“Copyright Protected” Grass Cost Reykjavík ISK 757,000

Danish grass imported for a restoration project in Reykjavík cost the city ISK 757,000 ($6,500/€5,600), RÚV reports. The notable expense is only one of many in the controversial restoration of a Nissen hut at 100 Nauthólsvegur road. While the projected budget for the restoration was around ISK 158 million ($1.4m/€1.2m), it has already cost the city ISK 415 million ($3.6m/€3.1m). The total cost of the project is not yet known.

The grass in question was imported from Denmark and is said to be “copyright protected.” City of Reykjavík Public Relations Officer Bjarni Brynjólfsson told Vísir he does not know exactly what this means, suggesting it may be because the gardeners who saw to the project “planned to grow it[…]and then found out that was not allowed.” Opposition councillors were less that thrilled about the news on social media.

The city council’s governing majority will put forth a proposal on Thursday asking for a comprehensive assessment of all costs related to the restoration “from beginning to end.” The proposal is a reversal from a decision made last week to exclude the project from an internal audit of city contracts, which was criticised by the opposition.

Other costs for the project include ISK 27 million ($231,000/€201,000) for an inspection carried out by EFLA Consulting Engineers and ISK 46 million ($394,000/€342,000) for toilets. Pirate Party councillor Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir, who also serves as the council’s president, called the project a “clear misuse of city taxpayer money.”

Margrét Leifsdóttir, the restoration’s architect stated she did not want to comment on the issue until the city’s assessment was completed.

Icelandic Sweater Patterns Sell Like Hotcakes

Online sales of knitting patterns for traditional Icelandic sweaters are growing by about 25% per year RÚV reports. The traditional Icelandic sweater, known as a lopapeysa, is a popular souvenir for tourists visiting Iceland. Now more and more of its fans are opting to knit their own.

Lopapeysur (the plural of lopapeysa) are made of unspun Icelandic wool and are characterised by a yoke design – a wide, decorative pattern around the neck opening. The design originated in the early or mid 20th century and has since become a symbol of Icelandic national identity. “Icelandic wool forgives everything, you don’t even have to be good at knitting, it hides all mistakes,” says lopapeysa designer Védís Jónsdóttir.

Nearly one quarter of lopapeysa patterns sold online go to the US market, though they are also popular in Germany and the Nordic countries. Ístex in Mossfellsbær, Southwest Iceland, buys 99% of all Icelandic wool, or about 1,000 tonnes per year. Sales of the product have increased by 120% over the last 10 years. “Right after the crash there was a sharp increase in wool sales,” says Sigurður Sævar Gunnarsson, Ístex’s CEO. “This increase continued until 2014, 2015, when the currency started to drop. But there is still considerable growth in certain areas like the Nordic countries, in Germany, and in the United States.”

Védís says there are many reasons for the sweaters’ continued growth in popularity. “It’s a very flattering shape and it’s very fun to knit them because they are seamless,” she states, adding that consumers’ growing desire for natural, sustainable materials is also contributing to the lopapeysa pattern sales. “This is a natural material. It isn’t plastic.”

Provisional Fish Farming Licenses Permitted by New Law

salmon farm open net fish farm

The Icelandic parliament passed a law around midnight yesterday granting the Minister of Fisheries authority to grant provisional licenses for fish farming, RÚV reports. The bill was proposed yesterday afternoon by the minister and the Employment Advisory Committee met on the matter all evening. Forty-five MPs voted for the bill while six abstained.

The operational licenses of salmon farming companies Arctic Sea Farm and Fjarðarlax for a combined 17,500 tonnes of fish in open-net farms in the Westfjords were revoked last week by the Environmental and Natural Resources Board of Appeal. Nature conversation groups and landowners had brought charges against the licenses to the board, citing concerns of pollution and the spreading of farmed salmon into fishing rivers around the country.

Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson said at the final vote that he was grateful for the parliament’s quick response on the urgent issue, which he said “had reached a dead end. With the procedure that parliament applied today it has been opened and it is no longer a bottleneck, rather an open street which gives us the opportunity to continue to build up in Iceland on the basis of transparent and good governance.”

MPs who voted for the bill cited their support for fragile Westfjords communities. “With this bill the message is being sent that aquaculture in Iceland will continue to be developed,” stated Independence Party MP Teitur Björn Einarsson, adding that the government was prioritising “people, their welfare, and opportunities for self-reliance.”

Social Democratic Alliance MP Guðmundur Andri Thorsson abstained from the vote, expressing dissatisfaction with the handling of the issue and the type of intervention that the legislation entails. “We owe it to Icelandic nature, ourselves, and the future to do our best, not least when it comes to projects that have a profound effect on our country,” he stated.

Search-and-Rescue Fleet to be Renewed

The first draft for Rafnar's Nökkvi 1500 design, a rescue boat

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The search-and-rescue fleet of Landsbjörg will be renewed with boats from manufacturer Rafnar, RÚV reports. A declaration of will has been signed between the two. Rafnar will design and renew all of Landsbjörg’s search-and-rescue vessels, 13 new boats and vessels in total. The project is expected to cost around ISK two billion ($17.4 million / €15.2 million) in total.

Landsbjörg is the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue, a national association made up of subdivisions. It’s estimated that Landsbjörg can call up to 10,000 volunteers all over the country. Boat manufacturer Rafnar specializes in boats and vessels for rough seas. Rafnar’s ÖK Hull design provides great seafaring capabilities, stabilizing the vessel and reducing wave forces. Rafnar was covered in Iceland Review magazine, with an interview with founder Össur Kristinsson. Read part of the coverage here.

Jón Svanberg Hjartason, Landsbjörg’s director, says the new boats are an important part of the nation’s safety. Some of the older rescue vessels are up to forty years old. The country’s shipping fleet has changed, as well how fisheries operate, so it’s of utmost importance to renew the search and rescue vessel fleet.

The technological development fund has agreed to fund Rafnar with ISK 70 million ($ 607,586 / € 529,000) in the next two years. Rafnar will design both 12-15 metre long lighter boats as well as 15-metre long rescue boats. A parliamentary resolution has already been agreed to strengthen Landsbjörg’s rescue fleet by up to ISK 100 million ($ 868,000 / € 756,000) from the state treasury for the next ten years. Landsbjörg will be responsible for the boats.

“We work closely with the Icelandic coast guard, and on their responsibility in search and rescue at sea, so it all plays together. This declaration of will is the first step. The project could cost up to ISK two billion and the association [Landsbjörg] cannot handle that amount by itself. But it’s a pressing issue and I think everyone realizes that response and rescues have to updated to reflect what social conditions call for”, Jón Svanberg commented.

The declaration of will states the design of the Rafnar boats will take into account Icelandic nature and situations. Rafnar and Landsbjörg will work closely together, a continuation of a working relationship which started in 2015, when Rafnar gave Landsbjörg it’s first specially designed rescue vessel. One of the greatest problems for rescue vessels is how the cut through the ocean at high speeds, which produces a great force on the ship’s hull as waves slam upon it. Rafnar’s ÖK Hull design reduces the shock force from wave slamming impact by 95%, compared to speedboats equipped with the classic hull design. The reduced slamming impact leads to fewer accidents and better health of the boats’ users.

Rafnar and its founder Össur Kristinsson were covered in the April-March, 2018, of Iceland Review. Read part of the coverage here.

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