The melting of Greenland’s massive ice sheet and Arctic sea ice is producing new opportunities for mining and oil and gas exploration, said Inuuteq Holm Olsen, who in January became Greenland’s first diplomat in Washington, D.C.

It’s also producing new opportunities for Maine businesses who can help the Arctic develop, Olsen said.

Maine’s geographical position and the arrival a year ago of the new Eimskip container service, which connects Portland to Greenland via Iceland, gives Maine an advantage over other states for doing business in Greenland, he said.

“If you look at the geography, it makes sense because Maine is the closest state to the North Atlantic,” he said.

Olsen will be among the speakers on Thursday at a Bangor conference focused on trade with nations in the North Atlantic.

Olsen’s pitch fits with the “New North” theme of this year’s Maine International Trade Day, an annual conference being held at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

The agenda builds on the last year’s conference in South Portland, where the keynote speaker, Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimmson, said that the melting polar ice cap would open up shipping lanes in the Arctic and present opportunities for the port of Portland and Maine businesses.

Eimskip, which a year ago made Portland its only port of call in the United States, provides container service among Portland and Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Iceland and the rest of Northern Europe. Eimskip also offers container services between Iceland and Greenland.

Janine Cary, president of Maine International Trade Center, which is hosting Thursday’s event, said the quasi-state agency in the past six months has focused on helping Maine companies develop trade opportunities in Northern Europe and Atlantic Canada.

In December, it created a new office to promote trade between Maine and nations in the North Atlantic. In June, Gov. Paul Le- Page will travel to Iceland for a trade mission meant to foster business and cultural connections between Maine and Iceland.

Cary noted that Maine in 2013 exported $637 million in goods and commodities to Atlantic Canada – a region that includes New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Maine in 2013 exported $244 million to Northern Europe plus $27 million to the Nordic countries of Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Faroe Islands.

Many Mainers mistakenly see Maine as an isolated state at the northeastern tip of the United States, said Patrick Arnold, the Maine Port Authority’s director of operations and business development. But the truth, he said, is that Maine is at the center of a region that includes both New England and Atlantic Canada and is now linked via Eimskip to Europe.

“It’s a pivotal shift,” he said. “Maine is not the dead end we have thought it to be.”

Among the panelists on Thursday will be Joe Cote, vice president and general manager of Cianbro Constructors LLC, which from 2010 to 2012 built 22 electrical building modules for a nickel processing plant in Newfoundland.

The modules were built at a facility on the Penobscot River in Brewer and shipped on barges to Newfoundland.

Cote said there are other similar opportunities for the company in Atlantic Canada, and that he wants to hear what Olsen has to stay about Greenland.

Maine can benefit from the development in Canada and other nations in the North Atlantic, he said, because Maine has a high-quality workforce and deep-water seaports. That means projects can be built in Maine and then shipped via barge to work sites elsewhere.

It’s often more economical and safer to build fully equipped modules in Maine and ship them via barge rather than import workers to a remote work site, he said.

“If you can’t take the people to the work, you try to bring the work to the people,” he said.

Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenland is slightly more than three times the size of Texas but has fewer residents than Portland. Most of the residents, like Olsen, are Inuit.

Olsen, who works in the Embassy of Denmark in Washington, said Greenland is too dependent on fishing and needs the investment and expertise from companies in the United States to help it develop its resources and broaden its economy.

“The sky is the limit,” he said. “In many respects, Greenland is a frontier country.”

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

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