This month, we are interviewing Mr. Gísli Gíslason, Director of the Associated Icelandic Ports (Faxaports). In what follows, he will tell us more about his personal career in the port business, the importance of being an observer member of ESPO, the impact of COVID-19 on the Associated Icelandic Ports, the future relevance of Arctic shipping routes and many other interesting topics!
Can you briefly tell us about the Associated Icelandic Ports? What are its main characteristics and challenges?
On 1 January 2005, a new company built on robust harbours, Associated Icelandic Ports [AIP] or Faxaports, began its operations. The company runs the harbours and ports of Reykjavík (founded in 1856 – harbour built in 1913), Grundartangi (indurstrial harbour for ferrosilicon and aluminium built in 1978), Akranes (fishing harbour – 1930) and Borgarnes (1930). The company is a partnership jointly owned by five municipalities.
Faxaports is the largest port company in Iceland and the main gateway for import to Iceland and export from the country. We handle around 3,7 million tons; 100.000 tons of fish, 330.000 TEU and 190.000 cruise passengers. The harbour owns around 1000 ha. of land. The main operations in the ports are related to cargo transport, but fish and cruise ships are also vital, as tourist related activities in the harbours have been growing fast in recent years.
How did you get into maritime transport? How did your career path lead to this position?
After working for a few years as a lawyer, I became the mayor of the municipality of Akranes in 1987, and held office until 2005. The mayor is also the port director of the harbour, so I have been working in the port business for 33 years – and have been on the board of the Harbours Association for 26 years and as Chairman for the last 16 years.
One of my projects as a mayor was to participate in a tunnel project – the first subsea tunnel in Iceland where a private company built, owned and payed the construction cost with toll. The tunnel opened in 1998 and was transferred to the state in 2018 when the construction cost was payed. The tunnel connected the north and south coast of Hvalfjörður (Whalefjord) and shortened the distance between Akranes and the capital area by 60 km. That changed a lot for the inhabitants, companies and municipalities. Later, the municipalities of Reykjavík and Akranes decided to merge the utility companies (electricity, water and sewage) as well as the harbours in the area. In 2005, I moved full time to the harbour business.
You are retiring this year. What do you consider your main highlight in your career in the port sector? What is the added value in your opinion of being part of an organisation like ESPO?
In my career I have been lucky to have had many highlights. Seeing projects become a vital part of the community is rewarding. A tunnel, quays and the development of bleak areas into areas buzzing with life is a good and rewarding feeling. My motto has been to take one step at the time and ensure that the coming generations accept our decisions . . . . . . continue reading the interview on the ESPO website here