northern breakwater is also to be extended. The construction of the new port in Władysławowo will have a positive impact on separating the tourist function from the fishing and transshipment functions, which are currently unable to develop fully.

The port in Łeba, due to its location and the vicinity of the Słowiński National Park, has no possibility of being developed into a medium-sized port. As it is located near the planned farms, similarly to the port in Władysławowo, it may play the role of a service port. However, due to its small port character, it does not perform transshipment functions and such a change is not planned.

We read in the report that in the case of Ustka, the implementation of the western bypass of the city with a direct connection to the port and the construction of the latest concept of the external port expansion in Ustka will lead to the creation of a medium-sized port on the central coast, which could perform transhipment functions to a larger extent and would be able to receive larger service units.

Investments in small ports in Pomerania must be complementary and not mutually exclusive. The problem is that there is a lack of precise estimates as to the type of vessels that will be used to service the offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea. It is known that several CTVs (crew transfer vessels) will be necessary to transport specialists to service the farms. Probably none of the Pomeranian ports (Łeba, Ustka, Władysławowo) will serve SOV (service operation vessel) in the upcoming years. Port adaptation to service such vessels requires the largest financial outlays.

Small service ports are the place where it will be possible to build a long term local supply chain. These ports will receive the best investment benefits. The local community and the tourism and fishing industries will receive the greatest opportunities for retraining. As with the installation port, information on how individual developers plan to implement the maintenance and operation of their wind farms is also key to undertaking investment activities at service ports.