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This city is ideally suited for construction of a container terminal!

Janusz Żmurkiewicz, The Mayor of Świnoujście: This city is ideally suited for construction of a container terminal!

Interview with Janusz Żmurkiewicz, The Mayor of City of Świnoujście

- From a historical viewpoint –the port was here first, then the city. How do the people of Świnoujście perceive this relationship today?

- For those, who settled here after the war and the first generations who were born in Świnoujście, it was obvious that initially there was a port and a small village here. The port developed much faster than Świnoujście, but also influenced the development of the city. Among others, the Deepsea Fishery and Fishing Services Company “Odra” was active here. This  name says little to young people today, but it was one of the largest shipowners, whose trawlers sailed through the farthest seas and oceans. It gave workplaces to thousands of employees, from Świnoujście and from all over Poland. They came here for hard, but well-paid work. At that time, many people were connected with the maritime economy. Port, shipowners, shipyard – that was dominant industry. Every family had at least one person working in the maritime economy. Tourism was undeveloped, there were not so many hotels, places saved from the pre-war times, which began to function most often as corporate holiday resorts. Today, some people underestimate the maritime economy, but that was the base of activities in this city.

- These proportions have changed...

- That's true. And I am glad that the development of Świnoujście is not built on one base. There are cities on the Baltic Sea coast based only on spas and tourism. The pandemic has paralyzed these industries. They are inactive and the cities died off. And yet the virus is not the only threat. What would happen if an oil tanker crashes in the Baltic Sea and pollutes our waters? I remember how the wastewater, that got into the Baltic Sea by rivers prevented swimming in Międzyzdroje and nearby villages. Who will come to Świnoujście if you would not be able to use the beaches, get swimming in the water? We are one of those cities that have a tourist spa part, and a port part. We are standing on two legs. Today, that economic part is active despite the pandemic. Świna River splits the city in a natural way. The island of Wolin has always been a base for development of economy, ports and companies of the maritime industry. Left side, the island of Uznam, acts only as tourist and spa part. And if anyone suggests today that tourist services will develop on the island of Wolin, that for example hotels should be built there - I will say that he is wrong. We can build hotels, but not in the port zone and its surroundings. I am satisfied that during my term as The Mayor, the development of the city has been targeted, and these industries are not struggling with each other, they do not collide, they are supporting each other. Today, the tourist attractions comprise not only the lighthouse or the forts, but also the gas tankers that arrive to the LNG terminal, wait at the anchorage, and then are berthed in the port. We can enjoy the view of these giant ships from the breakwater. They can be seen only in Świnoujście.

- The Management Board of Szczecin and Świnoujście Seaports Authority begins to implement the project of a deep-water container terminal in Świnoujście. Is there a need for such terminal?

- Świnoujście is ideally suited for such ventures, and I have always been, I am, and I will be a supporter of investments that serve our city. These investments cannot be realized in Szczecin. That city is located too far from the ports’ entrance, ships have to travel for hours, many miles, to reach this port. And large ships are unable to call port of Szczecin. And Świnoujście is an external port, which is able to handle the largest ships that can sail in the Baltic Sea. The operational costs of an external port are incomparably lower than the internal port. I’ve supported the concept of building a gas terminal. Gas-port operates, works for Poland and the City. Presently it is expanded. I had no doubt that it was the right decision. The LNG terminal also significantly adds funds to the budget of Świnoujście. I look similarly at the further development of the port, and project of construction of container terminal next to the gas-port. The container terminal handles the safest loads of all that can be seen in the port. It's just a clean cargo. The rank of the city and the port is another important aspect. If the port continues to grow, we will be visible on the map as one of the larger and developing ports on the beautiful Baltic Sea.

- The concerns of the local government, the residents?

- I have no worries. I look at it in a broader perspective. If we are talking about the construction of a container port, I know that creation of the right conditions is necessary for it to function. It's like a gasport. To say it colloquially, this is not a gas pipe. It will be necessary to create a road system, rail connections, waterway connections, provide the means of delivery of containers to smaller ports. National road 3 is being upgraded and will get the status of an expressway in a moment. It will handle the transport of containers also. Secondly, the railway system is being modernized, and there are major investments for development of the port access. The City carries out an infrastructure investment for over PLN 120 million. Moreover, the Szczecin-Świnoujście waterway is being modernized. The perspective is to restore the inland navigation on the Odra River, towards the south of the country, in order to transport some cargo by barges. New quays are planned to handle the containers. These investments, necessary for normal functioning of the container terminal, are already underway. The arguments of those who challenged the project to build the terminal, e.g. threat of cutting down 400 hectares of forest in the Warszów district – were untrue and exaggerated. Port Authority applied to the City to extend the port boundaries in order to implement infrastructure investments, to bring the road to the port, which will actually be built an operate on the water. In fact, it is only 30 hectares of land necessary for the construction of connection infrastructure of the terminal.

- Expectations?

- We complain that our society is getting older, young people are leaving. Why? Because there is a shortage of well-paid jobs. The container port will provide these. The terminal will attract to Świnoujście many young, educated people, whom we need here very much. There will also evolve smaller companies around the port, which will provide associated services, etc. This is an absolutely developing factor for the city. We also count on action from the investor side on behalf of the local community. We articulated our expectations in a letter sent to Port Authority. The tender documentation includes the point at which the investor has to indicate such actions. We hope for example on support to acquire drinking water, which, after all, will also be needed in the container port.

- The recreation and spa and port area will soon be connected by a tunnel. It will open a new perspective of the development of Świnoujście...

- Tunnel, bridge in essence connect both sides. We today connect the city – the islands of Wolin and Uznam. And because of this we create excellent conditions for the development of Świnoujście. The decades long ordeal of our inhabitants, when every day they were crossing the river from the left bank to the right bank, going to school or work, wasting time on ferries, comes to an end. There is also a financial aspect – maintaining of ferry crossing costs us PLN 40 million per year. But it's over. The tunnel will revive the right bank, an area with great potential. There are areas there belonging both to the city and to private individuals, whose attractiveness will automatically increase when a permanent connection is available. Permanent connection is also a huge opportunity for the development of townships located near Świnoujście, e.g. Międzyzdroje. The municipality of Wolin can soon become the sleeping area of Świnoujście, after all, there are areas for cheap housing available there. In Świnoujście the land is scarce and very expensive. Having a tunnel, from the center of Wolin to the center of Świnoujście we will be able to travel in 15 minutes. It will not be a barrier anymore. (pj)