Ísafjörður to Limit Cruise Ship Passengers: No More Than 5,000 Daily

ísafjörður cruise ship

In accordance with a new action plan for handling the volume of cruise ships and cruise ship tourists in Ísafjörður,  there will be a maximum number daily number of cruise ship passengers allowed in the popular Westfjords destination. RÚV reports.

City council approved action plan

Following an April 4 meeting, the Ísafjörður municipal council approved an action plan for the reception of cruise ships and cruise ship passengers for the years 2024 – 2027.

The new regulations come in the wake of ever-increasing numbers of tourists to Ísafjörður. RÚV reports that nearly 200 cruise ships with 200,000 guests are expected this summer in the town of some 2,700.

Read more: Ísafjörður to introduce environmental rating system for cruise ships

Gylfi Ólafsson, chairperson of the municipal council of Ísafjörður, stated to RÚV that the community has indeed benefitted greatly from the volume of tourist traffic. However, in recent years, summer crowds have swamped the small town. “The biggest innovation in this policy,” Gylfi stated, “is that we are setting a numerical limit on the number of guests we can accomodate.”

The limit will increase as infrastructure grows and the town is able to accommodate more. The 5,000-person limit is scheduled to be raised in two years.

“If the tourism industry continues to improve the level of infrastructure, buying more buses and improving service […] ensuring that there are enough toilets and so on, then we can easily accommodate more guests,” Gylfi stated.

Docking fees for cruise ships also represent a significant source of income for the local port authority, accounting for some two-thirds of the total income.

Other key points from action plan

Some other key points from the recent action plan include financial incentives to reduce pollution. Additionally, the municipality will prioritise sustainable solutions for waste management issues relating to the tourism industry.

Other developments outlined in the plan include further developing pedestrian walkways in the town and building more accessibility infrastructure near the harbour area.

There are also plans to limit noise pollution from the cruise ships, whose captains will only be allowed to sound their horns in emergency situations.

Read more about the impact of cruise ship tourism on Iceland’s small towns.

 

University of Akureyri to Offer Courses for Non-native Icelandic Speakers

Akureyri Iceland

The University of Akureyri recently announced on its website that it will offer four new courses of study suited for students with native languages other than Icelandic.

Beginning in the fall semester of 2024, students at the University of Akureyri will be able to study Media Studies, Modern Studies, Social Sciences, and Preschool Education at the University.

The new courses are offered in collaboration with University of Iceland.

Read more: Icelandic Language Strengthened in “Landmark” Initiative

According to the University of Akureyri, the new courses are designed for students with basic skills in the Icelandic language in order to make accessible study programmes predominantly taught in Icelandic.

The new courses will be taught in both English and Icelandic. The courses will each last 4 years, and will comprise 240 ECTS credits.

The courses will all be taught as distance-learning courses online, with language classes taught online in real-time.

There will additionally be in-person sessions built into the courses, with students meeting once a semester in Akureyri. Students in the Preschool and Primary Education programme will meet more than the other courses, 2-3 times a semester in Akureyri.

Applications for the programmes are open from March 2 to June 5.

Read more about education and the Icelandic language.

New Presidential Poll Shows Reversal Between Baldur, Katrín

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Latest polling figures indicate that professor of political science Baldur Þórhallsson and now-former PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir currently lead the race. Baldur stands at 25.8%, while Katrín stands at 22.1%.

The poll was conducted by market research company Prósent on behalf of Mogunblaðið.

A slight reversal from previous results

Polling last week showed Katrín with an advantage over Baldur, with 30% support over his 26%. This week’s polling seems to represent something of a switch between the two frontrunners.

However, given the proximity of the latest results and with plenty of time to go until the June 1 election, it seems it’s still a close race.

The poll was conducted from April 9 to 14, sampling some 2,300 individuals across Iceland.

Clear frontrunners, but still a crowded field

Following them is Jón Gnarr, an actor and former mayor of Reykjavík, with 16.8%. Following Jón Gnarr is Halla Hrund Logadóttir, director of the National Energy Regulatory, with some 10.6% in the latest poll. This makes four candidates with more than 10% support.

