Eimskip, and Icelandic company, operates a fleet of 16 cargo ships in the North Atlantic and will make port at the Portland International Marine Terminal every 14 days. The service will give Maine businesses direct import and export access to markets in eastern Canada and Europe. Eimskip expects to hire employees to support its Portland operations, and the new service may also create related jobs in trucking, railroads and warehousing.
The new shipping service opens up markets to Maine businesses of all kinds. Many small businesses can’t afford to fly their goods overseas and some have been shipping out of Boston.
“The real opportunity that I see here is for Maine businesses,” said John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority. “It will make shipping cost-effective and open up entirely new markets. There’s great opportunity for our seafood processors and agriculture sectors stemming from Eimskip’s leadership in refrigerated container logistics.”
Small businesses that only want to ship a few pallets of goods with Eimskip will be able to use the container service as well as bigger orders. The availability of shipping a crate or two will be encouraging for small business trade.
While Eimskip considered other ports in New England, it ultimately decided to move its North American operations to Portland because of recent waterfront infrastructure improvements, the city’s strong seafood and natural resource markets, and Portland’s proxilmty to European ports.
“We would have never come if it wasn’t for this terminal,” said Isfeld, spokesman for Eimskip.
The announcement comes after years of work by city officials, private companies and state government. Governor John Baldacci’s Three port transportation strategy enhanced the capabilities of Maine’s three deep water ports: Portland, Eastport and Searsport. With voter approved bond issues these ports began infrastructure improvements then the Recovery Act provided $14 million in additional funds. Now companies like Eimskip can choose Maine over Boston to move goods and services.
“We initiated a three-port strategy based upon these veins of economic development and traffic. We used the three major natural transportation routes that run through our 17 million acres of forest lands for our three-port strategy. The first in Northern Maine is serviced by Eastport. The second is the Millinocket–Katahdin region starts in Searsport, and the third is Portland,” said Governor John Bladacci. “We’re perfectly situated for import and export opportunities. Maine is the portal to North America. In order to ship goods to North America from Europe Maine is the most convenient entryway. Our ports are busy but not as congested as those in states to our south and our workers are second to none. Now with the infrastructure improvements we have made its heartening to see that we are attracting international business.”
In addition the Baldacci administration worked with train freight companies to extend rail service hoping to move more goods shipped via rail and take more trucks off the roads, as the return for companies that ship by rail is greater than those that have to rely on trucks. Pan Am is one such company.
Eimskip will partner with Pan Am Railways to offer cost-competitive access to North American markets.
“We are very excited to be working so closely with Pan Am Railroad through Portland, Maine,” said Eimskip CEO, Gylfi Sigfusson. “Pan Am has been very helpful working with us to make this possible, and we believe that our work together is critical for success moving forward.”
Two months ago the Maine Port Authority received a $150,000 federal grant to develop a new type of ship that could restore cargo shipping between the terminal and East Coast ports. In 2009, the port authority took over operations of the city-owned terminal on West Commercial Street near the Casco Bay Bridge.
The Recovery Act Funds in 2010 were allocated as follows:
• $5 million to the International Marine Terminal in Portland for capacity and infrastructure improvements. The funding will help improve access to the pier and also improve cargo-handling capability.
• $7 million to Searsport for investments in innovative new equipment, including a heavy-lift mobile harbor crane and cargo-handling equipment.
• $2 million will go to Eastport for a warehouse, conveyer equipment and storage pad.
Eimskip, established in 1915, has 49 offices in 17 countries, and operates 17 vessels. It has been sailing to the United States since 1917.