Custom Manufacturing: Revolutionary Shipyard

A Polish shipbuilder fattens its books by catering to the individual needs of international clients, like U.S.-based forest-products giant Weyerhaeuser

Poland's shipyards have a proud and venerable tradition of giving birth not only to huge cargo vessels but also to the Solidarity movement that swept the country toward democracy in the 1980s. Now the yards are being transformed by a new revolution--one rooted not in politics but in business. And their most recent product is quite an eye-catcher.

Set against the slate-gray Baltic skyline, the Finnfighter has neither the smooth horizontal lines of a conventional freighter nor the bulk of a passenger ferryboat. It combines elements of both, as if a cargo ship had slowly crunched its stern flat against an...

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