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BONUS BALTCOAST: BONUS BALTCOAST Case Study Poland: Shipping & economic development, Vistula Lagoon

Type of Entry: Case Study
Website: http://www.baltcoast.net/dredging-shipping.html
Duration: 01/04/2015 - 31/03/2018


Vistula Lagoon is a transitional basin, shared by Poland and Russia. The Polish part remains isolated from the Baltic Sea, as the only entrance is located in the Russian part and the access to that entrance is a function of erratic Polish-Russian political relations. On the national level the solution consists in the construction of a cross-cut through the spit. This investment will likely start in 2019 and will allow for navigation of 100 m long, 20 m wide and 4 m deep vessels to the harbour in Elbląg, aiming at utilization of its potential of handling of up to 1.5 million tons of cargo. The investigated expansion of the remaining navigational channels is aims at an assessment of benefits the access to the Baltic Sea can generate.


  • Economic recovery of the Lagoon, improve of quality of life of local communities integration of the spit with the southern shores of Vistula Lagoon.


  •  The key institutions responsible for the management of water bodies in Poland are the Maritime Offices that represent the government. For Vistula Lagoon the relevant office is the Maritime Office in Gdynia (UM Gdynia). IBW PAN has been conducting vast consultations with them as the most prominent stakeholder. The concept of economic recovery of the Lagoon through the expansion of the network of navigational channels was elaborated upon extensive discussions with UM Gdynia as well as representatives of local communities (Frombork, Tolkmicko, Nowa Pasłęka, Krynica Morska) and the business sector (fishermen, tourist operators). Thus, the investigated case study is the product of past research projects and its implementation was structured by the SAF methodology within the scope of the BONUS BALTCOAST project.

ICZM tools applied within the case study:

  •  The main instrument that was used in the project was the SAF methodology, starting from issue identification and then running through system design, system formulation (key research activities – modelling of physical, economic and ecological aspects of proposed solutions), appraisal of the output and finally implementation of the selected solution. The application of SAF was possible, because a sufficient knowledge base, developed in past research projects, was accumulated and existed prior to the current project (BONUS BALTCOAST). Also, the success of SAF applications strictly depended on the ability of research teams to conduct permanent consultations with the governing institutions as well as local authorities and businesses.

Case study site highlights and experiences that can be exchanged:

  • 2nd largest Lagoon in the Baltic Sea keeps suffering economic degradation;
  • Expansion of local economy by improvement of local network of navigational channels;
  • Potentially high costs of developing a fully fledged network of channels;
  • Gradual expansion of navigation infrastructure most likely.




  • Cross-cut construction already decided by the government – it gives outside impulse to local economy and will serve synergistically for refurbishment of the rest of navigation infrastructure;
  • Good cooperation and consultations particularly with UM Gdynia (coastal authorities), local authorities and business secton;
  • Application of well-structured, advanced methodology;
  • Knowledge based accumulated previously.


  • So far isolation of the Polish part of the Lagoon from Baltic Sea;
  • The resulting  weak financial standing of local communes, producing apathy and inertia;
  • Administrative division of the Lagoon area between two provinces (one in Gdańsk includes the spit, the other in Olsztyn is responsible for the southern shores); both see little interest in cooperation as most revenues generated in the spit originate from use of Baltic Sea beaches; spit businesses largely ignore the existence of the Lagoon.


  • Generation of multiple jobs from the expansion of tourist sector by providing additional services not necessarily directly connected to waterborne transportation (through-lagoon shuttle traffic, cycling paths, improvement of harbour services, new hotels, restaurants, etc.);
  • Link to Pętla Żuławska (network of Vistula river branches and smaller tributaries within Vistula river delta, where numerous improvements in waterborne tourism are considered by tourist operators there); together Vistula Lagoon and Pętla Żuławska can create a synergistic growth of tourist traffic in both units.


  • Large investments required;
  • Additional benefits uncertain and only gradually attainable;
  • Physical difficulties in western sector due to poor sediment characteristics and high costs of not only the dredging but also comparatively high maintenance costs.
Keywords: Economics, Estuary and lagoon, Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), Recreation and Tourism
Contact: Mr. Grzegorz RĂ³żyński
Institute of Hydro-Engineering of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IBW PAN)
7 Kościerska
80-328 Gdańsk
Telephone: +48 58 522 2907
Website: http://www.ibwpan.gda.pl
Partner: UM Gdynia (https://www.bonusportal.org/)
Provincial Inspectorate of Environment Protection in Gdańsk and Olsztyn (http://www.gios.gov.pl/en/)
Mayors of Tolkmicko (http://tolkmicko.net/tag/government/)
Krynica Morska
Frombork (http://www.frombork.pl/)
Tourists operators
Fishermen associations
Harbour operators
Financed by: BONUS BALTCOAST project has received funding from BONUS (Art 185), funded jointly by the EU and Baltic Sea national funding institutions (https://www.bonusportal.org/)