Grimsby delegation heads for Iceland Published: 01 May, 2008
A CIVIC and business delegation from Grimsby will set off for the northerly Icelandic port of Akureyri this weekend in a bid to forge a new fishing and trade deal between the two towns.
The four day visit will also see the signing of a friendship agreement, which is expected to lead to a full twinning arrangement.
The aim, however, is to strengthen trade and cultural links between the two centres, which are bound together by the common bonds of the sea and fishing.
Last summer, a high powered delegation from Akureyri flew into Grimsby for a similar visit, which took the Icelanders to the fish docks and Cleethorpes.
Iceland is probably North East Lincolnshires most important trading partner, supplying cod and haddock to the local fish market and processing factories. There are also historic links with the country stretching back several centuries.
Situated just south of the Arctic Circle, and with a population of 17,000, Akureyri still retains a sizable fishing fleet of 15 deep sea trawlers plus a number of inshore and coastal fishing vessels.
The city still has a number of fish processing factories with a turnover of £230-million a year.
Despite its northerly position the port, it is ice free for most of the year thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream so trawlers are able to operate for a full 12 months.
Cruise liners regularly call there as part of their Arctic itinerary and it is also a popular ski resort.
But the fishing industry has taken a bit of a knock in the past 12 months.
A shrimp (prawn) processing factory at Trýta, has been earmarked for closure with the loss of a number of jobs, while last year a trawler firm moved some of its vessels from Akureyri to Reykjavik.
Colin Bulger, assistant chief executive of North East Lincolnshire Council, said it was hoped the visit would eventually lead to some fruit fishing and business links.
This is very much a trade and business meeting which is why Peter Everett, chairman of the south bank area of the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce is coming along. We want to strengthen our business links because we have a lot in common.
The delegation, which includes deputy council leader Keith Brookes, who launched the initiative last year, and Geoff Lowis, head of the regeneration portfolio which is spearheading the Humber Seafood Exchange project.
They have arranged to meet representatives from Samherji, Icelands largest trawler company, and visit one of its processing factories.
The port is also planning to expand its airport so fish can be flown directly to the UK and Europe instead of the present costly arrangement of having to land at Reykjavik first.
Mr Bulger said Akureyri also had a small university with a food research faculty similar to what is being planned for the new Humber Seafood Institute.
There are almost certainly common interests which we can explore further, he said.
Councillor Keith Brookes, who launched the twinning initiative last year, said: “Iceland has invested a lot of money in Grimsby. Icelandic fish processing companies employ over 1,500 people in our town so it is clear the country is making a big contribution to the local economy. And we also want to put the Cod War to rest.”
The delegation will hold talks with the Mayor and chief executive of Akureyi Mrs Sigrun Bjork Jakobsdottir who came to Grimsby and Cleethorpes last year.
She said at the time that the she was particularly impressed with the Humber Seafood Institute project and hoped there could be a tie up with her own fishing university.
Akureyri’s airport is also being expanded, which means fish will be able to flown directly to Europe and the UK without first having to land at Reykjavik, and it is this prospect which is likely to interest the Grimsby delegation.
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