The Polish government on Friday inked a huge deal with a consortium of private firms to build a strategic canal to the Baltic Sea, a project hailed as a boon to the nation’s sovereignty.
Under the deal signed in the northern city of Elbląg on Friday, a Polish-Belgian consortium will build the new waterway to connect the Vistula Lagoon with the Bay of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea for PLN 992 million (EUR 230 million, USD 252 million) by 2022. A Polish maritime administration official signed the contract with executives from Polish company NDI and Belgium’s Besix in the presence of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation Minister Marek Gróbarczyk.
Speaking at the signing, Gróbarczyk hailed the planned new canal as a project that “has been talked about and promised” for decades. “Today it is finally becoming reality," he said. The new canal between the Vistula Lagoon and the Bay of Gdańsk will be around 1.3 kilometres long and five metres deep, officials have said.
It will be built by digging through the Vistula Spit, which separates the bay from the lagoon on Polish territory. The aim is to allow deep-draught vessels to enter Poland’s Elbląg seaport without passing through the Strait of Baltiysk in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave. The plan to build the canal also requires the construction of new water routes, an artificial island and civil engineering and road infrastructure, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.
It said the total cost of the project was estimated at almost PLN 2 billion.
Poland’s conservative leader Jarosław Kaczyński said last October that the planned new canal near the Russian border would help enhance his country’s military as well as economic sovereignty.
Kaczyński, who heads Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, said in September last year that the plan to build the canal showed that Russia, Poland’s former communist-era overlord, could no longer dictate to Warsaw what to do.