Icelandic shipping company Eimskip will start weekly container ship service to Portland in December, hitting a goal the company set when it chose Maine for its North American headquarters almost five years ago.

Eimskip plans to increase trips to the International Marine Terminal in Portland by 45 percent, from 36 to 52 calls a year.

The new schedule coincides with upgrades at the terminal and increasing customer demand for more frequent container service.

“The businesses we have been dealing with need the weekly service,” Larus Isfeld, Eimskip’s director of Eimskip USA, said in an interview Monday.

“They all have weekly inventory and sales cycles, it is difficult to work with them if we don’t have weekly service. It is going to be very important for them, and for us, to get to that level.”

Eimskip’s traffic through Portland has grown every year since it started bi-weekly service to the city in 2013, the company said Monday. When it moved to Maine, the company set a goal of weekly shipments by 2020.

In 2013, the value of imported products coming through the port was $157.2 million. The value of imports – primarily frozen fish – last year was $283.4 million.

Exports, too, have grown. In 2013, the most valued export through the port was lobster at $1.7 million and total exports were valued at $34.6 million. Last year, lobster accounted for $2.8 million out of total exports of $118.2 million.

Under the new shipping schedule, Eimskip will sail to Portland weekly from ports in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Argentia, Newfoundland, and Reykjavik, Iceland. The company’s shipping network includes Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and Northern Europe.

The Maine Department of Transportation said Monday it would expedite buying a second mobile harbor crane for the Portland terminal because of Eimskip’s additional calls to port. The crane is part of a $15.5 million upgrade that includes construction of a new operations building, enlarging the pier and improving a rail connection to the port.

The state has overseen about $45 million in public and private investment in the marine terminal since the Maine Port Authority took over operations in 2009. The funding doubled the size of the terminal and attracted Eimskip, the only container shipping company using the port.

“We couldn’t have done it without the infrastructure that has been growing with us,” Isfeld said.

MORE BUSINESS, BY WATER AND LAND

Shipped containers through the marine terminal have more than doubled since Eimskip opened its Portland operation, from 3,761 containers in 2013 to 8,790 last year.

The total number of containers moved through the terminal on ship, truck and rail has more than tripled over the same period, from 4,963 containers in 2013 to 15,598 last year, according to port authority statistics.

Isfeld declined to specify what products and companies Eimskip works with, aside from saying the company has a diverse set of customers and it is importing more than exporting.

“We like it to be diverse,” Isfeld said. “To make an investment in a specific company or trade is a risky proposition.”

Among the top imported products by value and weight that came into the International Marine Terminal in 2016 were frozen fish, medical equipment, an alloy of iron and silicon, and sparkling water, according to data from the Maine International Trade Center. Top exports by value included scallops, berries and optical instruments. By weight, newsprint, wood pulp, frozen potatoes and preserved cranberries were the top exports.

“This huge increase in ship calls to the International Marine Terminal will provide Maine businesses with better access to foreign markets and increase the global competitiveness of our state,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a written statement Monday.

Eimskip’s weekly service announcement comes after the Portland City Council approved a waterfront zoning change to allow a large refrigerated warehouse to be built near the marine terminal.

“We were definitely waiting for a decision on that to go through at the city level,” Isfeld said.

Officials regard a waterfront cold-storage building as crucial to maintain a partnership with Eimskip, which specializes in refrigerated cargo. The cold-storage project has met opposition from nearby homeowners concerned with the size of the proposed building.

Peter McGuire can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

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