Leaders MENA magazine meets prominent naval figure Marek Grzbowski

Saudi Arabia can cooperate with the Baltic Sea Region in innovations development in maritime transport and the development of zero-emission technologie : Says Marek Grzybowski

Marek Grzbowski is one of the important naval figures and maritime THINK TANK in Poland, he is director of the Baltic Observatory and he is president of the Polish Neurological Society from 2016 and member of the SUERMB team in Polish of foreign Affairs  

Marek Grzbowski in an exclusive press interview dedicated to “ Leaders MENA “ Magazine asserted Saudi Arabia can cooperate with the Baltic Sea Region in innovations development in maritime transport and development of zero-emission technologies. And the maritime industries of Saudi Arabia and Poland can cooperate in developing offshore wind farms .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Short Profile

Marek Grzybowski, PhD, CDR, PN (Ret.), Prof. (em.) Gdynia Maritime University, Mid Sweden University MITTUNIVERSITET visiting professor, Director of the Baltic Sea Region Observatory, President of the Polish Nautical Society, vice president of the Baltic Sea and Space Cluster, Member of ATHENS INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATION AND RESEARCH, Member of the SUERMB team in Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Promoter of 2 doctorates, promoter of 630 B.A. and MSc. degree in management and economics. Author and editor of the 14 books and reports, the last 810 articles (190 citations) in Expert in the projects: InterMarE, Inloc, Baltic Master, Basim, LogVAS, LOG_ALL, A-B Landbridge, Mass_NET, StaDust, MARCHAIN, TENTacle.  

You are the director of the Baltic Sea Region Observatory. What are the Observatory’s goals and mission?

Baltic Sea Region has the highest innovation level in European Union. Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Germany are the leading economies in this area. Estonia and Poland belong to a group of moderate innovators while Lithuania and Latvia show little activity in this field. The same applies to Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions. 

A lot of innovations is introduced in maritime industries. Baltic Sea Region Observatory monitors changes in the region and works on projects that aim to diminish the innovation gap in the Baltic Sea Region. We support the transformation into more ecological and more resistant communities and economies through international cooperation.

How diversified is the Baltic Sea Region?

The region is very diverse when it comes to the political, geographical, demographical, and economic situation. It is inhabited by around 60 million people. 45% of the population of the Baltic Sea Region lives in Nordic countries. The workforce is estimated to be about 25 million people. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the region generated a GDP of 2 500 billion euros. It is over 10% of GDP generated in the EU. 

And what is the economic potential of the Baltic Sea Region?

Nordic countries inhabited by 24 million people generate about 1 500 billion Euro GDP. Northeastern Germany inhabited by 6 million people generate 400 billion Euro GDP. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia with 7 million inhabitants reach a GBP of 100 billion euros. Poland with 38 million inhabitants has a 500 billion Euro GDP. Baltic Sea Region has a leading position in many branches of industries, especially environmental protection, the development of ecological transport, sustainable development of economies and societies. It is crucial to built economies resistant to crises and outside dangers. The economies of the Baltic Sea Region quickly rebuilt their position after the temporary crisis in the first half of 2020 thanks to good cooperation and the development based on innovations.

What is the innovative potential of the Baltic Sea Region?

The leading countries in the field of innovation in the economy are Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Germany. Estonia and Poland belong to a group of moderate innovators while Lithuania and Latvia show little activity in this field. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden have attractive research systems. They were created in the 60s and 70s and are based on the close cooperation of science and business. The countries are open to cooperation with partners from abroad. The quality of the research is very high. Finland and Sweden have very high participation of SMEs in the development of products and business processes.

               In bigger countries of the Baltic Sea Region, there is a considerable influence of the innovations on employment and sale. Sweden is the leading country when it comes to human resources participating in R+D. Denmark has the best results in financing the innovations. Germany has a well-developed system of supporting investments in innovative companies. Finnish companies have a broad set of capabilities in developing innovative products. They have innovative partnerships with other companies or public sector organizations. The research systems in the Baltic Sea Region countries also aim to meet the demands of his companies. In the Scandinavian countries and Germany, the private co-financing of the research is well-developed.