Three other candidates in the poll, Halla Tómasdóttir, Arnar Þór Jónsson, and Steinunn Ólina Þorsteinsdóttir, had levels of support under 5%, with the remaining candidates all falling under 1%.

It’s important to note, however, that the deadline for candidacy is April 26, so more candidates may yet announce their campaigns.

 

 

 

Multiple Smaller Quakes Recorded Near Mt. Þorbjörn

Svartsengi

Numerous smaller quakes have been recorded under and around Mt Þorbjörn on the Reykjanes peninsula this afternoon.

A great many of these quakes have been recorded aligning with the ongoing eruption fissure. While none of these quakes have been recorded as having a magnitude greater than 2, there have not been this many smaller quakes over such a short period of time since the eruption on March 16th.

This follows a 3.3 quake yesterday, although today’s cluster reportedly stopped around 3:00 PM Icelandic time.

Meanwhile, ground surface rising has been continuing at the same rate as was recorded in the beginning of April. While probably an indicator of magma movement beneath the surface, this does not necessarily mean the arrival of another eruption.

The current eruption, comprising a single crater issuing lava and gasses, does not appear to be increasing in activity.

The Oystercatcher Returns

icelandic oystercatcher

Just as the plover heralds spring for Iceland as a whole, the humble and distinct oystercatcher does so for South Iceland; at least according to South Iceland news service Sunnlenska, who report that the oystercatcher has been spotted.

The bird in question was seen in Sandvík, located on the western edge of the Reykjanes peninsula. Birdwatchers reportedly await the oystercatcher’s arrival at this area with great anticipation, and the first spotting of the bird to the location has been recorded since 2007.

The oystercatcher usually returns to this area on or around April 8th, so it is a bit late this year. This may be to make up for arriving considerably earlier last year, on April 3rd.

The specific species found in Iceland, the Eurasian oystercatcher, spends its winters along the coasts of Africa and southern Asia. Come spring, these birds will fly north, breeding and nesting in Iceland. Unlike the arctic tern, they are not aggressive towards people during this time, and can be safely observed up close, but one should avoid approaching their nesting areas and stressing them out.

Akureyri Library Nominated for Green Library Award

The Akureyri Municipal Library (Amtsbókasafnið á Akureyri) is amongst the libraries that have been nominated for this year’s IFLA Green Library Award.

The library is on the long list for Best Green Library Project for an intriguing project that is actually not related to books at all.

The “Freedge”

The project in question, “Frískápur” (a portmanteau of “frí”, as in “free, and “ískápur”, as in “refrigerator”), which is called “Freedge” in English, is an ongoing project just outside the library building with the aim of reducing food waste.

Individuals, businesses and organisations with extra food that they might otherwise throw away are encouraged to bring it to and put it in these fridges instead. Anyone is then welcome to pick up this food for themselves.

More than books to lend

Incidentally, books are not the only things you can check out from this library, either.

Speaking to RÚV, library project manager Hrönn Soffíu Björgvinsdóttir pointed out that one can also borrow cake forms, dishware, tools and board games. They even have a sewing machine, which guests are free to use on the premises.

Weather in South and East Iceland May Make Driving Difficult

The weather forecast for today presents what may be challenging conditions for those hoping to drive through southern and eastern Iceland today.

During the afternoon, a combination of winds in the double-digit metres per second, along with rain and relatively low temperatures, implores drivers take extra caution when driving through South Iceland.

This is especially the case as much of Route 1 through South Iceland winds through relatively flat terrain, which can push against vehicles and make driving a little extra challenging in dry conditions, let alone when it is raining.

Come the late afternoon and early evening, East Iceland–in particular, the northeast–will see high winds, freezing temperatures and snow. This may decrease visibility. In addition, high winds near steep mountains such as those found in East Iceland can create wind sheers that descend these slopes at great speed.

Generally speaking, when traveling by road vehicle in Iceland, it is highly advisable to check the weather, road conditions, and SafeTravel in order to ensure your road trips are both safe and enjoyable.

Coalition’s Strength to Be Tested by Vote of No Confidence

Inga Sæland, leader of the People's Party

Inga Sæland, leader of the People’s Party, will submit a motion of no confidence directed at the coalition government next week. The cabinet of the Independence Party, the Progressive Party, and the Left-Green Movement was reshuffled last week following Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s announcement that she would resign as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement to run for president.

