MEWO is the largest privately owned company in Poland to operate in marine survey, geoscience, environmental and subsea engineering. The company carries out projects in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Southern North Seas and its expertise spans across various sectors, namely oil & gas, renewables, subsea telecoms and research.
You founded MEWO in 2013 and grew consistently since - what do you credit for this smooth progression?
Hard work for the most part, but we were also favored by external factors because the market in Poland essentially developed in tandem during this same period. We started out with two employees and now there are 120 of us.
In Poland we are involved in pretty much all offshore wind projects (PGE and Polenergia both use our services for instance) and also critical oil & gas infrastructure projects such as the Baltic Pipe. A lot of work is still up for grabs in Poland as well as abroad, so our only concern is how to keep growing in a sustainable manner.
Speaking of international markets, you recently opened an office in The Netherlands. What motivated this expansion and generally your appetite for internationalization?
We had worked as subcontractors there in the past and with The Netherlands being a sea country we trust it is a good location for us to develop. As for our broader international work the answer is fairly simple: Poland is growing, but still learning. There are several consequences to this, for instance cash flow and payment terms can be tricky.
Polish Investors often did not deal with investments on the offshore market. Our specialists are still at the stage of education about the needs of this market are that is completely different than the onshore construction. This often affects the understanding of the essence of delivered products, and thus the cash flow of the entire project.
Is there anything particular about the Baltic Sea, any specific risks developers should account for from a geological perspective?
The Baltic Sea is somewhat special because it is a post-glacial lake, this means more rocks and clay are prevalent, so overall a little more problematic from a designer’s point of view. It doesn’t make for a real concern though because developers (and us as well) know exactly how to manage these conditions, what monopiles to use and at what depths etc.
If we are to name the top risks, we first have the weather - for example waves tend to be short and of high impact, quite different from the North Sea which means vessels prepared for that area may encounter issues here.
The second risk are harbors: we have only three or four harbors where we can operate easily, whereas the rest are very small and shallow, lacking roads access and berths for offshore vessels. They were built with fishermen in mind, thus they are not suitable for big offshore assets.
On the plus side, the Baltic Sea has excellent wind conditions, similar to those in the UK (9,5-10 m/s). Many see Poland as the most optimistic market in Europe in the next 10-15 years.
Do you already have a sense of how the COVID-19 outbreak will impact the energy sector and your business in the short term?
We are still at work because what we do is strategic for the energy sector here - if we put things on hold now, offshore wind projects may become delayed by another year. So far all our six vessels are operating - we can continue like this for six months or even more, as long as no infection occurs.
What are first measures you implemented to manage the crisis?
For people at our HQ in Straszyn we switched to remote working. There are circumstances which require people to come into the office, but we have limited the access to skeleton staffing principles only, so that only one person can be in one room at a time.
We instated many restrictions on the vessels as well - closed gang ways, limited unnecessary movements of surveyors, crew members and engineers. We have provided disinfectants, gloves etc. that should help protect our people. This is a crucial matter because we can only operate as long as the vessels are free from any sickness.
In a worst-case scenario where an infection takes place, we are prepared to launch another vessel and keep work going - some delays may happen, but nothing significant.
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