Eimskip, Royal Arctic set to begin Greenland service next week

The capacity-sharing agreement between the Icelandic and Greenlandic shippers will make it possible for goods to reach Greenland without going through Denmark first.

By Kevin McGwin - June 3, 2020
Local delivery ships, including the Malik Arctica (pictured), will continue to sail between Nuuk and other towns and settlements. (Royal Arctic Line)

Four years after agreeing to share container-ship capacity, Greenland’s Royal Arctic Line and Icelandic Eimskip will next week begin providing joint service between Greenland and continental Europe that will eventually result in the establishment of weekly cargo service to Greenland.

Once fully operational later this year, the partnership will see the two firms sail three container ships on a route that connects Greenland with Denmark via Iceland.

“This will create opportunities to increase trade between the two countries,” Vilhelm Már Þorsteinsson, the chief executive of Eimskip said in a statement.

Currently, Royal Arctic Lines operates a single ship on that route, sailing directly between Greenland and Denmark.

[Icelandic officials are considering an appeal over Eimskip-Royal Arctic Line partnership]

The agreement with Eimskip to share capacity was inked in May 2016 and involved the construction of the three container ships that will serve the route. The ships can each carry 2,150 shipping containers and are the largest in the two firm’s fleets.

The first of those vessels, Tukuma Arctica, was delivered to Royal Arctic Line in April. It will be the first to begin service on the line when it departs the Port of Aalborg, on Denmark’s western coast, on June 10. After calling on Reykjavík on June 15, it is due to arrive in Nuuk on June 19 and will be back in Aalborg on June 30.

The second, Dettifoss, to be operated by Eimskip, is currently en route from a shipyard in China and will enter into service on the line later in June.

The third ship, Brúarfoss, also to be operated by Eimskip, is expected to be delivered in October.

[A Greenland shipper expands its Icelandic connections]

The direct route between Greenland and Denmark has its roots in Danish trade with its former colony.

After sailing from Copenhagen for two centuries, most cargo to Greenland now passes through Aalborg, which was established as Greenland’s main international port in 1972.

Though the new route will still include Danish ports, including Aalborg until at least 2025, the partnership with Eimskip makes it possible to transfer cargo to or from Greenland in Iceland. The expanded service will also see the route extended to other ports in the North Atlantic and Scandinavia.

“This is a development that will make it possible to trade directly with Greenland, no matter where in the world you are,” Verner Hammeken, Royal Arctic’s CEO, said.

Originally, Royal Arctic Line and Eimskip had planned to include a Polish port on the route, but those plans were shelved after Royal Arctic Line was unable to get out of a contractual obligation to use Aalborg as its main port in Denmark until 2025.