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Problems of Development of Tourism and Yachting on the Coast of Gdansk Pomerania (Poland)

Le problèmes de développement de tourisme et yachting sur la côte Gdańsk et de la Poméranie (Pologne)
Jan A. Wendt et Tomasz Wiskulski


La région de Gdansk en Poméranie est une excellente zone géographique pour le développement du yachting. La baie de Gdansk et la lagune de la Vistule se caractérisent par de très bonnes conditions climatiques. Divers avantages anthropiques et stations touristiques renforcent l’attractivité de la côte.
Les marinas nouvellement terminées à Gdansk, Sopot et Gdynia, créent de très bonnes conditions pour le développement du yachting. La combinaison du golfe de Gdansk, du réseau fluvial et des canaux Żuławy qui relient les Grands Lacs de Mazuries, favorise le développement du yachting dans le golfe de Gdansk et la région des lacs. Les nouveaux investissements dans les infrastructures, réalisés grâce à des financements de l’Union européenne, tels "Loop Żuławska" et la nouvelle marina, conduisent à une augmentation de l’activité touristique qui menace les réserves existantes et les parcs naturels. L’autre problème est l’absence de réglementation relative au droit de passage dans le détroit de Baltiysk, menant de la lagune de la Vistule, qui est située dans les eaux territoriales de la Russie. Entre la concentration des investissements dans la région de Żuławy et les faibles dépenses pour le développement de l’infrastructure touristique dans la péninsule d’Hel, il existe de grandes disparités dans le trafic touristique. Les infrastructures touristiques de la péninsule d’Hel ne sont pas en mesure d’absorber les flux touristiques de la région et la situation conduit inéluctablement à la dégradation de l’environnement. La situation de la lagune de la Vistule, dont les eaux sont partagées entre la Russie et la Pologne, peut entraîner de graves changements écologiques.

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Entrées d’index

Index géographique :

Gdańsk, Pologne, Poméranie, Hel, Zulawy
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Texte intégral


1Pomerelia is a region semicircularly surrounding the Bay of Gdańsk in the south, stretching from the Cape Rozewie in the west to the Sambia Peninsula in the east. The Bay of Gdansk covers the area of approx. 6300 km2. Its western part, cut off by the Hel Peninsula, is called the Gulf of Puck. Its southeast part, closed by the Vistula Spit, is called the Vistula Lagoon. It is divided into two parts by the Polish-Russian border. Gdansk Bay is a relatively deep-water body, which emerged as a result of the gouging activities of the Scandinavian glacier (Girjatowicz, 2015). The inflowing river waters sweetens the surface layers of the seawater to 5 PSU. Such a small salinity is a characteristic feature of the shallow waters of the Gulf of Puck and the Vistula Lagoon (fig. 1).

Figure 1. Bay of Gdańsk

Figure 1. Bay of Gdańsk

Source: Authors

2The area has already been a research object in the context of tourism development (Kistowski, Śleszyński, 2010), water quality (Radtke et al., 2011) and protection of natural values (Glasby, Szefer, 1998; Hajek, 2012; Kowalewska et al., 2000; Lehtonen et al., 1996; Neubauer, Sikora, 2015; Wszałek-Rożek, Markowski, 2010) which are considered unique in Europe.

3Pomerelia provides excellent natural yachting conditions. The Bay of Gdansk and the Vistula Lagoon are characterized by very good weather conditions, too. Numerous advantages of the anthropogenic values and tourist resorts significantly increase the attractiveness of the coast. The newly completed marinas in Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia create excellent conditions for development of yachting. As the Bay of Gdańsk is connected with the Great Masurian Lakes by the net of rivers and the Żuławy Loop, it promotes development of yachting in both, the Bay of Gdansk and the Masurian Lake region. However, some new investments in infrastructure implemented under the EU funds, like "The Żuławy Loop" and the new marina have led to an increase in tourist traffic, what poses a threat to the existing sanctuaries and landscape parks. Another problem of tourism development is lack of legal regulations on crossing the Strait of Baltiysk, leading from the Vistula Lagoon on the Baltic Sea, which is located in the territorial waters of Russia (Kastory, 2016). Despite the concentration of investments in the region of Żuławy and too little spending on development of tourist infrastructure in the Hel Peninsula, there are large disparities in tourist traffic. Tourist traffic in the Hel Peninsula has significantly exceeded the absorption of tourism in the region and has led to degradation of the local environment. In addition, the seasonality of tourism on the coast favors the trend of maximizing profits from tourism enterprises. A new, designed crosscut through the Vistula Spit, which will directly connect the Vistula Lagoon with the Baltic Sea by bypassing the Russian territorial waters, can lead to severe ecological changes.

