The Port of Gdynia lies on the Baltic Shores of north central Poland in the Gulf of Gdansk some nine nautical miles northwest of the Port of Gdansk and about 114 nautical miles from Klaipeda State Seaport in Lithuania. The Port of Gdynia is part of the Trojmiastro (Polish) (Three-City) urban area that also contains Sopot and Gdansk. The Port of Gdynia is the main passenger port for the Three-City area.
In addition to being an important seaport for Poland, the Port of Gdynia is the home port for the Polish Navy. The Port of Gdynia imports iron ore and food products and exports sugar, lumber, and coal. In 2003, over 253 thousand people lived in the Port of Gdynia, while the Three-City area is home to over a million souls.
Gdynia was first noted as a fishing village in 1253, although its modern neighborhood of Oksywie was known as Oxhoft as early as 1209. Oxhoft was the site of the first church in this Baltic Sea reason.
The owner of the village that eventually became Gdynia, Peter from Rusocin, gave the village to the Cisterian Order in 1380. The Cistercian Abbey in what is now Oliwa owned the Port of Gdynia from 1381 until 1772. As late as 1789, there were about 20 houses in the future Port of Gdynia.
In prehistoric days, the Port of Gdynia area was the center for the Oksywie Culture, sharing its history with Eastern Pomerania (then Pomerelia). Slavs then moved into the area. The area became part of Poland in the late 10th Century but only for a few decades. Pomerelia seceded from Poland, maintaining its independence for about five years in the early 12th Century and then again from 1227 until 1294.
In 1294, Pomerelia and the future Port of Gdynia were again ruled by the Polish King Przemysl II. It remained a Polish territory until the Teutonic Knights in 1309 when it became part of the Prussian Kingdom. In 1466, the Port of Gdynia area became part of a new province of the Kingdom of Poland, Royal Prussia, which became the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772.
In 1772 when the Commonwealth was partitioned, the Kingdom of Prussia annexed Royal Prussia. When Prussian became part of the German Empire in 1870, so did the Port of Gdynia area. In 1870, the village was called Gdingen, and about 1200 people lived there. No longer a simple fishing village, the future Port of Gdynia was popular with vacationers, and it had several accommodations and restaurants as well as a small harbor and pier that received small trade vessels.
After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles made Danzig (later Gdansk) a free city under the protection of the League of Nations, despite the residents' protests. In 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War, the government of Poland decided to build a seaport in Gdynia. Building of the Port of Gdynia began in 1921, but financial problems caused interruptions and slow-downs. In 1922, the Polish Parliament enacted legislation to expedite building, and the private Gdynia Shipyard was established.
In 1923, the Port of Gdynia had a small harbor, a 550-meter long pier, and a wooded tide breaker. Inaugural ceremonies were held in April to open the fishers' shelter and temporary military port. In August of that year, the first major ocean-going vessel called at the Port of Gdynia. The same year, the French-flagged Kentucky, the first foreign ship, visited the Port of Gdynia,
In late 1924, the Polish government contracted with a French-Polish consortium to build a harbor with depth of seven meters. By 1925, the Port of Gdynia had gained the south pier, a beginning on the north pier, a railway, and cargo-handling equipment. Work continued at a slow pace until 1926 when Polish marine exports increased during a German-Polish trade war. In 1927, the Nauta ship repair workshop was completed. In 1928, the Port of Gdynia's Maritime Office and the POLBRYT, a Polish-British Shipping Company, were opened.
Through late 1930, new docks, piers, breakwaters, and port and industrial facilities arose in the Port of Gdynia. In 1924, the Port of Gdynia handled about 10 thousand tons of transshipments. In 1929, it handled more than 2.9 million tons. In 1930, Poland's first passenger shipping line, Gdynia-New York, started operating.
In the early 1930s, the Port of Gdynia was a special seaport for the export of coal. From 1931 until 1939, it became a universal seaport. By 1938, the year when the Gdynia shipyard began to build ships, it was the most modern and biggest seaport on the Baltic Sea and one of Europe's ten biggest ports. In 1938, the Port of Gdynia handled 8.7 million tons of transshipments.
The modern city of Gdynia was built after the seaport. A committee was formed to build the city in 1925, and city rights were granted in 1926. After 1928, the city began to grow quickly. The Polish government brought about 50 thousand citizens to the city. Over 120 thousand people lived there in 1939. In 1933, the Port of Gdynia opened the Passenger Sea Terminal, and the first modern Polish passenger ship made its maiden voyage to New York in 1935.
In 1939, Nazi German troops occupied the Port of Gdynia and named it Gotenhafen after the ancient Germanic tribe, the Goths that had once lived there. The Polish brought by their government to the Port of Gdynia were expelled. Some 12 thousand citizens, especially the more educated, were executed. Some native Kashubians formed resistance groups to fight German occupation.
In 1940, the Germans turned the harbor into a naval base and expanded the shipyard. They harbored many large battleships and heavy cruisers in the Port of Gdynia. The German Nazis also used the Port of Gdynia as a concentration camp that was a subcamp of the Stutthof camp near Danzig. From 1943, the Port of Gdynia and the shipyard were targeted by Allied bombers that did little damage.
When German troops withdrew from the Port of Gdynia, they succeeded in largely destroying the seaport. The Port of Gdynia was used to evacuate German soldiers and citizens who were trapped there by the Red Army in the winter of 1944-45. The advancing Soviet army bombed the port and city, destroying almost all of the buildings and equipment, and sank several ships trying to escape through the Baltic Sea.
The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, in which more than nine thousand people died, was the most severe loss of life in a sinking in all of maritime history. The Germans used the battleship Gneisenau to block the Port of Gdynia harbor. In March 1945, the Red Army captured "Gotenhafen," and the Polish renamed it Gdynia.
In 1949, two Polish fishing companies were established in the Port of Gdynia, Arka and Dalmor. The next year, the Gdansk-Gdynia Port Authority was established. The Gdynia Port Authority was founded in 1954. The first post-war foreign passenger vessel, the Norwegian Meteor, entered the Port of Gdynia. In 1961, the Port of Gdynia yacht harbor opened for operations. In 1963, the first 100 thousand DWT vessel, the US merchant Manhattan, moored at the Port of Gdynia.
In 1970, demonstrating Polish workers were fired on by the police, an event which has become the basis for books, songs, and movies. In 1974, the Port of Gdynia held Sail Operation '74, a tall-ship race. Also in 1974, the Port of Gdynia served the largest vessel in its history, the 137 thousand DWT Polish Steamship Company's tanker, Kasprowy Wierch. In 1976, the Port of Gdynia built its first container terminal.
In 1991, the state-owned port was converted into a share-holding company, and privatization of the Port of Gdynia began. In 1996, Port Gdynia Holding, SA, was established, bringing a new economic structure to the Port of Gdynia.