Fueled by booming fisheries and the prospect of a new local freezing plant, Fuglafjørður’s cold store looks set for sustained rapid growth following last year’s major capacity increase — with further expansion plans in the pipeline.
Imagining the massive amounts involved in the pelagic fisheries bonanza off the Faroe Islands can be difficult to say the least. Physically handling hundreds of thousands of tonnes of catch per year would in theory be unthinkable for a tiny nation of under 50,000 inhabitants.
But then, this is the Faroes. With two freezing plants and a third one underway, and a handful of cold storage facilities scattered around the islands, the Faroese logistics infrastructure has come under pressure because of the growing quantities of Atlantic mackerel and other pelagic fish species being brought to shore.
To meet the challenge, cold stores have rushed to expand their capacity however without being fully able to match the demand of the Faroese fishing industry.
The country’s largest cold store, Bergfrost made a serious commitment to capacity expansion last year (2013), more than doubling from 7,000 to 16,000 tonnes. The company purchased three mountain tunnels for the purpose, having leased the two of them for a number years while adding a third one. At the same time Bergfrost’s temperature control system has been refurbished to optimize power consumption and enhance operational flexibility and reliability.
“We could see this coming back in 2009/2010,” said managing director Símin Pauli Sivertsen. “We were going to run out of space for cold storage as the quantities of fish continued to grow and would likely become larger than ever before. This is exactly what has taken place lately, only to an even greater extent than expected. I am therefore very pleased with the fact that we decided to go ahead with the expansion which was completed last summer. It has made a big difference for our clients as they are now able to use the facility for longer periods of time. Nonetheless, we’ll soon be facing another surge in demand and will need to deal with it sooner rather than later.”
Of course, what Mr. Sivertsen is referring to is Bergfrost’s new next door neighbor, the Pelagos freezing plant, scheduled for completion by this summer.
With a host of local services in place alongside cold storage — such as industrial fish processing, fishing gear, bunkering, mechanical and electrical repairs and maintenance, to name some — however no freezing plant — Fuglafjørður has been anxious to add a processing plant for pelagic food fish. The new facility, owned jointly by meal and oil factory Havsbrún alongside fishing companies Framherji and Christian í Grótinum plus a number of local shareholders, will bring to fruition a decades-long dream for the Port of Fuglafjørður.
For Bergfrost, it will likely mean more business.
“The freezing plant will attract more fishing vessels to our doorstep,” Mr. Sivertsen said. “We therefore expect demand for our services to increase further.”
High power usage: To meet that growing demand Bergfrost may have to add even more cold storage capacity. Judging from developments taking place in the harbor area next to the facility, more space could soon become available in the mountain tunnel complex that houses the cold store.
“In its current shape, this tunnel system has the potential for an additional capacity of 10,000 tonnes. Hopefully we will be able to add the remaining tunnels to our existing three, provided the current tenant will have their requirements covered with the storage silos planned in their own area outside the tunnel system.”
Using a system of mountain tunnels for cold storage offers several competitive advantages, according to Mr. Sivertsen. Carved into solid rock, the housing is as robust, safe and secure as it can possibly get, with a very high level of operational stability. In the event of a serious power outage, for example, the frozen rock and the mountain’s natural insulation will keep the temperature for a long time, even for weeks.
“This is the safest and largest cold store in the country. The fact that it’s encapsulated in rock provides it with an insulation that is beyond comparison and makes its operation extremely stable. This tunnel system is perfect for the cold store function and logistically it works very smoothly as the mountain is right next to the Cold Storage Terminal and our office building at the harbor.”
When it comes to power consumption, however, there is a flip side.
“It takes a lot of electricity to change temperatures in this environment so we have to be rigorous. Fortunately we now have a computerized system in place to optimize and continually monitor and control the power usage of very corner of the cold store.”