1. Tourist values

4Pomerelia has been influenced by various cultures for centuries. It is a classic example depicting problems being a result of historical processes, changes of nationality and existence of a "mixture" of different cultures and population groups. This complicated history and territorial divisions contributed to the multicultural heritage of this relatively small region. Different ethnic groups are present there: Baltiysk, Slavic and Germanic, different religious confessions, too, including pagan beliefs of Prussians, Christianity in the Roman Catholic rite, Mennonites, Protestant and Orthodox, finally, also in the version of the Uniate. Linguistic diversity of individual groups of the population consists of a mosaic of traditions, symbols, town names and elements of the geographical environment. Intermingling cultures of Prussians, Mennonites, Poles and residents of the southeastern lands of the former Second Republic of Poland, who were displaced after the war, has led to creation of a unique cultural landscape in which the former native inhabitants left only some geographical names (Wendt, 1999).

5 The Kashubian Seashore and the Hel Peninsula bound the Gulf of Gdańsk to the north and west. These areas are covered by a double system of nature protection - Natura 2000 and the Coastal Landscape Park (Piwowarczyk, Wróbel, 2016). The Hel Peninsula is narrow and sandy. It is 34 km long and from 150 m to 3 km wide (Hanley et al., 2014). It was created under the influence of waves and winds that fell dunes up to 23 m above the sea level. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were only a few fishing villages on the spit, which became the main centers of recreation in Poland during the interwar period.

6The already mentioned development of the infrastructure within the "Żuławska Loop" took place mainly in the period of 2010-2012. At that time six yachting marinas, three mooring bridges, one floodgate, one drawbridge and two nautical ports were built and upgraded. Additionally, in 2014 a sailing port in Katy Rybackie and in 2015 a yacht port in Krynica Morska were opened.

7Additionally, there are seven nautical marinas along the shore of Gdansk Bay, one of them is the National Sailing Centre in Górki Zachodnie. Toward the west, there is a marina of 290 m long in the center of Gdańsk. A marina in Sopot is the newest object of this type in the Bay of Gdansk is. It is located at the end of a 500 m pier. Yet, the marina in Gdynia is the largest (260 places) and the most modern one in Poland. It is located in the city center. Outside of Tri-City, there is also a pier in Puck – the oldest Polish seaport. Its perfect location results in considerable interest of tourists. The northernmost port of the Bay of Gdansk is situated in Hel – it is a yacht harbor located in the most popular town on the peninsula.

2. Projects

8The City of Gdansk in cooperation with Gdansk Historical Museum initiated a project aimed at recovering waterways in Gdansk (2007-2011). Its budget amounted to 26.8 mln PLN with the grant from the EU amounted to 22.1 mln PLN. Under the projects, a special route of yachting marinas and waterbuses to the islands and estuaries of Dead Vistula, Śmiała Vistula and Motława was created. The investment has made it possible to take a tour to Gdansk using the inland waters. It has also created an opportunity to establish some new water tourism products. Along the waterway, there is some space to build other objects, like other tourist attractions, restaurants, institutions promoting Polish culture and others.

9The project called “Loop Żuławska” can serve as an example of good initiatives in the context of water tourism development. It was being implemented during the period of 2010-2012 under the OPIE - Measure 6.4. Twelve municipalities of Pomeranian and Warmian-Masurian Voivodeships took part in this project, which was coordinated by the Office of Waterways Development at the Marshal's Office of Pomeranian Voivodeship. The budget of the project amounted to 85 mln PLN including 51 mln PLN given by the EU. The idea of the project was to create a unique, high quality tourist product in the form of a network of ports, yachting marinas and mooring piers that will allow people to do water sports and other forms of tourism on the waterways of the Vistula River and the Vistula Lagoon. The project was awarded by the Competition Committee of XVI Gdansk Tourism Fair and received the "Amber compass" prize for the best tourism promotion of Pomeranian Voivodeship in 2012 in the "Tourist Investment” category.

