Freight company received millions to ship salmon direct to London. So where are the fish?

Aslak Berge
The Norwegian Coastal Administration is now stopping the payment of millions in grants to the shipping company.

At the beginning of August last year, it became clear that the container shipping company North Sea Container Line (NCL) was to start a new freight route for fresh salmon. The first voyage was to go from Stord in Norway to London during September, confirmed business developer Martin Torkelsen in NCL to SalmonBusiness.

In May, the NCL container shipping company received NOK 24.8 million (€2.48 million) in grants from the Norwegian Coastal Administration to establish the salmon route, which would operate once a week.

“Since we received the subsidy, we have been in dialogue with the salmon exporters about the criteria for containerization of  salmon. Based on feedback and needs, we have set up an offer that will capture as many potential customers as possible,” said Torkelsen.

When the corona pandemic hit Norway in March, NCL was ready to assist with the transport of salmon to Europe and the world.

“We have transported salmon during the pandemic. The salmon was loaded into a container at a slaughterhouse in Norway, and our ships transported the fish south to a European port before it was distributed further from there to the customers. Transit time and quality of the salmon are as good as on trailer shipping,” Torkelsen said.

ILLUSTRATION PHOTO: North Sea Container Line

Now it turns out that the whole project has fallen into disrepair. And the Norwegian Coastal Administration refuses to give further support to the shipping company.

“The situation is of course frustrating,” said port manager, Inge Espenes to NRK .

Stopped up
In September, a brand new deep-sea quay was completed on Eldøyane, south of Bergen. The price tag was NOK 50 million (€5 million), which the municipality paid through taking out a loan.

The purpose was to move transport of fish from road to sea. But after only a few months, and before Stord municipality had finished its quay, the route stopped. The Norwegian Coastal Administration is now refusing to pay the grant of NOK 24.8 million (€2.48 million) to NCL.

Martin Torkelsen tells NRK that there are several reasons why the salmon route did not turn out to be the success NCL had hoped for.

More expensive containers
“Corona has made the market situation in the UK difficult over time. The combination of corona and Brexit have made it particularly demanding to keep an offer going,” he said.

He also points to a sharp increase in prices for container rentals.

“From last autumn to May this year, we transported a number of salmon by boat from Stord to England. But the situation in the market meant that we had to put it on pause. The budget had quadrupled and there were no vacant ships in the market,” said Torkelsen.

NCL has nevertheless not given up on transporting salmon by sea.

“When the market returns to normal, we will try to start up again as soon as possible,” said Torkelsen.


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