Can the Baltic Sea Region Observatory and Baltic Sea and Space Cluster cooperate in this regard?

International and regional cooperation takes place through the Baltic Sea and Space Cluster. The Baltic Sea and Space Cluster is the only such cluster in the world. The Cluster was established in 2009. We started the incubation process of the cluster in 2000. After several years of incubation, the cluster began to operate in the Triple Helix formula. Then after a few years, it evolved into a Qudralupe Helix cluster. This is the result of participation in numerous international projects. Today, the cluster is working in the Pentagon Helix formula. It integrates the transfer of knowledge between science and business, supports social initiatives, local governments and administration, and develops investor relations. 

The cluster acts as a smart organization. We holistically view maritime and space business. We integrate technological, legal, and economic solutions at the scientific, business, and social levels. The Baltic Sea and Space Cluster (previously: Polish Maritime Cluster) is an active member of the United Nations Global Compact and operates on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. It is a key maritime cluster in Central and Eastern Europe, an important cluster in the Baltic Sea Region and the European Union, a recognizable cluster on the global maritime economy market, as evidenced by partner cooperation with clusters operating in the United States, Asia, and Africa. 

What are the areas of activity of the Baltic Sea and Space Cluster?

The Polish Maritime Cluster is strongly based in seaports, shipyards, the Pomeranian Special Economic Zone, and innovative companies involved in the production and services of maritime industries. Research and education are an important part of the cluster’s activity. The production profile was changed in the area of the former Gdynia Shipyard. Instead of simple vessels for container and ro-ro ships and bulk carriers, specialist vessels worth PLN 4 billion are being built in Gdynia for the offshore industry, as well as research and special vessels every year. For example, in 2012, the most modern wind farm construction unit in Europe was built, and in 2014 the first electric ferry in the world was built. Ships were built in Gdynia, Crist shipyard, BSSC member. Finland’s first electric ferry (90 m long and 16 m wide) takes 375 people and 90 passenger cars on board. 

The Pomeranian Special Economic Zone is one of the entities of the Polish Investment Zone, which is to support entrepreneurs systemically. The PSEZ issued 48 decisions on support, including 29 for small and medium-sized enterprises in 2020. New investments also mean over 700 new, high-quality jobs. Polish ports tranship over 100 million tonnes annually. The total amount of all infrastructure projects, both those financed from our funds and those financed from EU funds, is nearly PLN 3.5 billion in the Port of Gdańsk. A new container terminal, Baltic Hub 3, will be built in Gdańsk. The handling capacity of DCT Gdańsk will increase to 4.5 million TEU per year. The value of the investment is PLN 2.5 billion. 


Port of Gdynia Authority is constantly carrying out investment works aimed at the development of infrastructure in the Gdynia Port Logistics Centre. The most important infrastructure investment at the moment is the new Public Ferry Terminal in the Port of Gdynia. Poland has a strong position in the yacht and boat production market. Poland ranks first in the European Union and second in the world, after the United States. 

According to you, in what form Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can cooperate in the field of Maritime with the Baltic Sea Region? 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can cooperate with the Baltic Sea Region in innovations development in maritime transport and the development of zero-emission technologies. The construction of ships with hybrid, hydrogen, and methanol-powered engines are areas in which we have a common field of cooperation. Our maritime industries should focus on implementing innovation. The main task is to develop a green economy. The maritime industries of Saudi Arabia and Poland can cooperate in developing offshore wind farms, obtaining green hydrogen, and desalinating water. 

For example, Crist, a member of the Polish Maritime Cluster, will build a wind-powered seawater desalination unit. Polish shipyard Crist participates in a project led by SYNLIFT Industrial Products (SIP). The project is called Floating WINDdesal (FWD). It is a wind-powered seawater desalination unit as a floating application for nearshore and offshore project sites. Crist Shipyard participates in the preparation of fabrication technology, budget development, and the development of the project schedule. Crist cooperates in the preparation of coordination processes and system integration with other partners. Crist has many innovative offshore vessels and hydro-technical constructions in its product portfolio. Poland is developing green energy production technologies. 

