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News | 15 September 2017

Blog: Investments in Polish river network hold out great potential

Poland has a lot to offer in terms of developing inland waterways, and the country has great potential for the Dutch sector, too. That was proved once again this week during the BALTEXPO trade fair and conference in Gdansk, the place to be for water and maritime issues in Poland. NWP and the Dutch embassy in Warsaw provided a Netherlands Water Pavilion and facilitated opportunities such as matchmaking activities.

River and port development

Gijs Hendriks, Business Development Manager at Boskalis, attended the conference and looks back on his experience in this blog post. "Boskalis has been active in Poland for over ten years now. Until now we’ve mainly focused on the Baltic Sea, for instance through port development, but now our interest is expanding inland. The rivers have barely received any investment for decades, and the government is keen to rectify this now through large-scale investments. A new Ministry for Maritime Economy and Inland Waterways was created last year. It was a real challenge for the government to find the financing and governance to make that happen. But I’m positive about the future, considering what the country has achieved in the past 15 years: building motorways and renewing the rail infrastructure."

Opportunities

"My German colleague Sigmund Schlie gave a presentation about our expertise during the conference session on 'Good practices and solutions for revitalisation of inland waterways – Dutch experience', not failing to mention that we are well established in Poland and have more than a hundred Polish employees. Our message is: we make use of the expertise already present in the country, and augment that where necessary. There’s give and take on both sides.

What’s really interesting to me is regulating free-flowing rivers using weirs and locks; thanks to new technologies, we can opt for fish-friendly solutions and even incorporate ways to generate energy. Viewed from that perspective, the low-technology state of affairs in Poland is actually an advantage. When you’re starting from scratch, as it were, you don’t have to work around existing, older investments that are still in use. In a country like the Netherlands, that’s more difficult.

I also think the Dutch sector has a valuable contribution to make in finding integrated ways to develop, organise and implement projects, whilst giving dialogue a high priority. For example, you have to listen to the concerns of nature organisations, although those interests don’t necessarily have to be in conflict – just look at the Dutch concept of 'building with nature', for example."

New contacts

"Partly thanks to NWP, this week we’ve established contacts with both the new ministry and potential new clients. We’ve also gained a deeper understanding of the market and the developments that are coming down the line. NWP is responsible for ensuring that the Dutch water sector attracts the right attention. Boskalis is a large company with its own comprehensive commercial network, but NWP’s network is a very valuable addition to that, especially when it comes to negotiating with governments. We’re also aware of the importance of presenting a united front as a sector, which is why we joined with NWP, and we have absolutely no regrets. The country platform has also proved its worth.

During last year’s Waterways Expo in Warsaw we took part in the Dutch pavilion, and you can see that steps have already been taken since that time: budgets have become more concrete, as has the governance. The engineering firms, which are at the forefront of the process, have already seen significant increases in turnover. Our activities take place more in the background, but when the front line moves quickly, at a certain point that will translate into projects for the contractors.

Ultimately, we’re in it for the long term. You have to be patient and show entrepreneurship if you want to score business opportunities, for example as a result of the great first steps NWP has taken."

More information

NWP’s activities in Gdansk are financed by Partners voor Water. If you would like to know more about doing business in Poland, please get in touch with Edyta Wisniewska.