Liberty Czestochowa gears up for production restart

Polish heavy plate maker Liberty Czestochowa says it is gearing up for resuming production following a long “period of work interruptions”. Workers at the plate mill returned to their posts last week, while those at the electric arc furnace melt shop are expected back next week after water supply is restored.

“There is still a lot to be done to bring working conditions back to the level they were before production was stopped,” the Polish mill says in a note seen by Kallanish.

The long downtime and weather conditions have impacted the condition of the equipment. Inspections and tests are underway to prepare the units for operation and to ensure the greatest possible safety for the workforce, the firm says. Plate mill tests were due to resume this week.

Czestochowa executive director V. Krishnamoorthy says management is in talks with utilities suppliers to agree terms, while the sales team is already “encouraging customers to confirm orders”. Former Sanjeev Gupta advisor Raghav Aggarwal has been brought in to lead the firm’s “war cabinet”, supporting the management and Liberty European upstream businesses chief executive Theuns Victor in implementing the turnaround plan, he adds.

In a somewhat curiously worded note, the company warns of the importance of health and safety when returning to work. Artur Stysz, chief health and safety and environmental protection officer, notes: “I appeal primarily to management and supervisory staff: a few minutes devoted to remembering the existing threats, safe work methods and protective measures used before starting activity will bring the expected improvement in safety during work.”

The mill’s trade unions met last week with the Czestochowa City Council to highlight the steelworks’ need for working capital. “The Czestochowa City Council appeals to the government of Poland to get involved in finding solutions expected by the workforce and management of the Liberty steelworks,” was the position adopted by all 26 councillors at the session.

“The City Council considers it necessary to take action to protect the Polish steel industry against the negative effects of the EU’s climate and energy policy and to establish uniform rules of support for the steel industry throughout Europe,” it adds. The document is to be sent to Poland’s Prime Minister as well as members of the European Parliament.

Liberty Czestochowa has a 700,000 tonnes/year EAF and 1.2 million t/y heavy plate capacity. Its operational problems have mirrored those at Liberty’s other mills in Central and Eastern Europe.

Adam Smith Poland