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Faroese Fish Exports to Russia Bounce Back to Pre-war Levels

Although Faroese exports to Russia dropped significantly in the spring of 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February that year, exports have since climbed back to their pre-February 2022 levels, according to Statistics Faroe Islands.

Thus February of this year saw Faroese exports to Russia of pelagic fish species mackerel, herring and blue whiting amount to 105.4 million DKK (14 mn. EUR), compared to only 58.8 mn. DKK (7.81 mn. EUR) during the same month last year. 

In February the exports from the Faroes to Russia of ‘other goods’ amounted to 12.4 mn. DKK (1.65 mn. EUR), which is normal for February. This will usually include fuel to Russian fishing vessels docking in the Faroes.

In November of last year, the Faroes and Russia extended their longstanding bilateral fisheries agreement for another year, and currently the continuation of that arrangement is being debated with differing opinions at the political level.

Prime Minister Aksel V. Johannesen said on April 12th that this is a matter that requires time to thoroughly examine for potential consequences.

The Prime Minister added that the goal is to reach an agreement between all parties represented in parliament.

“We should be speaking with one voice when it comes to foreign relations,” he said.

Overall, Faroese fish exports increased by 2.1 billion DKK (280 mn. EUR) between March 2022 and February 2023, compared to the previous twelve months. The total value of exports for the period amounted to 12.9 bn. DKK (1.71 bn. EUR), with fish products making up 11.8 bn. DKK (1.57 bn. EUR).

Statistics Faroe Islands also noted that total imports for the same period amounted to 12.8 billion DKK, a 3.3-billion increase on the previous 12 months.

Faroese Invent New Method of Extinguishing Lithium Battery Fires

With notoriously frightening prospects of lithium-ion batteries of electric vehicles catching fire under certain conditions, ferry operators are increasingly looking for ways to improve fire safety as more and more car owners switch to EVs. In Norway, for example, some ferry operators have opted to ban EVs from boarding their ferries over fire safety concerns. 

The Faroese, meanwhile, appear to have found a new way to quench such virtually unstoppable fires, using some mix of salty brine as extinguishing fluid. According to news reports, Smyril Line, the Faroese owner and operator of RoPax ferry Norröna, has successfully tested such a method.

Carried out in Port of Tórshavn on April 17th, the probe involved a method based on brine as a cooling and extinguishing agent, and turned out a success, with an EV lithium-ion battery fire extinguished in just under one hour from the start of the test run.

Tórshavn fire chief Heini Østerø told broadcaster KvF that the crew of Smyril Line’s cruise ferry can now feel safer since they have become better equipped to deal with any potential fire in an EV aboard the ferry.

Tummas Justinussen, chairman of the board of Smyril Line, said the idea of the new cooling and extinguishing agent was inspired from the brine freezing of crabs.

This new fire extinguishing method for EV lithium battery fires has been patented, Mr. Justinussen noted, with several companies already having shown interest in it.

The Norröna will thus allow EVs on board, however under a specific reporting requirement in connection with car ticket bookings, we’re told.

Faroese Sustainable Business Initiative Wins 2023 EDIE Award for Partnership and Collaboration

The Faroese Sustainable Business Initiative—Burðardygt Vinnulív, as the network is known in Faroese—claimed this year’s international EDIE award for Partnership and Collaboration.

In competition with eight other nominees in the same category, Burðardygt Vinnulív received the prize for Partnership and Collaboration of the Year at the awards event in London on March 30th.

Burðardygt Vinnulív was founded in 2021 with the stated aim to “advance sustainable business practices and contribute towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 13: Climate Action.”

The EDIE awards are known as the UK’s largest and most prestigious sustainability awards, recognizing excellence across the spectrum of ‘green’ business, including both large and small initiatives and projects.

“This collaboration has achieved significant, impressive progress in its first year,” the judges said. “It has brought together a diverse set of partners to take the initiative and fill a void where regulations were not present; working together for ambitious goals. We were impressed by the highly systemic and participative approach taken by such a small community, making this initiative a worthy winner of a very popular category.”

The twelve founding companies behind Burðardygt Vinnulív are: Bakkafrost, Betri Banki, Effo, Faroe Ship, Føroya Tele (Faroese Telecom), Gist & Vist, JT electric, KJ Hydraulik, MBM, P/F Poul Michelsen, SMJ and Vónin.

Atlantic Airways Expands Further in Hotel Business As It Acquires Hotel Vágar

Hotel Vágar, the hotel located next to Vagar Airport, has been acquired by Atlantic Airways through a subsidiary, at an undisclosed amount. The hotel will thus be run by Hotel Atlantic, the operator of the Hilton Garden Inn Faroe Islands, according to a news release issued by the new owners.

The transfer of ownership from Hotel Føroyar-linked hospitality provider Gist og Vist was reportedly finalized on March 30th, with the 25-room capacity Hotel Vágar now to be undergoing refurbishments.