The Baltic Sea and Space Cluster may cooperate in all fields thanks to the tasks contained in its statute. The Cluster is focused on supporting innovation and development in the field of research, entrepreneurship, administration, and local government related to the Baltic Sea Region, economic and social ties of Pomerania and Poland with the other countries of the Baltic Sea Region, and acting as a coordinating institution by creating a cooperation network of enterprises, local government, universities and business environment institutions. The Cluster is increasing the innovation and integration capacity of maritime enterprises, supporting the construction and development of innovation and competitiveness Polish maritime and space industry, creating conditions for effective commercialization of research results of universities and R&D units. These are areas that can provide a platform for broad cooperation in industry, education, research, and development. 

What can be the best fields of cooperation with Arab countries in maritime industries?

Polish ports have a strong position in the Baltic Sea. The Pomeranian Special Economic Zone is the largest investment zone in the region. The Polish shipbuilding and repair industry has a strong position on the market of building hybrid ships, offshore ships, and fishing vessels. Polish maritime schools educate specialists for international shipping companies, ports, and maritime logistics. 95% of the production and services of the Polish Maritime Cluster are intended directly or indirectly for an international client. Poland produces 22 thousand yachts per year. Poland exports yachts worth PLN 1.6 billion annually. A large part of the exclusive yachts goes to buyers from Arab countries. 

What are the possibilities of cooperation in the field of education, science, and research and development?

The Gdańsk University of Technology is strongly associated with the maritime industry in terms of education for its needs. The Offshore Wind Energy Center brings together outstanding specialists from all areas of knowledge related to offshore wind energy. The Hydrogen Technologies Center is the first unit of this type in Poland to offer research services related to hydrogen. The Gdańsk University of Technology is strongly associated with the maritime industry in terms of education for its needs. The Offshore Wind Energy Center brings together outstanding specialists from all areas of knowledge related to offshore wind energy. The Hydrogen Technologies Center is the first unit of this type in Poland to offer research services related to hydrogen. 

The University of Gdańsk is a dynamically developing institution of higher learning. The UG offers education in nearly all fields of academic knowledge, including blue economy and biotechnology, and underwater archaeology. It is currently one of the most modern academic centers in Poland. Gdynia Maritime University is one of the largest schools of higher maritime education in Europe. The University’s four Faculties offer degrees in Navigation, Management and Quality Science, Marine Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. The Maritime University actively cooperates in joint research projects and student exchange with maritime universities in Europe and within the International Association of Maritime Universities (IAMU). 

Polish scientific and research institutes conduct design work related to the introduction of advanced innovations in maritime industries, ports, and maritime transport. The Institute of Oceanology IO PAN has the title of a Leading National Research Centre (KNOW) in the field of Earth Sciences. IO PAN scientists and engineers are carrying out innovative, high-level scientific and technological research that enhances understanding of the environment and provides expertise and new technologies. Maritime Advanced Research Centre, as Centrum Techniki Okrętowej is conducting research and design work as well as measurements and tests at the highest level, in compliance with maritime industry customers’ requirements in the following areas: the design of test stations and equipment as well as metering instruments, model tests of floating structures, construction mechanics, Vibro-acoustics, fire resistance, materials science and corrosion, and others.

How do you see the future of science and education as visiting professor at the University of Sweden and holding several positions at Polish Maritime Universities and President of the Polish Nautical Society?

The innovation policy in Sweden has a long history. Since the beginning of industrialization, innovations in Sweden had an economic and social dimension. Nowadays the latter is called the social responsibility of the business. Thanks to this the Swedish industry, based on the well-educated and well-qualified workforce, is very competitive on the international market. Investments in social activity were transformed into innovative activities. This activity in turn was implemented in the form of products and processes in the Swedish companies. The Skandia Navigator (SN)—a collection of critical measurements of a company’s intellectual capital was created in Sweden.

