Ahead of the market

Established on 31st January 1976 as a state-owned shipping company, the Polish Baltic Shipping Company, operating under the name Polferries is one of the three ferry operators on Polish ferry market today. It operates three 30-year-old ferries from a terminals in Gdansk and Swinoujscie, connecting Poland with Scandinavia for over 30 years, serving regular lines Gdansk to Nynashamn and Swinoujscie to Ystad. “During 37 years of activity on the ferry market we have operated on ferry lines to a number of locations but currently operate three ferries: mf Scandinavia, mv Baltivia and mf Wawel on two ferry lines between Poland and Sweden,” explains Piotr Redmerski, president of Polferries. “Our main activities include the carriage of passengers and freight, acting as a tour operator for Polish and foreign tourists and rendering port services in Gdansk.”

Passenger and vehicle traffic is serviced by a ferry mf Scandinavia at the company’s Gdansk terminal, which provides a connection to Nynashamn in Sweden, which is a 283 mile long crossing that takes 18 hours. “At 146.1 metres long and 25.5 metres wide, the ‘Scandinavia’ ferry can take up to 1800 passengers and 515 passenger cars, or alternatively 175 passenger cars and 38 lorries. On board ferry passengers will find a multitude of facilities, ranging from restaurants, a cinema and coffee rooms to cafes, a sauna, children’s play area and cosmetics shops. Drawing on its years of experience in the ferry market, Polferries today is managed in compliance with the most stringent standards applied in ferry operations and has established itself as a leading provider of such services in the Nordic states. “Polferries is a well recognised trademark in the ferry market, particularly in Scandinavia; we are renowned for our safety, excellent service for passengers and cargo and for our reliability,” highlights Piotr.

The main areas of business for Polferries are ferry transport of roll-on/off cargo and containers, ferry transport of passengers and cars, the organisation of sea tours for domestic and foreign tourists; hotel trade, organising and conducting port services, export-import and promotion activities for domestic and foreign institutions, trade, catering and entertainment activities and agency services for transport, sea tourism organising and entertainment activity. “Our main customers in cargo carriage are transport and forwarders – companies that are located mainly in the Baltic area. Approximately 60 per cent of our customers are Polish companies and 40 per cent come from Sweden,” says Piotr.

With more than 30 years experience in the shipping market, Polferries began activities as an operator of tramping vessels as well as ferries, but political and economical changes in the 1990s caused it to become solely a ferry operator. “It was in this decade that the restructuring and privatisation of the company commenced,” states Piotr. “In 1992 Polferries was transformed into a shareholder company of the state treasury and we believe privatisation of the company is our option in the future, especially as we plan to renew our fleet in two years time.” A recent attempt by Poland’s Ministry of Treasury to privatise the Polish ferry operator for the third time was dropped in 2012 following negotiations with potential buyer Polen Line, a consortium led by Swedish House. The Ministry aims to make a new appraisal for Polferries due to improved financial results and chose Lubeck-based Poland Sweden Line as its potential buyer in April 2013; it intends to sell 91 per cent of Polferries’ shares.

At the beginning of 2013 the company reshuffled its network, with the ro-pax mv Baltivia moved onto the Swinoujscie to Ystad line to meet market requirements; flow of cargo from/to Gdansk was decreased and traffic from/to Swinoujscie was increased. “We are focusing on developing the passenger and cargo traffic on both lines with the aim of minimising operation costs. This is a challenge for us due to ongoing competition on the market and rising fuel prices,” says Piotr. “There has been a definite revival on European markets though, which was shown in substantial movement of cargo traffic in the last 12 months.”

In preparation for the upcoming restrictions of sulphur emissions in the North Sea, English Channel and the Baltic as of 2015, set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Polferries has looked into a number of scenarios to approach the challenge. “We operate three vessels with an average age of 30 years and there is potential to comply with 2015 restrictions, but this will require significant investment in our fleet,” says Piotr. “Currently we are looking at the scrubber installations as well as LNG, which looks to be a very promising option. Depending on the market situation, we will be prepared to use one of the above options.”

Although Polferries is currently in a time of transition, it is preparing for the future and is focused on its long-term goal, as Piotr concludes: “We aim to continue improving our excellent service on board and plan to renew our fleet in 2015. Our new vessels will be capable of using both LNG and HFO, while older vessels will be switched to MGO until they operate in SECAS. We also aim to expand our offering by connecting the Baltic Sea with the South of Europe.”

Operators of three ferries from Gdansk and Swinoujscie terminals
Specialise in passenger and vehicle travel
Moved 284,000 passengers, 53,000 lorries and 107,500 cars in 2012