Hurtigruten with new partner in Greenland | Polarjournal
The passenger ferry Sarfag Ittuk is operated by Arctic Umiaq Line. (Foto: Visit Greenland)

Arctic Umiaq Line, a Greenlandic passenger shipping company and Hurtigruten intend to work together in the future to promote growth and opportunities in the Greenlandic tourism industry in terms of social and environmental sustainability. In doing so, Arctic Umiaq Line’s product will be developed for an international market and will promote sustainable tourism in Greenland.

The passenger ferry Sarfaq Ittuk makes a weekly loop along the west coast between Ilulissat in the north and Qaqortoq in the south. (Graphic: Arctic Umiaq Line)

“The Greenland coastal community is on the verge of a historic transformation. New airports will improve the infrastructure and we will be more closely connected to the entire world. This is both an opportunity and a challenge,” says Jens-Jakob Sandgreen, CEO of Arctic Umiaq Line.

With less than 60,000 residents living mainly along Greenland’s 3,000-kilometer west coast, a sustainable approach to tourism and business that protects local communities and the region’s fragile ecosystem is needed.

Jens-Jakob Sandgreen: ˶The partnership with Hurtigruten offers the opportunity to open up new and remote destinations for locals and tourists while building a sustainable tourism strategy˝. (Photo: Arctic Umiaq Line)

Arctic Umiaq Line looks back on hard times

The history of Arctic Umiaq Line dates back to 1997. On July 1, 1997, KNI Rederi was established as a result of a political decision. As of January 1, 1998, cargo shipping was transferred to Royal Arctic Bygdeservice, a subsidiary of Royal Arctic Line, while KNI Rederi and passenger shipping were spun off from the KNI Group. In February 1998, KNI Rederi was renamed Arctic Umiaq Line.

In July 2005, due to insufficient bookings, the government decided to discontinue passenger transportation, which would deprive the company of its livelihood. A few days later, however, the government announced that it would privatize the company in order to safeguard the approximately 120 jobs. In September 2005, it was decided to sell Arctic Umiaq Line to the newly formed Danish company Arctic Travel Group . However, already in 2006, Arctic Travel Group experienced major financial problems.

On September 26, 2006, the Greenlandic government bought back the company. As a result, it was decided to sell Sarpik Ittuk as well, while at the same time laying off about half of the workforce. On October 13, 2006, Air Greenland and Royal Arctic Line purchased the trademark rights and the Sarfaq Ittuk. In January 2007, the last unused ship, the Disko II, was sold. Of the former 5 coastal vessels, only the Sarfaq Ittuk is operated after the sale of 4 vessels.

Due to poor balance sheets, Air Greenland announced in March 2010 that it would sell its shares, which again led to political discussions about whether passenger-ship services should be discontinued. The Greenland Transport Commission recommended in November 2010 that it be discontinued due to declining passenger numbers. However, the government resisted the recommendation and announced in May 2011 that it would continue to rely on coastal transport by subsidizing it. On June 30, 2016, Air Greenland finally put into practice the announcement it had made six years earlier and sold its shares in the company to Royal Arctic Line.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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