For its size, Poland is something of a maritime powerhouse. Over 50 per cent of the entire world’s six to nine metre yachts are built in the small Central European state, home to around 38 million people, the same size as the state of California.
According to the Polish Chamber department handling the maritime industry, the total export value of Poland’s yacht industry in 2017 was $365 million, making it one of the country’s most important industries.
At the Dubai International Boat Show taking place this week on the Dubai Canal, Polish companies have a visible presence, ranging from luxury catamaran builders and houseboats to a fanciful underwater hotel concept that has is looking for investment.
“We have a rich tradition of boat building,” Michal Bak, secretary general of the Polish Chamber for the Yacht Industry and Water Sports, or Polskie Jachty as it’s referred to in Poland, told Gulf News at the show.
Producing everything from small sailing boats to enormous superyachts, Bak says that the shipyards in Poland are responsible for building yachts sold by some of the world’s most prestigious boat companies, including the Italian boat builder Benetti Group.
As a result of this flourishing industry, Poland’s shipyards have “made some investments in recent years,” Bak said, without divulging specific amounts. As a result, the yards had doubled their production.
“We have many projects on order,” Bak added.
Not content with conquering the European yacht market, Polish companies have set their sights further afield, as far as Australia, according to Bak.
“We are advancing in to the Middle East, as we feel that it can be a very important market for us,” he said.
One of the companies that has joined the Polish government on its outreach to the region is Deep Ocean Technology (DOT), which made headlines in 2013 when it partnered with Dubai World, the parent company of ports operator DP World.
The company proposed a 20-room hotel submerged around 10 metres underwater, with twin discs above the water.
Several of DOT’s top executives are in Dubai to look for new investors, after the company’s previous arrangement with Dubai World fell through.
The thing people always ask is: “Where is the first one? Where can we see it?” said Krzysztof Koniuszaniec, project manager for the hotel concept.
“And that’s the only problem. We have all the designs, all the safety licenses, the permits, and the patents, we just need to investment to get the first one built, and people will see how viable it is,” he added.
According to Koniuszaniec, the hotel would cost around $50 million, and take two years to build.
The businessman is convinced that such an attention-grabbing hotel would fit perfectly in Dubai or Abu Dhabi’s portfolio of attention-grabbing structures. Aiming for the less flashy, but equally impactful, is Sunreef Yachts, a leading luxury catamaran maker based in Poland.
Shipyard in Dubai
The company said that it had seen such a strong interest in its catamarans from the Middle East that it was planning to open a shipyard in Dubai to cater to the demand.
A spokesperson for the company, Artur Poloczanski, told Gulf News that people were attracted to the stability, the spaciousness, and the customisation of Sunreef’s catamarans, as opposed to traditional yachts.
“I think we’re doing well,” Poloczanski said, adding: “I’m speaking for Sunreef, but for the whole Polish maritime industry as well [it’s doing well].”
The company is hoping the slick designs and unique looks of its catamarans will lure customers from the Gulf, hungry for an alternative to the more common yachts on display.
For now, Poland’s shipyards are on the hunt for an additional 10,000 workers who can contribute to the industry. The country currently has a shortage of skilled maritime labour, according to Bak, the government official, who says that Poland’s 35,000 shipyard workers are not sufficient for it to pursue its aims of far-reaching expansion.