Herjólfur ferry sailed its first trip of the year between Landeyjarhöfn and the Westman Islands this morning, RÚV reports. It’s a much shorter journey than the one to Þorlákshöfn harbour, where the ferry sails during the winter months. Landeyjarhöfn fills with sand during the winter, which must be pumped out to make it usable again each summer season. Local authorities say that although the opening is a cause for celebration, it’s much later than hoped for.
Some 4,300 residents live in the Westman Islands in South Iceland and rely on Herjólfur ferry to access the mainland. Last year Landeyjahöfn opened for the summer season on March 5, nearly two months earlier than this year. Since the harbour opened in 2010, it has required regular maintenance to maintain enough depth for the ferry’s use. The cost of this maintenance, at more than ISK 3.3 billion ($27 million/€24 million), has already exceeded the cost of the harbour itself.
Westman Islands mayor Íris Róbertsdóttir says the opening of the harbour doesn’t change the fact that the Road and Coastal Administration needs to find more effective ways of maintaining the harbour, an initiative for which Minister of Transport Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson has also expressed support. Westman Island authorities have complained that the company contracted by the Road and Coastal Administration to see to the harbour maintenance does not have the adequate equipment to carry out the work, and therefore unnecessarily limits the harbour’s usage. While pumping maintenance depends largely on weather conditions, Björgun was criticised for not taking advantage of several good-weather days over Easter weekend to deepen the harbour, thereby further delaying its opening for the season.
Though the harbour has reached the minimum depth for usage, maintenance will continue over the next days to deepen it further. Passengers who have trips booked with Herjólfur are advised that its itinerary could change, and to check for updates on Herjólfur’s website.