Facing rapidly increasing container traffic, the Port of Tórshavn launches a large-scale development project to extend the East Harbour — adding 95,000 square meters to the existing 45,000m2 of docking and storage space.
[Edmund Jacobsen & Bui Tyril]
For by-passers overlooking the Port of Tórshavn, the fact that the Faroe Islands’ largest and busiest port is crammed for space quickly becomes obvious. While its harbor facilities barely provide enough space for current operations, the writing is on the wall with the commercially critical container traffic set to outgrow capacity in the near future, unless things change. Now, that change—by way of a major extension of the East Harbour—has finally moved from the quiet plane of consultations, hearing procedures and drawing boards to the initial phase of tangible earthwork. The deadline for completion of the entire project is in late 2019, according to Annfinn Hjelm, the Port of Tórshavn’s Chief Financial Officer.
“We saw this coming and had to act,” Mr. Hjelm said with reference to the current squeeze at the East Harbour, where roll-on/roll-off ferries and container vessels, and during summer even cruise ships, jostle for docking space.
“This development will add an additional 95,000 square meters to the existing 45,000m2 of space for harbor operations. Once it’s completed, which it’s scheduled to be in November 2019, we will have provided for extra maneuvering space for current activities and, even more important, made room for future expansion of the port’s business.”
The Port of Tórshavn management team has worked long with local and domestic authorities to clear the way for the extension project, with the final go-ahead received in late 2016.
Since the expansion plan originally surfaced several years ago, a few modifications have been applied in line with feedback from major clients in the shipping business, as well as environmental requirements.
Following a tender process, a Faroese contractor was hired for the construction project, and land reclamation work commenced earlier this year. Financing for the project was likewise arranged with a Faroese institution, according to Mr. Hjelm.
“We are pleased with the fact that we were able to fund the project domestically,” he said. “Although we hope and expect to attract new clients as a result of this development, the repayment of the project funding will be taken from existing revenues. Our estimates have been conservative and no additional income has been projected in our calculations.”
With container traffic on the rise, especially to and from mainland Europe, the current carriers calling at the Port of Tórshavn on a regular basis are Faroe Ship (Eimskip), Smyril Line and Samskip. All of the three have increased their tonnage lately and added to their services. Aside from the three international carriers, domestic ferry operator SSL makes frequent and regular port calls there, most notably with ro/pax ferry Smyril which links Suðuroy, the southernmost island of the Faroes, with the rest of the country through Tórshavn.
“Quite a lot is happening in the shipping industry and the carriers have stepped up their business activities,” Mr. Hjelm said.
“We’ve seen, for instance, Eimskip increasing operations across the Atlantic with new partnerships; and Smyril Line just purchased ro/ro vessel ‘Mykines’ to open a new route between Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Thorleifshöfn in Iceland, via Tórshavn.”
Meanwhile, the industrial area at Sund, one of the harbor facilities under the Port of Tórshavn’s authority, is set to be extended by some 45,000 square meters, in result of queries coming from local businesses.
Mr. Hjelm added: “Constantly looking to improve the local business environment remains a high priority for the Port of Tórshavn. We shouldn’t forget that, after all, we are part of a larger network of North Atlantic business.”
The Port of Tórshavn also has its eyes on future potential business as related to offshore oil and gas. The 4th Faroese Licensing Round opened in May this year, and will likely generate increased interest in exploration activities on the Faroese Continental Shelf.
“In recent years we’ve seen a modest rise in port calls from offshore support vessels involved in the West of Shetland area, which is not very far from here. We’re acutely aware of the critical importance of building know-how and expertise in this sector—and that knowledge and the ability to handle everything of relevance competently and professionally is an absolute prerequisite in the energy business.”
“In this respect our long efforts are yielding results slowly but surely,” Mr. Hjelm said.
“We want to leave no doubt that vessels calling at the Port of Tórshavn have their needs and requirements met, which is why we make sure our people are trained to provide a service that meets the highest standards.”