Negotiations on project cornerstones completed / Günthner: “Opportunity for sustainable development of the Arctic”
The plans to build a port in the north-east of Iceland are taking shape. The port management company bremenports has reached an agreement with its Icelandic partners EFLA and the municipalities of Langanesbyggð and Vopnafjarðarhreppur to set up a Finna Fjord Port Development Company (FFPD) and a Finna Fjord Port Authority, which will provide the framework for the development and administration of the future port. Robert Howe, Managing Director of bremenports, outlined the key points of the agreement at the Arctic Circle in Reykjavik. According to the present time schedule, the Articles of Association of the new company – which will stipulate that bremenports will initially be the majority shareholder in the FFPD – are to be drawn up and signed by the end of 2018. In the next stage, a financial investor will join the company and contribute the capital required for the further planning processes.
In 2017, Bremen’s Senate adopted a fundamental resolution which paved the way for foundation of the new company. Martin Günthner, Senator for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports, stated: “The port project in Iceland provides a concrete long-term perspective for development that will undoubtedly continue for several decades. It creates conditions that will enable sustainable development of the Arctic and will help to make the emergent new shipping routes safer. Moreover, the project offers enormous development potential for a structurally weak region. It is a great honour that Iceland has asked bremenports to assume the role of leading partner in this project.”
The enormous FFPP site has enough space for the construction of more than 6 km of quays and the development of more than 1200 hectares of hinterland. The region is virtually uninhabited and has excellent geological conditions for construction of the port. The water in the bay, for instance, is almost 20 metres deep. The wave action on this side of Iceland is particularly low and the bay itself is afforded additional protection by a headland. In contrast to other fjords in Iceland or other parts of the Arctic, the hinterland is not mountainous, but flat. This will provide business locations for port-related industries which can be supplied with energy from renewable sources. Another factor in favour of creating a port in this remote region is that the greater part of the required building materials can be extracted directly from the ground. An agreement has been reached with the local landowners who will contribute their rights into a pool from which they will later receive their share of the rental payments.
The municipalities involved in the project have a total population of around 500. The fishing industry is the largest employer in the region. Climate change, however, means that the future development of this industry is uncertain. The municipalities therefore have a keen interest in developing the port in order to create new prospects for the local population and to safeguard and upgrade the local social infrastructure over the long term.
The Arctic is expected to undergo considerable changes, amongst other things because of the potential new shipping routes. If the North-East Passage between Asia and the USA becomes navigable all year round, the journey times between these continents will be reduced by more than 10 days. In that connection, Finna Fjord would be the ideal location as a basic hub for a universal port from which goods could be redistributed to the different destination regions.
In response to increasing shipping traffic in the Arctic, there is urgent demand for a search and rescue port for ships in distress. Other plans currently under consideration involve the construction of a plant for the production of hydrogen, which could also play a key role in the development of sustainable shipping in the future.
In that connection, Robert Howe, Managing Director of bremenports, stresses the sustainable policy behind the project: “Climate change will lead to economic development in this region. It is of global importance that this development is based on very strict sustainability criteria. The Iceland partners and bremenports regard it as an absolute must that the plans for the Finna Fjord port are designed to meet stringent ecological criteria throughout all phases of the project.”
Sufficient time has to be allowed for this development. On conclusion of the planning process, concessions are to be awarded for the port. The entire construction costs are to be borne by the concessionaires.
Further investments will also have to be made in public infrastructure, for instance road-building and establishing energy, water and telecommunication networks. bremenports is also in consultation with an Icelandic inter-ministerial working group to deal with these aspects. In view of the scale of this project, the contract parties assume that it will take 40 years until FFPP has been completely implemented.
The contracts which have been drawn up now have to be approved by the partners’ supervisory bodies. If all goes according to schedule, they will be finalised and signed by the end of the year. The next stage will then be to sign a contract with the financial investor.
Speaking on behalf of the Icelandic government, E. Sigurdur Ingi Johansson, Minister of Transport und Local Government, referred to the port at Finna Fjord as a major Icelandic infrastructure project for the development of the Arctic. He also emphasised the good cooperation with bremenports.
“It is both an honour and a challenge for bremenports to assume the role of leading partner in the development of such a sustainable project,” commented bremenports MD Robert Howe. He added that the framework agreement which had now been negotiated included all the criteria that had been stipulated by Bremen’s Senate and ensured that the port management company would be able to exert its influence on the further course of the project. “It goes without saying that such a project can only succeed if the parties have reached a clear and unambiguous agreement on the fundamental aspects of the project. The contracts which have now been drawn up provide this clarity.”