       The crucial role in creating the innovativeness of the society is high education focused on the activities useful for the economy. The Swedish Model has been worked out by the Malm Commission several dozen years ago. It aimed to intensify the research in the technical field. A separate commission was given the task of mapping out the direction of the development of the Swedish higher education schools. High funds were directed to scientific research in the universities and institutes that aimed to do research and educate human resources for the Swedish society. The main topic of the research was sustained development. This Model functions to this day and was additionally supported by the resolution of the Swedish Parliament in 1979. Alain Fayolle and Dan Redford named it Entrepreneurial University.  

       In the maritime economy, Sweden is leading in the development of military technology. Sweden constructed a surface ship in stealth technology, very fast (35 knots) with a small draft (2,4 m). The main function of Stridsbåt 90 is protecting coasts and anti-submarine warfare. Submarines equipped with Stirling engines are constructions unique in the world. The Swedish Navy was the first to operate vessels Götland-class using an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system based on the Stirling engine. Sweden introduced the market also LNG-powered ferries. The city of Stockholm plans to implement in the public transport 30 electric water buses.

What is your vision for the shipping industry, especially the supply chain and maritime transport, for the next decade after the Covid 19 pandemic?

               Maritime transport and global logistics will develop dynamically. Globalization caused that there are over 100 thousand ships in the merchant fleet. Add to this ferries, fishing boats, and offshore service ships. The role of ports and container terminals is growing. Digitalization and satellite technology contribute to this development. Automation has a more and more important role in the ports, fewer people are working on the ships and in ports.

               Augmented reality, video, and chat are used to remote controlling the equipment of the ships. They are used to install the software, updating the systems, monitoring the condition of devices, their efficiency, and automating the processes. This used to be done by the crews. Now decisions are made in the operation center based on reliable data.

Operation centers on the land will play a bigger role in the future. Computers are used for optimizing the journey. 

               Satellites monitor the marine traffic and the systems in the ports and on the lands. Autonomous and remotely operated ships will be supervised by the operators on the land. Safe and reliable connectivity, cyber resilience, minimal reaction time, a full update of the satellite data, optimization, and the ship operating cost savings. The reduction of cost of maintaining staff and increasing their safety, especially decreasing the risk of HSE and Covid-19. A wide range of innovations is implemented in maritime transport. For that reason, The Baltic Sea and Space Cluster actively participates in the Blue Economy and the transfer of space technologies to the maritime industries. The cluster participates in several international projects.

What projects does the Baltic Sea and Space Cluster participate in?

The projects are developed mainly with partners in the EU, Scandinavian countries, and countries of the Baltic Sea Region. The Cluster is an effective promoter of the 

Baltic Maritime Industry and Space Technology. The cluster acts as a partner and a participant in numerous endeavors regarding EU maritime and space economy, including by creating it as an equivalent of the national and European intelligent specialization. The cluster also interacts in the International Ocean Governance program. 

The Cluster was invited by Aerospace Valley and Le Pôle Mer Méditerranée to participate in the GALATEA project. It works to grow and accelerate SME smart projects in new value chains of the European Blue Economy. The project is financed by Horizon 2020 program. Centre for Technology Transfer LLC from Croatia and ÅKP from Norway invited the cluster to the ZEVinnovation project. It aims to strengthen transnational cooperation, knowledge, and technology transfer in the development of electric vessels and foster innovations in SMEs. EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation is funding the project. BSSC is a support partner in the ECOPRODIGI project titled „Eco-efficiency to maritime industry processes in the Baltic Sea Region through digitalization”. 

We are focusing on strengthening the international activity of blue sector SMEs in the South Baltic Sea area. BSSC supports South Baltic SMEs to enter the international supply chains and sales markets for boats and ships with electric propulsions in the ELMAR Project. The cluster works in the European network for lightweight applications at sea in the E-LASS project and the BSSC participates in building bridges for green-tech future in the South Baltic region in the SB BRIDGE project. 

To sum up. What is the future of the maritime business?

Innovation, digitalization, automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and space technologies as well as internationalization is the future of ports and maritime transport. The maritime business will be more and more friendly to the environment. Green ports and Zero-Emission vessels are already in operation. We will use oceans as the source of renewable energy to a greater extent as well as the source of food. However, we have to take care of sustainable development without pollution and islands of plastic.

Short link :

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button