Enhanced cargo service in Portland, Maine could be boon for seafood shipments

On 23 April, the largest vessel to ever call on the International Marine Terminal in Portland, Maine arrived for the first time. 

The ship, named the Pictor J, is a 461-foot container ship belonging to Eimskip, an Icelandic freight company that has headquarters in Portland. The new ship is longer, wider, and faster than any Eimskip ship before it and has nearly twice the carrying capacity of the old ships – 925 20-foot shipping containers versus the previous 505. 

While 23 April was the first visit, it won’t be the last. The Pictor J is just the first of three ships being built that will be used collaboratively by Royal Arctic Line (RAL) and Eimskip, which was given formal approval for a Vessel Sharing Agreement by the Icelandic Competition Authority on 23 April. According to a release by RAL, Eimskip will own two of the ships, while RAL will own one. Two more ships are expected to be delivered by fall, increasing the amount of cargo going to and from Portland weekly. 

“For Maine seafood processors that are importing fish, this is going to be good news,” Dana Eidsness, director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office at the Maine International Trade Center, told SeafoodSource. 

The new ships and expanded services, said Eidness, will allow for better freight rates, and weekly trips to smaller west Nordic markets. 

“The opportunity for Maine in all of this is via our existing connection to Iceland through Eimskip service,” she said. “Using Iceland as a hub we can send cargo via this weekly service schedule.”

It’s not just the added carrying capacity that makes the new vessels an improvement, either, according to Executive Vice President of Eimskip U.S.A. Andrew Haines. 

“It’s a much more capable vessel,” Haines told SeafoodSource. “Her top speed is a lot different, she’s much faster.”

In addition to the higher top speed, the Pictor J is more capable in rough weather, reducing the chances of delays in winter. 

A large chunk of Eimskip’s cargo has historically been made up of frozen seafood products, and according to Haines seafood is always part of their decision making process when assessing the company’s needs. 

“Seafood is always at the front of our thoughts when it comes to making these commercial decisions,” Haines. “The seafood industry is a huge part of what we do at Eimskip.”

Millions of pounds of frozen haddock are imported to Maine from Scandinavian countries, and in 2018 the number was significantly higher than in previous years. In 2017, total imports of frozen haddock was just shy of four million pounds, while in 2018 the total was well over 10 million pounds. 

Part of what makes Eimskip ideal for shipping seafood, said Haines, is its sophisticated refrigerated containers. 

“We continue to invest in new equipment, so our refrigerated container fleet is one of the most advanced in the world,” he said. "This new ship will aid in capacity of refrigerated containers, with it being able to carry double what the previous vessels could." 

It isn’t just importing either, Haines said. The company has been involved with the export of many Maine-based seafood products, and the company also offers smaller sized shipments for companies that can’t fill a full container. 

“We can offer refrigerated LTL [Less than truckload] options as well. We are the only shipping company in the world that offer that,” Haines said. “That’s a great option for anybody that’s trying to get into a new market.” 


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