10The name "Żuławska Loop" enter into usage while implementing the project aimed at constructing, repairing or modernizing marinas, mooring bridges, drawbridges and other hydraulic facilities in the region of Żuławy (table. 1.). The "Żuławska Loop" is a 303 km waterway that connects the waterways of: the Vistula, the Jagiellonian Canal, the Dead Vistula, the Motława, the Nogat, the Pasłęka, the Elblag River, the Szkarpawa, the Tuga River, the Vistula Królewiecka and the Vistula Śmiała. The project was extended to the proximity of the waterway "Żuławska Loop". There were built or modernized marinas in New Pasłęka and Braniewo (on the Pasłęka River) and the Vistula Lagoon in Elblag, Kąty Rybackie, Krynica Morska and Tolkmicko (fig. 2).

Figure 2. Infrastructure of “Żuławska Loop”

Figure 2. Infrastructure of “Żuławska Loop”

Source: Authors

11The most important as well as the most popular waterways are the navigable waterways of the Vistula, the Nogat and the Szkarpawa and the trails of the Tuga River, the Vistula Królewiecka, the Liwa and the Cieplicówka.

Table 1. The most important infrastructure of the "Żuławska Loop".



Type of infrastructure






Biała Góra








mooring bridge

~15 near the shore;

~3-5 near every platform


mooring bridge

~3 near every platform



~3 near every platform



sailing port


Vistula Lagoon

Kąty Rybackie

sailing port


Krynica Morska

yachting harbor



sailing port

~15 close to y-bom;

~5-15 near the shore

Nowa Pasłęka






Dead Vistula





bascule bridge




mooring bridge


Source: Authors based on: Salecki P., Pętla Żuławska – rzeki Delty Wisły, December 2016,

12The Żuławska Loop is also a sector of International Waterway E-70 running from Rotterdam, through Berlin, northern Poland to Kaliningrad and then along the Niemen River (Deyma River, Pregel River to the Memel).

3. Threats in the Vistula Lagoon

13After the Second World War, under the resolutions of the Potsdam Conference, the area of the Vistula Lagoon was divided for the first time in history. The Vistula Lagoon became part of the USSR and Poland. Such a situation caused consequences in the form of restricted movement of Polish units through the Pilawa strait caused by militarization of the Kaliningrad Oblast. Negotiations with the Russian Federation have been being undertaken since 1991. After the negotiations, it was possible to navigate through the strait. However, it was frequently suspended by the Russian Federation for various reasons (often contrary to each other). After Poland had accessed the European Union, the Russian Federation decided that the provisions of the 1945 agreement ceased and it is necessary to sign a new agreement on sailing possibilities. During the negotiations which lasted over a dozen years Poland always promoted the view that not the flag, but the category of a ship shall prevail whether a given vessel is allowed to sail through the Strait of Baltiysk or not. However, the Russian Federation agreed to open the strait only for ships with a Polish flag. In 2008, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposed a compromise under which all ships having the EU flag could cross the strait. The last suggestion was also narrowing of the existing right of innocent passage in that category of straits which includes all types of ships, regardless of flag, so it meant giving up by Poland with the rights provided by the international law of the sea.

14In 2006, due to lack of progress in negotiations aimed at unblocking the strait for Polish and international vessels, Polish government decided to implement the old project to build a canal in the Polish part of the Vistula Spit, which would have been finished by 2012.

15After the parliamentary elections in 2007, Donald Tusk's government decided to postpone the project. The concept of construction of a navigable channel through the Vistula Spit resumed in 2016 when the government of Beata Szydłos special resolution. The cost of investment is estimated to 220 mln EUR and it will be financed from the state budget during the period of 2017-2022. However, the mere idea of building a new canal was not accepted by local authorities with equal enthusiasm. Fearing the emergence of a new competitor in the market of port services, authorities of Pomeranian Voivodeship opposed the implementation of the investment and the simultaneous expansion of the port of Elblag lying in a neighboring province.

