March 11, 2013

Cargo company president views Portland as nice fit

Gylfi Sigfusson, president and chief executive officer of Eimskip, provided detailed responses to several Press Herald questions. Here is a sampling of what he had to say:

PRESS HERALD: How does Portland fit into your company's strategic vision?

SIGFUSSON: Our company's strategic vision is to be the leading carrier in the North Atlantic. Our home market spreads over the Atlantic from northern Norway to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and even farther southwest to the New England area, which we plan to connect through our new hub in Portland.

PRESS HERALD: Could you describe the kind of cargo you move to and from the United States? With Portland as a logistical hub, what other kinds of cargo could be added to the service? What other business opportunities could be created in Portland, such as a new cold storage warehouse?

SIGFUSSON: We export various cargo from the United States differing between the countries we serve. In the past, we have moved a lot of cars, campers, building material, paper for the fish industry and news media, all sorts of food, including apples and grapes, as well as many kinds of general cargo.

Exports to Greenland are mostly boats as there are no roads connecting towns in the country. As for imports, we import two kinds of spring water (the best water in the world) and machinery for the food industry and many different types of frozen fish -- mostly cod and haddock.

PRESS HERALD: What is the significance of your working partnership with Pan Am Railways?

SIGFUSSON: When we were starting to investigate the possibility of Portland, we were very well received by Pan Am as they assisted us in connecting with the railroad system in the United States.

PRESS HERALD: Why did you choose Portland?

SIGFUSSON: There are several reasons for choosing Portland. We wanted to be able to shorten our round trip of the vessel going from Norway to the United States and therefore Portland was the best choice being this far north while still connecting us with the U.S. . . .

We also felt very welcome and we like the spirit of everyone we dealt with and their willingness to make this all happen. It is important for us to feel the support from the local businesses and government, which we also felt. Portland has a great tradition of importing cod and haddock from Iceland and Norway and the closeness to Boston is also a plus for us.

PRESS HERALD: Could you tell me why you like the city as a business location, and could you speak about the culture here and what is appealing for you?

SIGFUSSON: The improvements the port authorities made to the port facilities have been great, with their future plans even better. We have a refurbished warehouse at the port, new offices, and space to build up for the future.

Portland resembles Iceland in many ways including the weather, long-lived fish traditions with for instance the fish auction market, historical buildings, outstanding restaurants, and a great waterfront. Our management team will visit Portland this weekend to prepare for the Boston Seafood Show and our first port call to Portland. The owners of the Portland Pirates have invited us to see the Portland ice hockey team play.

I will be seeing a lot more of Portland in the future to explore more of the culture, businesses and possibilities for us to grow our business.

PRESS HERALD: Can you describe the financial health of your company compared to 2007 when we published a story saying Eimskip was abandoning its feeder service in Portland due to a major corporate restructuring.

SIGFUSSON: This new service is not a feeder service. Our vessels are calling Portland directly and will connect into the Eimskip network. Eimskip's existing freight flows and network of North Atlantic ports provides sustainability not previously possible with . . . feeder services previously calling Portland. Eimskip had operating revenues 414.3 million euros in 2012, with an adjusted operating profit of 40.8 million euros and net earnings of 12.7 million euros.

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