Opinion: Poland’s seabed auction effectively scuppered by NATO underwater training area

Poland’s Ministry of Infrastructure concluded two out of eleven pending procedures of seabed leasing dedicated to the construction of offshore wind turbines.

Jakub Budzyński unpicks what went wrong in Poland's first seabed auction this year

In the case of the maritime area described as 53.E.1, in its Maritime Spatial Plan document, the auction concluded with no result because all the applications were assessed as impossible to implement due to certain deadlines included in Polish regulation.

According to the regulations, the investor is obliged to obtain the building permit within a maximum of ten years from the day the seabed permit is issued. The building permit is valid for three years, so the investor is obliged to start the construction process a maximum of 13 years after the seabed permit has been granted.

The 53.E.1 area is legally reserved by NATO as an underwater military exercise area until the end of 2040 and no construction process can be implemented there until then.

Given the fact that the seabed permit would be issued this year, the potential investor would have to begin construction in 2026 at the latest, e.g. 2023+13.

The Ministry issued an official comment in which it referred to these circumstances and said it will reopen the application process for this area as soon as any new application is submitted.

But the ministry must take into consideration the status quo of the legal framework so - from today’s perspective – the first valid and potentially successful applications can only be re-submitted after 2027.

In the meantime, the second procedure has been concluded, for area no. 43.E.1., where PGE Baltica 4 – SPV of PGE Baltica and daughter company of PGE, responsible for offshore wind projects - has been granted a seabed permit.

Now PGE Baltica 4 has less than 30 days to pay the first instalment of the seabed permit fee, which automatically validates seabed permit.

The remaining nine seabed permit procedures are expected to be concluded later this year, possibly in H1 2023.

Jakub Budzyński is vice president of the Polish Offshore Wind Energy Society