The company Irko sp. z o.o. is a high-quality manufacturer of fishing boats with a worldwide reputation and a producer of steel structures for the shipbuilding and offshore industry. It has built its brand through a specialized workforce that ensures excellent quality and on-time delivery.
For over 20 years, Irko has specialized in the construction of ship sections and blocks, ship hulls, and fully equipped floating units. They also provide foundations for maritime equipment and offshore needs, as well as various types of equipment such as chutes, transport rollers, hatches, and steel covers. The company also serves as a subcontractor for most of the shipyards in the Tricity area, producing semi-finished products.
Small Fishing Boats
A significant part of the company’s business involves the production of small fishing boats. Despite strong competition among Polish shipyards specialized in small prototype vessels for individual orders, Irko has become a well-known and respected brand over the years. They mainly undertake projects for clients from Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Iceland.
Each order is treated individually, and construction often begins even before all the details are finalized. The ordered boats are primarily trawl vessels, designed for fishing by trailing a net behind them.
“Last year, we built a very interesting boat for a Danish customer, a so-called long-liner,” says Jacek Mach, Irko’s sales director. “It’s a small unit for a 5-person crew, specialized in catching halibut. Fishermen have about 30 km of line with smaller lines attached to it, each with baited hooks. After about a day of trawling, the line is wound up with the catch. The unit will be sailing off the coast of Greenland.”
The mentioned long-liner has a specially reinforced hull to withstand challenging sea conditions at these latitudes. To improve working comfort, additional acoustic insulation was applied to the social area. In addition to insulation, special panels with insulating substance were attached to the walls using mineral wool. This type of construction reduces vibrations generated by the working engine. “This project was essentially carried out at the request of the customer and the shipowner. It can be said that we will undertake any project that the customer asks for,” adds Jacek Mach. All modifications to improve the usability of the boat were implemented continuously. The entire production process, including engine installation, thermal insulation of the cargo hold, and construction of the social area, took six months.”
Fisheries Not for Poles
All the boats produced by Irko are destined for Western European markets. The reduction in fish stocks in the Baltic Sea and the imposed fishing quotas have meant that the company has not received orders for boats from Polish firms for many years.
This is partly a political issue because the European Union is currently trying to reduce our domestic fishing fleet to a minimum, compensating for it with subsidies, and the profession of a fisherman in Poland is slowly fading into oblivion, explains Jacek Mach, Irko’s sales director. He adds that the potential for our fishing industry lies in possibly changing the type of vessels for fishing to feed, as fish caught in this way still exist in the Baltic Sea. In this case, there would be a chance to gain Polish customers as well.
As for the Gdansk-based company, innovation mainly revolves around improving the production cycle and using the latest production support equipment. “Innovations are usually in the products themselves that we manufacture,” says Jacek Mach. “Most of them are prototype devices tailored to the customer’s needs.” Due to the specific nature of production, each of these projects includes new elements that improve later use, such as the previously mentioned acoustic insulation system in the fishing boat.
In addition to typical orders such as the prefabrication of ship sections and blocks, the company undertakes large-scale orders. For Remontowa Shipbuilding, a large shipyard in Gdansk, Irko built the entire hull of a passenger and car ferry. The 1600-ton hull was constructed on specially leased land. Completing this order outside the shipyard’s premises was important due to the accumulation of several projects and a lack of space for their execution. Work on the hull lasted for six months. “This project was particularly important for the customer because, thanks to the fact that we built the hull for them, they launched two ferries at the same time. Such contracts are ideal because they allow both parties to achieve tangible, positive results,” emphasizes Jacek Mach.
The company also carries out projects of smaller dimensions and those not well-prepared in terms of design. The previously mentioned long-liner fishing boat was created based on manually prepared documentation. The customer did not provide any digital documentation, only hand-drawn sketches. Successfully meeting such challenges is a testament to the company’s capabilities.
Currently, Irko primarily deals with the prefabrication of steel structures on the customer’s premises due to the dimensions of these structures. High demand for the company’s services and the prospect of executing more structures have prompted Irko to work on expanding its production area where it can fulfill customer orders. Access to a waterfront is crucial to facilitate the transportation of completed projects.
In the shipbuilding and offshore industry, what matters most to the customer is a short start and execution time for projects and flexibility. All of this must be done while maintaining high quality and moderate prices. Given the current competition in the market, this is the only way to secure contracts. To stay ahead of the competition, Irko invests in a workforce that can quickly and reliably fulfill orders. “Currently, we have a very skilled workforce, and our success is based on them,” says Jacek Mach.
“Unfortunately, in the future, there may be a problem with adequately trained employees because very few young people enter shipbuilding professions. This is partly due to the lack of vocational schools. As a result, when reducing the number of employees due to retirement, there may quickly be a shortage of qualified workers.”
Irko does not forget those in need and engages in various charitable activities. The company provides material support to various foundations, organizes the ‘Noble Package,’ and has charitably completed several steel structures needed by sports organizations. Among its employees, it organizes campaigns to recruit potential bone marrow donors for the DKMS foundation.”
Bartłomiej Wiktorski is the Chief Welder at Irko, responsible for the company’s machine shop and innovative solutions to technical challenges.
Irko possesses a large machine shop, enabling us to undertake even the most complex projects. We are one of the few shipyards in the Pomerania region with a complete set of equipment and a continuous production line. Despite our relatively small size, this setup allows us to construct entire vessels from start to finish. In addition to equipment such as dozens of rectifiers, semi-automatic and automatic welding machines (methods 111, 136, and 121), pneumatic grinders, and hydraulic pumps, we have a CNC gas cutter with a 5×15 m work table and two torches, a hydraulic press with a 400-ton pressure capacity and a 5 m working width, as well as a 10 m wide rolling machine. This last device, thanks to its powerful parameters, can roll metal up to 30 mm thick with a 10-meter sheet. Consequently, even shipyards in Szczecin have used our rolling services. There are only a few such rolling machines in Poland.
Thanks to this extensive equipment, we can fulfill contracts without relying on subcontractors. We have built an infrastructure that enables us to complete turnkey contracts, including ships and boats, sections and foundations, as well as individual services such as bending, cutting, and rolling. This would not be possible without our highly specialized management and production team. They are the company’s greatest strength. In addition to their knowledge and experience, they also demonstrate remarkable creativity.
An example of such innovation is a multi-story hydraulic car park built in cooperation with Bibus Menos, a Gdansk-based industrial company. The parking system allows for automatic parking of passenger cars on steel shelves. This solution, in the space typically occupied by three vehicles, can accommodate up to six cars. In the future, this approach will help reduce the surface area used for parking because the system can be expanded with additional modules.
Another example of unconventional action is the launch of ships built entirely in our shipyard, which lacks direct access to the waterfront. We transported a 50-ton ship from our production facility to the nearest waterway using a truck. Only there did a floating crane take over, allowing the ship to be launched in the appropriate port basin. Our team of assemblers, welders, grinders, and blacksmiths approaches each task individually and creates special tools as needed. This has often allowed us to successfully overcome challenging tasks.