Icelandic shipping company Eimskip will add four trips to Portland this year – a 13 percent increase in port calls over 2016 – continuing growth at Maine’s sole container terminal.

Eimskip has increased port calls to Portland from 26 in 2013 to 35 planned for this year. The increased visits are being driven by a 20 percent growth in shipping volume, said Larus Isfeld, managing director of Eimskip USA. Portland is the only U.S. port Eimskip ships to directly.

“We have been growing every year since we came here,” Isfeld said. The company’s goal is to have weekly calls to Portland by 2020 and it has been growing its shipping volume over time to meet that goal, he said.

Weekly service is regarded as the minimum required to serve inventory management strategies used by many companies today. If weekly service can be established, it will make Portland a more attractive port for manufacturers and distributors with business interests in northern Europe.

Moving to a weekly shipping schedule will also help the company better match the needs of its customers, Isfeld added.

“Everybody is running their production and delivery schedules with the weekly schedule,” he said.

The port has seen sustained growth since 2009, when the value of its exports was pegged at $9.3 million. In 2015, that value was $106.7 million, according to the Maine Department of Transportation. Tonnage has also increased, from 12,746 tons in 2009 to 35,277 tons in 2015, and the number of containers traveling through the port has soared, from roughly 3,400 in 2013 to 11,000 in 2016.

The additional trips are a significant increase for a small port like Portland, said John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority. More shipments indicate Eimskip’s confidence in the growing Portland connection to international shipping lanes and the successful completion of a cold-storage warehouse planned for the waterfront, Henshaw said. “An increase in capacity would obviously represent an increase in business, the fact that they continue to grow in the port of Portland is a good sign,” he said.

Iceland imports a wide variety of commodities, including construction materials, food, household goods and automobiles. Eimskip ships those commodities and Maine products like seafood, blueberries and potatoes. The company specializes in refrigerated shipping and primarily carries frozen fish to the U.S.


Eimskip plans to change its sailing schedule at the end of February, the company said on its website. With the schedule changes to Portland and elsewhere and an additional container vessel, Eimskip expects to increase its capacity to and from North America by 11 percent and to and from Europe by 7 percent.

Eimskip’s green line serves Portland; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Argentia, Newfoundland. The company intends to add a new shipping route, called the red line, to serve Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Poland with two vessels.

To help grow the port and support Eimskip’s operations, Portland city officials and the port authority are pushing for a cold-storage warehouse at the waterfront. The state has contracted with cold-storage company Americold to build the warehouse, but plans have been opposed by neighbors who don’t want the city to approve a zoning change that would increase the height limit in the area and allow a 68-foot-tall building. Supporters of the project say cold storage is critical to make Portland competitive with bigger ports and will help grow exports from the state’s food economy.

Cold storage is strategically important for Eimskip’s growth and necessary to sustain shipping volume through Portland, Isfeld said.

“It is a very integral part of our logistics that are focused on moving freight and refrigerated cargo,” he said. “We believe that there is a majority in the community that wants the cold storage to happen. The opposition is from a very small portion of the neighborhood next to the building.”

Isfeld added: “It is important for the whole economy of Maine, creating this strategic warehouse to increase freight. It is so badly needed here in Maine.”

In 2013, Eimskip selected Portland as its North American headquarters and made the city its only port of call in the U.S. Since 2009, there has been significant investment in Portland’s International Marine Terminal, including a waterfront rail link for freight shipments, an expansion of the trucking yard and improvements to keep refrigerated cargo cold. Last summer the state was approved for a federal grant to help pay for a $15.5 million project to double the amount of cargo it can move through the terminal.

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

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