Yacht building rides crest of wave in Poland
|Shipyard cranes idle for decade|
|Polish built catamaran heading to the Baltic in Gadańsk|
It might be one of the best kept secrets in the recreational boating world, but Sunreef Yachts in Gdańsk and other upstart luxury boat manufacturers on the Baltic Coast and Mazury Lake Region are accounting for more than a third of the yachts on display at boat shows all over Europe.
Clients are comparing the new breed of Polish luxury craft to the best-known Italian brand in terms of craftsmanship and buyers are proud to own vessels made in the hallowed shipyard where the pro-democracy Solidarity trade union rose up under Lech Walesa.
Sunreef went into business ten years ago. An expatriate French father-and-son team tapped into generations of shipbuilding savvy in the Gdańsk workforce to turn out products for choosy clients from Monaco to Qatar and Hong Kong to Hawaii.
Their vessels are mainly double hulled catamarans measuring up to 200 feet in length. The quality is at the same or higher level than other yards in Europe, but prices average 15 percent lower than the non-Polish competition.
A renowned yacht magazine recently carried a feature article affirming the competitiveness of Sunreef and three other homespun Polish super yacht makers. These four firms and another 100 yacht yards christened more than 20,000 boats last year.
The Polish share of the European market is significant and most are sold under global brands like France's renowned Jeanneau-Beneteau and U.S. giant Brunswick Marine. These branded lines account for around half of Poland's production.
Andrej Janowski, the first to open a shipyard to build luxury yachts after the fall of communism, attributes the drive to make more sophisticated and speedy boats to what he calls the freedom-loving Polish spirit.
"Sailing is something that is characteristic of people with a mentality of freedom “, he insisted.
Indeed, domestic yacht building exploded when communism collapsed in 1989 and the essential marine-grade resins, fiberglass, plywood and lacquers suddenly became available on the emerging free market. The craftsmanship was always there, it was Poland’s newfound access to suppliers in capitalist western countries that laid the foundation to produce world-class motor and sail boats.
While the production of commercial steamships has virtually dried up, Poland holds first place in Europe in the production of sailing yachts 20 to 30 feet long and the entire sector including mega-sized pleasure craft is growing rapidly. Next year’s production is expected to jump 30% and will potentially make Poland the center of European yacht construction.
Those dilapidated communist era cranes rusting away in Gdańsk harbor are less of an eyesore and more of a testament to the unwavering freedom-loving Polish spirit and the ever growing strength of the Polish economy in a world floundering in a sea of red ink.
|Birthplace of Solidarność|