Port of Fuglafjørður Reinvents Itself

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pp 74-75Home to a thriving industry and more jobs than working-age residents, Fuglafjørður during 2014 received 850 ship calls — with 220,000 tonnes of pelagic catch landed for local processing and thousands of tonnes for cold storage.

With the country’s highest concentration of business activities related to pelagic fisheries, including the single largest industrial consumer of electricity in the Faroe Islands, the Port of Fuglafjørður last year (2014) received about 850 ship calls while expecting that number to increase further this year, largely owing to the recently opened Pelagos freezing plant.

The current phase of harbor development is set to enable key businesses to step up their activities in the months ahead. This includes 60 meters of deepwater dock being added to existing infrastructure to accommodate the needs of the giant Havsbrún meal and feed factory, at the same time clearing the way for next-door neighbor Bergfrost to increase its cold storage capacity.

Nearby, fishing gear manufacturer Vónin is building its new corporate headquarters and production hall for its pelagic department, while refueling facility Faroe Bunkers has resumed business as usual following a period of disruption during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Nonetheless the port authority, the Municipal Council of Fuglafjørður, is looking to balance its priorities wisely, according to the mayor, Sonni á Horni.

“This town is one of the most productive communities in the Faroe Islands,” he pointed out. “Fuglafjørður has just about 700 residents of working age, and as many as 900 full time jobs. Much of this has to do with the port business however it’s also important for the Council to make the right overall priorities. Just as we cannot afford to ignore our economic mainstay, can we neither afford to disregard the big picture and the soft values — after all, the port is a remit of the Council.”

That means town planning in the general sense of the word, including housing for the Council administration, remains integral to the equation.

“We purchased a commercial building where we are going to host the administration and key functions — the offices had been squeezed for space for many years. By extension, the shop that owned the building we bought for the offices has built their new premises in the downtown area near the fishing harbor. At the same time have renovated the road infrastructure in that area as well with the idea to make it as attractive as possible for everyone.”

As for culture, Fuglafjørður has a long tradition for hosting a good deal of music and fine arts. “People appreciate such cultural expressions as choirs and music groups, and Fuglafjørður has always been one the leaders in this field,” Mr. á Horni said. “We have several well-known painters and artists and all of this is part of what creates the magnetism of this place.”

‘New level of synergy’

Back in the port business, Fuglafjørður is recognized as one of the best natural harbors of the Faroe Islands, well protected and easily accessible throughout the year.

“The port’s turnover has increased by 10 to 15 percent annually since I took office some six years ago,” said port director Rólant Højsted. “I would say this year is likely to see at least a similar level of growth. We had some 850 ship calls last year but that number would have been higher if it weren’t for the temporary closure at Faroe Bunkers, which was caused by the bankruptcy of one of their international alliance partners. However they managed to find another company to work with and were up and running in January; so traffic to the bunkering facility is picking up again.”

While ship traffic at Fuglafjørður has increased markedly as a result of Faroe Bunkers opening for business a few years ago, the traditional main point of attraction has been Havsbrún, although in recent years landings for industrial reduction have fluctuated in frequency and volume. With the launch of the new processing facility Pelagos last year, the number of fishing vessels landing their catch for local processing is clearly increasing again; its production output of 600 tonnes per day clearly presents challenges to logistics and infrastructure.

“With Pelagos there is a whole new level of synergy,” Mr. Højsted said. “The fishing vessels can land part of their load to Pelagos and part to Havsbrún as appropriate; but much of the produce is transported out of town by truck, which puts a tremendous strain on the road system. Of course factory trawlers unload their frozen goods to the cold store and where there are any requirements in the way of fishing gear, that is covered as well, and the same goes for mechanics and electronics and all sorts of machinery and equipment, plus general supplies.”