“We couldn’t let this opportunity pass,” said Hotel Atlantic chairman Niels Mortensen. “It’s of great importance for the Faroes to have a decent hotel in the vicinity of the airport to provide accomodation at this important hub connecting us to the rest of the world. Furthermore, Hotel Vágar is located in the heart of the island Vágar, which in itself is a great travel destination. Hence this is also a step in developing tourism outside the capital.” 

Mr. Mortensen underscored that the new owners have decided to “operate Hotel Vágar as an independent hotel that will neither become part of Hilton or any other hotel chain, although there’s a viable option of collaboration between the hotels.”

“We will immediately get going with renovating and modernizing Hotel Vágar,” Mr. Mortensen was further quoted as saying. “The hotel will open newly renovated in the fall, at which point we will be ready to offer both Faroese and foreign visitors an excellent choice for vacation and accommodation on Vágar island.”

The chairman also suggested, according to the statement, that Hotel Vágar will likewise be well suited for accommodating foreign helicopter pilots and rescue workers that are expected to be undergoing exercises in a helicopter simulator run by Atlantic Airways Aviation Academy by the first half of 2024. 

Port of Runavík Reports Record Number of Scheduled Cruise Calls

This year and the next, a record number of cruise ferries are reportedly scheduled to visit the Port of Runavík. Most of the vessels will be docking at the King’s Harbour in Runavík, while three of the smaller ones will anchor off the villages Elduvík and Funningur in the north of Eysturoy. Each of the cruise ships will have between 100 and 2,800 passengers on board plus an up to 1,100-strong crew, according to the Port of Runavík.

The largest of the ships, the 300-meter Nieuw Statendam, set to arrive at King’s Harbour in September this year with almost 4,000 passengers including crew and officers, is owned by Holland America Line.

With the number of calls for next year likely to increase in the weeks and months ahead, the Port of Runavík has already received as many bookings for 2024 as for this year, we’re told.

Three of the cruise ships calling at the Port of Runavík this summer are to be docking for two days.

Freezer Trawler Brestir Reports Success Using New Infigo 576 Trawl Design

Faroese freezer trawler Brestir VA 705, which back in July began using the new 576-mesh bottom trawl from Vónin known as Infigo 576, has reported that the new gear is proving to be a success after months of fishing.

“This trawl has shown that it maintains the opening for longer, so it fishes longer and more effectively,” skipper Birgir Hansen stated, referring to the fact that in the Infigo 576 design, the fishing line is the same length as that of the previously used 400-mesh gear, while at the same time there’s much more netting in the upper section of it, providing a significantly larger opening compared to the older trawl.

“We’ve also noticed there are fewer stickers in the netting,” he added according to a Vónin news release.

The new trawl design is split in the aft section, with two bellies and two bags; so even if it’s much larger, it’s only marginally heavier to tow than the old gear, we’re told.

“This trawl tows well, even in heavy weather,” the skipper said. “The trawl is as robust as the old gear, and we’ve hauled it off a fastener and onto the deck with one parted bridle, and the damage was no more than we would have expected with the old trawl.”

“We haven’t even used the old gear since we started fishing with the Infigo gear,” Mr. Hansen further noted. “We fished so well on Greenland halibut off East Greenland that one of the skippers that were fishing next to us said we were getting with this trawl around two-thirds of what he was catching with two trawls. I’m so pleased with this trawl that it’s the only gear we’ve been using since it came on board last summer; and we have fished in East Greenland, UK waters and around the Faroe Islands.”

Sørvágur-based freezer trawler Brestir, built in 1986.

Seaweed Farmer Ocean Rainforest Secures 6.2 Million USD in New Funding for Expansion

Seaweed farmer Ocean Rainforest, with origins in the Faroe Islands, has closed a Series-A investment round of 6.2 million USD, according to a news release. The funding “will enable further expansion of operations in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Eastern Pacific Rim, and accelerate product and market development,” a statement read.

Ocean Rainforest is a seaweed cultivation and processing company based in the Faroes as well as in California, USA. Since 2010, the company has developed a proven ‘first of its kind’ open-ocean cultivation system and has consistently remained suitable for real offshore conditions in the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Today the company is among the largest commercial seaweed cultivators in Europe and has reportedly obtained the first-ever offshore seaweed cultivation permit in United States federal waters located offshore of Santa Barbara, CA.

According to the statement, the new investment funding allows Ocean Rainforest to scale up seaweed production to supply the functional food and feed markets leveraging existing company facilities in the Faroe Islands while also expanding its operations in California.

“We are excited about Ocean Rainforest’s capabilities to successfully grow seaweed in open ocean environments,” said Marc von Keitz, director at the Grantham Foundation. “This funding will significantly expand their production into off-shore waters and will be critical to meet growing market demand and to reach climate-relevant scale.”

The funding was led by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, who invested alongside Katapult Ocean’s Deep Blue fund, Builders Vision and the Ocean Born Foundation. Existing shareholders World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US), Norðoya Íløgufelag and Twynam Invest also participated in this Series A round, according to Ocean Rainforest.

