JFK: More than a Century of Experience

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pp 46-47With 15 commercial fishing vessels including three factory trawlers, and an onshore fish processing plant, Klaksvík’s 600-employee strong JFK remains one of the largest and most diversified players in the Faroese seafood industry.

The Faroe Islands’ history of commercial fishing is inseparable from the town of Klaksvík and local fishing company JFK — more than a century has passed since the launch of the company named after its founder, the late Jógvan Frederik Kjølbro, back in 1913.

JFK remains a leader in the Faroese seafood industry, with a well-oiled business consisting of three main divisions: frozen-at-sea fillets of whitefish, land-processed frozen or salted products of whitefish, and pelagic fish products. The company targets several whitefish and pelagic species based on over a hundred years of experience and offers a wide range of products for many different markets.

Clearly, today’s seafood trade looks very different from that of the early days, although there are common denominators.

“The technology used today cannot be compared to what was used a century ago,” said CEO Hanus Hansen. “JFK were among the first to fish in distant waters such as off Svalbard, off Greenland, and off Newfoundland. Much like the old vessels did, today’s filleting trawlers still fish in the Barents Sea. Clearly, things have changed dramatically over the years yet you may say this business remains essentially the same — catching fish and processing it for export to international seafood markets.”

Caught by factory trawler Gadus, JFK’s frozen-at-sea fillets of cod and haddock are shipped to the UK fish and chips industry.

The company’s Kósin processing plant at Klaksvík — the largest in the Faroe Islands — regularly receives fresh catches of saithe, cod and haddock from seven trawlers and three longliners; also freezer trawler Sjúrðarberg and freezer longliner Klakkur land frozen-at-sea whitefish to Kósin.

“Kósin has a strong sourcing base to support a wide range of products,” Mr. Hansen noted. With salted fillets and splits from cod, saithe and other species shipped to Southern Europe, single frozen fillets and loins of haddock and saithe are primarily destined for Germany and France.

‘The long view’

As part of its effort to streamline local logistics, JFK recently acquired the Northern Fish Cold Storage facility.

“Thanks to our well functioning processes and rigorous quality assurance, we are able to deliver in fairly large quantities to a diverse group of demanding buyers,” Mr. Hansen added.

“All of this is made possible by our highly skilled workforce, who have in effect gained a wealth of knowledge through JFK’s vast experience. Continuing to build on and further refine this knowledge is integral to our business strategy.”

Sales have lately been consolidated, especially in northern Europe, by the fact that the Barents Sea whitefish fishery as well as JFK’s domestic saithe fishery and onshore processing plant have been certified according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards for fishery and chain of custody.

“Getting the ecolabel did in fact not change our processes and procedures very much as we were meeting the highest standards of quality,” Mr. Hansen added. “On the other hand it helps to be able to document things properly and it turns out seafood buyers are increasingly focusing on that question and the MSC label is a widely recognized one.”

With purse seiner/pelagic trawler Slættaberg and pelagic factory trawler Næraberg, JFK has a high production rate and holds a significant stake in the Faroese mackerel, herring and blue whiting fisheries.

“When it comes to pelagics we are dealing with much larger volumes, which requires special logistical considerations,” Mr. Hansen noted.

The products are whole round frozen and mostly shipped to Russia and Africa. Back in Klaksvík, JFK remains a major employer, with approximately 600 people on the payroll, not counting subcontractors, service providers and suppliers. The economic life blood of the community — with a population of less than 5,000 — is largely dependent on the business. Indeed the entire population of the Faroe Islands is under 50,000 and JFK should be seen in that context as well.

“Corporate social responsibility is something that you cannot ignore as a business,” Mr. Hansen said. “The socioeconomic impact of the fishing industry is huge in this country, although some seem to be hardly aware of it. As our own history shows, sometimes you need to take the long view. We believe that will help us secure the continuation of the JFK success story.”