16Some of the environmentalists who created the expertise regarding environmental conditions opted against the realization of the investment. Polish Ecological Club (an organization of environmental conservationists from all over the country) considers that the construction of the canal through the Vistula Spit is harmful to the environment. They submitted an application to the European Commission about a negative opinion on the concept of construction of the canal. In their and WWF Poland opinion construction will lead to irreversible degradation of the Natura 2000 areas. It’s not hidden by the Government, which prefers potential economic benefits from the development of the port of Elblag and the development of tourism over the loss of the Vistula Spit ecosystem. Inhabitants of Krynica Morska - the village, which will be cut off from the rest of the country area are also against the investment (Sajkiewicz, 2016). They were not convinced by the planned construction of bridges connecting both parts of the spit. On the other hand, the residents of other towns located close to the lagoon take the contrary view. In their opinion, the implementation of investment may lead to new jobs and economic boom associated with an increase in the influx of tourists.

4. Threats in Puck Bay

17Similarly, the area of the Coastal Landscape Park has changed significantly in recent years. This occurred as a result of willful coastline forming done by local entrepreneurs. The audit revealed existence of facilities built without the required authorization or declaration. Illegal land extensions occurred between Wladyslawowo and Chałupy, where the width of the beach is small. In order to obtain a new surface on the considerable length of the edge, the reeds were destroyed. The bottom of the Gulf of Puck, near the shore, is a place of occurrence of underwater meadows which are sensitive to any activities related to mechanical movement of sand at the bottom. The buried habitats were completely dead. On the camping grounds, some plant and animal species have disappeared, including the strictly protected ones. The number of some species of birds has decreased. It has been due to an inappropriate decision made by the Maritime Authority. Under this decision the landowners were authorized to improve the destroyed edge. The ambiguity of the law and unclear responsibility for supervising the already mentioned area was also of great importance. Unauthorised expansion of parcels on the gulf has led to an increase in the campsites areas, what, in turn, has led to an increase in the number of tourists staying in the area with a small tourism capacity. However, the increase in the tourism capacity has led to reduction in the level of tourism absorption. There were more boats on the gulf and some of them did not meet the standards set in the regulations related to water sports. Nonetheless, very noisy diesel boats are perceived the most significant problems. They are frequently used although it is legally forbidden.


18The area of the Bay of Gdansk and the surrounding Pomerelia are among the most attractive natural areas in the northern Poland. It is proved by the increased tourist traffic and its intensity which has exceeded the tourism capacity of the area. A desire to reach the highest possible income and unclear legal regulations have become an argument in the hands of local entrepreneurs to increase the level of tourism capacity through investments such pouring off artificial quay on legally protected areas or approving usage of motorboats having specifications which are contrary to the law. As in the case of the Bay of Gdansk, the planned investments in the Vistula Spit can quickly lead to abuse. The society, following the example set by the government that promotes only economic profits, may begin to pursue a policy of devastating the coast of the Vistula Lagoon. It seems that the only institution capable of halting the devastation of the natural environment is the European Commission. This is due to the fact that both areas are included in the Natura 2000 program for which the European Commission is responsible. It seems that only a consistent action in the form of financial penalties is able to inhibit the already started processes of devastation. Of course, the local community shall not be omitted and it is obvious that their income depends on the tourist traffic. That is why the proposed environmental changes should lead to a decline in the unemployment rate, thanks to creation of new jobs in the harbor of Elbląg and in the tourist industry.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Bay of Gdańsk
Crédits Source: Authors
Fichier image/png, 308k
Titre Figure 2. Infrastructure of “Żuławska Loop”
Crédits Source: Authors
Fichier image/png, 352k
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Référence électronique

Jan A. Wendt et Tomasz Wiskulski, « Problems of Development of Tourism and Yachting on the Coast of Gdansk Pomerania (Poland) », Études caribéennes [En ligne], 36 | Avril 2017, mis en ligne le 15 avril 2017, consulté le 17 octobre 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/etudescaribeennes.10762

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Jan A. Wendt

Institute of Geography, Gdańsk University,

Tomasz Wiskulski

Gdańsk University of Physical Education and Sport,

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Les contenus d’Études caribéennes sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale 4.0 International.

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