PORTLAND – Nearly all of the outbound containers being loaded on Eimskip’s ships in Portland are carrying ordinary consumer goods – food, clothes, tires, pickup trucks, motorcycles, campers, auto parts. Nearly all of them are produced outside Maine.

But when Eimskip’s container ship Reykjafoss leaves Portland Harbor on Saturday bound for Iceland, its strangest looking freight will be Maine-made – large, oddly shaped panels that look like pieces of an art exhibit. In fact, those panels will help support a bridge that’s being built in Norway.

The panels, made of composite materials, were manufactured by Harbor Technologies in Brunswick under a contract worth $500,000.

Martin Grimnes, the company’s principal owner and chief executive, said the panels solve an engineering problem for the bridge in Mandal, Norway.

The architects designed a bridge shaped like the profile of a salmon. But the engineers couldn’t figure out how to use steel or concrete to create the curved forms that cover the concrete blocks that support the bridge.

Grimnes, who grew up in Norway and worked previously with the Norwegian contractor AF Group, convinced them that he could solve their problem by using panels made of composite materials.

Janseneering Inc. of Topsham used its five-axis profiling machine to create a foam mold, which Harbor Technologies used to create the final product.

In all, 26 panels are being shipped, to be pieced together in Norway.

Harbor Technologies mostly manufactures composite pilings and beams, and has customers worldwide. Established in 2004, it employs about 40 people and has annual revenues of $6 million to $7 million.

Grimnes said he previously shipped products overseas on large steamship lines that operate out of Philadelphia and New York. Shipping out of Portland is less expensive because it reduces trucking costs, he said.

More importantly, it saves time. Harbor Technologies can deliver its cargo the day before the ship’s departure. For the ports in New York and Philadelphia, it must have the cargo delivered three or four days ahead of time.

The huge steamships lines aren’t that flexible, and Grimnes’ business isn’t significant for them, so they’re not motivated to help him move his oversize cargo.

He said Eimskip is a good fit for Maine because it’s small, like most Maine companies, and flexible. He already knows the staff in Portland by name.

“These guys are a joy for us,” he said. “They worked with us on finding the best solution for shipping the complicated shapes. This kind of service would never have been feasible from Philadelphia or New York.”

 

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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