“With limited environmental impacts and a low carbon footprint, seaweed absorbs CO2 and other excess nutrients from the ocean, making this fast-growing crop a climate-smart and nutritious food source,” said Paul Dobbins, Senior Director of Impact Investing at World Wildlife Fund – US. “But seaweed can only thrive as a climate change solution if we create a market for the many food, feed and fossil-based replacement products seaweed can provide. Ocean Rainforest is addressing the feed market and their successful capital raise shines a spotlight on this growing opportunity.”

“We are delighted that our existing shareholders as well as the new highly renowned investors within the sustainable ocean and climate impact contributed to the success of this financing round,” Ocean Rainforest co-founder and CEO Ólavur Gregersen stated. “The investment enables us to scale up operations in the Faroe Islands and continue to commercialize our cultivation and processing activities of Giant Kelp in California. Furthermore, we will investigate possibilities for replication of our business model in collaboration with local partners in specific locations in Europe and North America.”

Fuglafjørður Receives 75,000 Tonnes of Fresh Catch in ‘Historic and Record-breaking’ Month

The first month of 2023 turned out the busiest ever for the Port of Fuglafjørður, according to figures reported by a former Mayor of Fuglafjørður, who noted in a public statement that 60,000 tonnes of primarily blue whiting had been landed to fish meal, marine oil and feed factory Havsbrún while the Pelagos freezing plant had taken in 15,000 tonnes of mackerel and capelin.

The neighboring Bergfrost cold store was obviously busy as well storing thousands of tonnes of freshly frozen fish, and so were other businesses in the neighborhood.

“Even if it’s high winter and we people on shore think the weather is rough and windy, well, our fishermen arrive from sea with their heavily loaded vessels heading in to Fuglafjørður one by one,” said Sigurð S. Simonsen, former Mayor of Fuglafjørður. “They carry valuable catch to the benefit of our country and people. Havsbrún have received 60,000 tonnes; Pelagos have received 15,000 tonnes; fresh catch in total received in January 75,000 tonnes.”

“Receiving 75,000 tonnes of fresh catch in a single month is doubtlessly historic and record-breaking [for a port] in the Faroe Islands,” Mr. Simonsen added.

SEV, Minesto Bolster Partnership in Large-scale Tidal Energy Project

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Swedish ocean energy developer Minesto and Faroese utility company SEV have extended and scaled up their joint venture in the development of their tidal energy project in the Faroe Islands.

According to an announcement from Minesto the “renewed and expanded” collaboration agreement includes “the ongoing electricity production in Vestmannasund and the first large scale tidal array in Hestfjord.”

“An important add-on to the extended agreement stipulates the exclusive nature of the collaboration regarding the Hestfjord site development and build-out,” Minesto said. “This aspect facilitates and supports the ongoing work to create an attractive investment and the set-up of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to funnel project investments, Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), potential public funding (e.g. EU) and other assets.”

The agreement also outlines the expanded operation at the existing Vestmanna production site, we’re told. Minesto recently completed the Dragon 4 site with a second subsea foundation and additional electrical infrastructure, with installation work onshore for the 1.2 MW Dragon 12 carried out simultaneously.

The collaboration is based on sharing of production and performance data from ongoing operations as well as in-depth analysis of site characteristics of the existing and planned site locations for joint business case assessments, Minesto CEO Dr. Martin Edlund explained.

“Strengthened and extended collaboration with the utility company SEV is a cornerstone for Minesto in creating one of our first tidal energy arrays,” he noted. “SEV’s role as a pioneer customer, infrastructure provider and obvious leading local actor is highly appreciated and valued.”

“Minesto has shown a strong commitment to the Faroe Islands operations and the technology is in steady progress,” Hákun Djurhuus, CEO of SEV stated. “We’re looking forward to the upcoming scale-up of the dragons as well as continued site development work in Hestfjord.”

Thor Purchases Support Vessel to Serve Offshore Wind

Entering Japan’s renewable energy sector, one of Faroese company Thor’s subsidiaries, Thor Wind, has acquired the Vos Shine, a support vessel the company had bareboat-chartered from Vroon Offshore Services of the Netherlands.

According to Thor, the newly acquired vessel is expected to re-enter operations in Japan in about two weeks.

“Thor is taking this step as part of the Japanese government initiatives to achieve a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sector by 2050,” Thor CEO Hans Andrias Kelduberg said.

He added that tasks for the Vos Shine include to take core samples of the ocean floor in preparation for the construction of offshore wind power facilities.

Thor Wind has equipped the vessel with a drilling rig and other equipment for the task, he said.

60 meters long with a beam of 15m, the 1794-gross tonne Vos Shine has a crew of about 34 including officers. The is currently docked at a shipyard in South Korea for its 10-year classing; renaming is to take place as well during the occasion.

“We’re excited about this venture and see many opportunities in offshore wind,” Mr. Kelduberg said. “We had chartered the vessel as a test case to see if this could be a project we could get up and running and after a year or so we decided it looks viable so we decided to go ahead with the purchase of Vos Shine.”

The vessel has been registered in the FAS, the Faroese International Ship Register, with home port in Hósvík.