Building for Independence

Pages 16-17

Fueled by the idea of national self-sufficiency, ArtiCon is on a mission to keep helping develop Faroese know-how and expertise in the construction business—taking on some of the largest and most demanding projects.

[Bui Tyril & Edmund Jacobsen]

Recent successes in pelagic fisheries and aquaculture have propelled ground-breaking development in the Faroese construction business. For companies such as ArtiCon, a major contractor in the Faroe Islands, this dynamic has generated significant business growth in areas ranging from public works to commercial buildings to residential housing.

Today employing some 270 well-trained workers and engineers, ArtiCon, over a period of less than two decades, has grown and consolidated its position as a leading domestic contractor. The company has left its mark all over the islands, having constructed some of the most distinctive and prestigious buildings and structures, including the new corporate headquarters of BankNordik, Vagar Airport’s passenger terminal and offices building, the School at Løkin, the Church of Hoyvík, the Krambatangi harbor facility, the refurbishment and extension of the premises of the Løgting (Faroe Islands parliament), and more.

Currently ongoing projects include domestic utility provider SEV’s new power station at Sund, Bakkafrost’s new, giant salmon hatchery at Strond near Klaksvík, and earthworks for residential and commercial developments in several municipalities.

Founded in 2001, ArtiCon’s main vision from the outset was about creating a construction company that in every aspect was able to compete with larger foreign contractors, and to be reckoned among the very best in the business, professionally as well as technologically.

“From the outset we’ve had a relatively wide range of focus areas in order to counter the constant challenge of operating in a very small, highly volatile market,” said ArtiCon CEO and founding partner Jón Sigurdsson. “As a Faroese contractor we realize the need for the ability to change gears on short notice, and so in that vein we have developed strong and diversified capabilities with solid project management and craftsmanship at the core.”

Over the past couple of decades, Faroese construction firms have increasingly become more confident in their own ability to compete on par with foreign contractors who used to dominate the scene in terms of larger projects, Mr. Sigurdsson pointed out.

“It’s becoming clear that Faroese contractors are fully capable of managing and carrying out most of these projects,” he said.

“Nonetheless, policymakers should perhaps put more efforts into making sure that the most prominent public works, such as large underwater tunnels—whether awarded to foreign or domestic contractors—require a fair amount of knowledge sharing including the hiring of Faroese subcontractors and suppliers. In that way the Faroe Islands could further boost the development of domestic know-how, expertise and competencies.”

‘Knock-on effects’

The question of independence has always remained a motivating force for Mr. Sigurdsson and his friend and colleague Niclas Joensen, who is the CFO of ArtiCon and also a founding partner.

Indeed, the Faroe Islands have seen many large-scale building projects of late, including underwater road tunnels, two of which have been completed in recent years, with one soon-to-be completed and another one in the pipeline. The level of Faroese participation has differed from project to project, however the foreign competition—consisting of major international construction firms—has had the upper hand in some of these particular projects. As for other large projects, be it road infrastructure including mountain tunnels, harbor infrastructure, commercial buildings, healthcare facilities or schools, domestic contractors have won by far most of the deals.

“I would concede that some of the major projects would hardly have happened if it weren’t for large foreign contractors and the expertise they would bring,” Mr. Joensen said.

“At the same time, however, we’ve seen remarkable advances taking place in the Faroese construction industry, to some extent due to these large projects. We should not stop at that, but rather make sure our own industry continues to advance, to the point of being fully capable of taking on any future underwater tunnel or, for that matter, any other major construction project.”

As for future economic prospects of the Faroe Islands, Mr. Joensen and Mr. Sigurdsson share an optimistic outlook on, for example, promising developments in energy and tourism.

“The Faroese community is creating its own solutions,” Mr. Sigurdsson added. “That includes claiming a world-leading position in telecommunications and internet connectivity, for example. Besides, the high level of activity we’ve seen in pelagic fisheries and aquaculture has had very substantial knock-on effects—in fact the increasingly high standards required by the international clientele of these industries have been and are being applied throughout their entire value chain, including partners and suppliers. Now, that is a good thing from a developmental and independence viewpoint.”

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