Plain sailing: new shipping and trade opportunities in the Arctic

22 December 2016
Opportunities for new trade and business development in the Arctic region were high on the agenda at the recent Ramboll Arctic Roundtable conference.

By Andrew Somerville

35 invited specialists from seven different countries gathered in Portland, Maine in the US recently to discuss opportunities for positive business and community development in the Arctic North Atlantic region. They were attending the 4th annual Ramboll Arctic Roundtable conference, and came from as far afield as Greenland, Iceland, UK, Norway and China, as well as the USA and Canada.

This year’s theme was ‘High North Atlantic Shipping and Trade’ and according to Nils Arne Johnsen, Arctic Director for Ramboll (and chairman of the conference) this region is shaping up to become an important international economic area. “New shipping routes mean that communities are getting closer,” he says. “This is especially important for northern or Arctic communities in Maine, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland and Arctic Norway.”

Looking north

The setting for this year’s Roundtable was particular appropriate as a major topic at the Roundtable was the potential of new shipping routes to increase business between regions such as Maine and the North Atlantic. The Icelandic shipping company Eimskip now has it US headquarters in Portland and is fast providing local businesses with the opportunity to explore new markets (see video below).

“Eimskip has been an important catalyst when it comes to business development and the business community’s orientation toward the High North Atlantic and Arctic market,” says Nils Arne. “The established shipping line between Portland and Scandinavia is a good starting point and has already given the city an expertise advantage. Other cities in the High North Atlantic or Arctic can hopefully learn from this in terms of their own development.”

Indeed, Greenland is next in line to enjoy the benefits of a more direct trade route, as Eimskip have also recently partnered with Greenlandic Royal Arctic Lines.  “This will be a historic and significant change of the Greenlandic logistic set up,” said chairman of Royal Arctic Lines Kuno Fencker at the conference. “Until now, all freight to and from Greenland has gone through Denmark, but now the United States, Canada, Iceland, Norway and Great Britain will become closer for both exports and imports. This will support the growth of a sustainable Greenlandic economy.”

Regional advantages

The conference stressed the need to think regionally when it comes to economic development, as well to thoroughly examine the impact intra-regional shipping lines have for industry, logistics and economic development.

“We think that the development of trade relations and business partnerships between communities of relatively equal size are probably easier to achieve than cooperation geared towards major global business centres,” says Nils Arne. This includes establishing regional agreements among Arctic Atlantic countries when it comes to the implementation and adaption of the Polar Code for Shipping (a binding international framework to protect the two Polar Regions).

Ramboll leading the way

Ramboll, and Ramboll Environ with its office in Portland, is well placed to offer our expertise in future Arctic North Atlantic developments. One of the main conclusions from the Roundtable was the clear benefit of establishing closer organized cooperation in the High North Atlantic Region and Ramboll is a key player in facilitating this.

According to Nils Arne, “the business community in Portland, Maine will make a business mission to Tromso in Norway in January 2017, planned and executed by Ramboll through its pan-Arctic capacity. And we have been undertaking the ‘High North Atlantic Shipping’ project – a study of the ports of Portland, Nuuk, Reykjavík and Tromso that examines how international shipping has evolved in recent years and the impact this has had on the local economies. The study will also describe the regulatory framework for international container shipping in the four cities.”

The completed study will be presented during the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso in 2017.

Ramboll was represented by Nils Arne Johnsen, Arctic Director for Ramboll and Miranda Henning, Managing Principal for New England.

Local markets, international trade

Local Portland television station WSCH 6 looked at increased opportunities for regional businesses in their recent report.

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DK-2300 Copenhagen S
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Fax:+45 5161 1001


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