“We’re planning a motion of no confidence against the government as a whole,” Inga told Mbl.is. “There are three ministers in this cabinet who are particularly skilled at evading the law in this country.”

Motion against Svandís on hold

Inga has discussed the matter with the other opposition parties in Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament. Following meetings of the parliamentary groups on Monday afternoon it should become clearer whether Inga’s motion will have broader support.

Inga had pledged to submit such a motion against Svandís Svavarsdóttir before a reshuffling of the cabinet last week that saw Svandís move from the ministry of food, agriculture and fisheries to the ministry of infrastructure. The Parliamentary Ombudsman had found that Svandís had not acted in accordance with law when she temporarily stopped the whaling season last summer. Inga said it was unclear if she could refile the motion with Svandís now at a different ministry.

Bjarni under fire

The other two ministers Inga mentioned are Bjarni Benediktsson, the new prime minister and leader of the Independence Party, and Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, minister of social affairs and labour and interim leader of the Left-Green Movement. The Parliamentary Ombudsman concluded last year that Bjarni had not confirmed to guidelines as minister of finance during the privatisation process of Íslandsbanki bank. Nearly 40,000 people have signed an online petition expressing their lack of support for Bjarni’s leadership of the coalition government.

In Inga’s opinion, Guðmundur Ingi has broken his promise of establishing an office of an ombudsman for the elderly. “No opposition MP I’ve talked to has confidence in this coalition government,” Inga added.

Record Number of Applications at Arts University

Tollhúsið Tryggvagata

Applications at the Iceland University of the Arts have nearly doubled since last year. The university announced in February that it would abolish tuition fees this fall following a decision by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir that offered independent universities full state funding if they were to do away with tuition fees.

Positive effect of dropping tuition fees

Rector Kristín Eysteinsdóttir told Vísir that she was not worried about students dropping out, but rather that she welcomed the increased attendance and expected more applications next year. “We had 538 applications last year, but almost 1,000 now,” she said after the deadline for applications past last night. “Applications for arts education are still open, so I expect this to end at around 1,000 applications. That would be an almost 100% increase.”

She said that the school has never seen numbers like this and that they go above and beyond expectations. “We can’t accept everyone, but it’s incredibly positive that the abolishment of tuition fees has this effect,” she said. “In fact, this confirms what we thought, that the costs were prohibitive for a lot of prospective students.”

Acting programme most popular

The biggest increase is in architecture, design and visual arts, Kristín said. The acting department remains the most popular study programme, but only ten people are accepted each year from a group of 200 to 300 applicants.

She added that she expected more people to apply next year, especially to the masters programmes. “We get applicants there who have children and need to plan further ahead,” Kristín said.

Presidential Candidates Katrín and Baldur Neck and Neck

Bessastaðir, official residence of the President of Iceland.

The field of candidates for the office of president of Iceland is becoming clearer, with elections set for June 1. The frontrunners are neck and neck, according to pollster Gallup, with former Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir polling at 30% and Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science, at 26%.

Vísir reports that this survey shows that Katrín and Baldur are statistically equal. Comedian and former mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr is in third place with 18%, the only other candidate in double digits.

Political turmoil after Katrín’s announcement

The race was shaken up by Katrín’s announcement that she would resign as prime minister and leader of the Left-Green Movement to run for president, a mostly ceremonial position that comes with limited political powers. Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson took over as prime minister as other cabinet positions were reshuffled. Katrín remains a popular politician, even though her coalition government has lost public support during this term.

Other candidates are polling at lower numbers. Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of B Team, polls at 7%, with lawyer Arnar Þór Jónsson and Halla Hrund Logadóttir, director general of Iceland’s National Energy Authority both at 4%.

Age and gender divide

According to Gallup, older people are more likely to vote for Katrín, while Jón gets most of his support from younger people. Women are also more likely to support Baldur, Halla Tómasdóttir and Katrín, with men more likely to support Jón.

The deadline to confirm candidacy is in two weeks and the election takes place on June 1. The current president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, announced on January 1 that he would not run again after serving two terms.