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Poland: Court Declares Gdansk Shipyard Bankrupt

Warsaw, August 8 (RFE/RL) - The Gdansk shipyard that was the birthplace of the "Solidarity" free trade movment was declared bankrupt today by a Polish court. The "Solidarity" movement led the resistance to Communist rule in Poland throughout the 1980's.

The debts of the shipyard are estimated to be the equivalent of $153 million. Work was halted at the shipyard in June despite protests by many of the yard's 6,200 employees.

Today's court ruling comes some six weeks after the shipyard filed for bankruptcy.

The Polish government, which holds a 61 percent share in the yard, plans to establish a debt-free shipyard, providing jobs to some 3,000 workers in order to complete up to five ships already under construction.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has approved a loan of about $67 million to finance half the costs of a major upgrading and modernization of access to, and the facilities in, Poland's three major shipping ports.

The bank says more than 55 percent of Poland's foreign trade goes through the main ports of Gdynia, Gdansk and Szczecin-Swinoujscie and that it will rise to 65 percent within 10 years if the port facilities are modernized and highway access is improved.

The new loan will cover construction of the Martwa Wisla access bridge to the Gdansk North Port, the building of new Regalica and Parnica bridges for access to the Szczecin central port, improvement of the road connection between Swinoujscie and Szczecin through Wolin, a start on protection of the Wisla Smiala outlet in Gdansk, and implementation of the first phase of modernization of the Szczecin-Swinoujscie fairway through a vessel traffic management system.

The loan was approved, ironically, just as the Gdansk shipyard was declared bankrupt. Bank officials say that underlines the need to improve the Gdansk port to foster economic growth and the creation of new jobs.

The bank says that Polish ports in the past depended entirely on rail to move goods, but that now they are in need of highways to meet shippers' demands. The bank has previously approved loans of nearly $300 million for road building.