Uncertainty Regarding Winter Mooring of Whaling Ships Skip to content
Iceland whaling Hvalur hf
Photo: Golli. A whale at Hvalur hf.’s whaling station in 2015.

Uncertainty Regarding Winter Mooring of Whaling Ships

Reykjavík’s City Council recently agreed to entrust the board of Associated Icelandic Ports (AIP) to find another place for the whaling company Hvalur’s fishing vessels, which have moored during the winter at the old harbour in Reykjavík for decades. A spokesperson for AIP has stated that the association has yet to receive the formal request from City Council.

Agreement reached by Reykjavík Council

On May 16, Mbl.is reported that the City Council of Reykjavík agreed to entrust the board of Associated Icelandic Ports (i.e. Faxaflóahafnir) to find another place for the fishing vessels of the whaling company Hvalur. For decades, the company’s vessels have docked in the middle of Reykjavík’s old harbour over the wintertime.

Líf Magneudóttir, City Council representative for the Left-Green Movement, originally submitted a proposal to entrust the board of Associated Icelandic Ports to revise or dismiss its contract with Hvalur regarding the mooring of the company’s whaling ships in the old harbour of Reykjavík (or, in another way, see to it that the whaling ships were found some other place to dock) as the old harbour in Reykjavík was a centre of tourism and whale watching.

Magnea Gná Jóhannsdóttir, City Council fepresentative of the Progressive Party, subsequently submitted an amendment to the proposal wherein the board of Associated Icelandic Ports Faxaflóhafnar was entrusted with finding a different docking place for the vessels. That amended proposal was approved with 16 votes and 5 abstentions.

Official request expected to arrive soon

Yesterday, port manager Gunnar Tryggvason told Fiskifréttir that a formal request had not been received by Associated Icelandic Ports although he expected the request to arrive soon. Fiskifréttir also quotes Haraldur Benediktsson, Mayor of Akranes, as saying that the vessels would be well received by Akranes – were it not for the fact that the town’s harbour lacked the necessary infrastructure (i.e. a hot-water pipe, akin to the one in the old harbour in Reykjavík, which has long been used to heat the whaling ships in winter and to prevent the formation of mildew).

The article notes that Hvalur could moor its vessels at a port outside the Associated Icelandic Ports; such a thing could prove a significant windfall for the receiving port. “It would be possible to move the ships to other ports owned by Faxaflóahafnir: Sundahöfn and Akranes, for example. But that possibility has not been discussed,” Gunnar observed. “We are waiting for the request to be received officially, but it is no problem on the part of Associated Icelandic Ports to take this matter into consideration.”

Possible alternatives

As noted in the article, the harbour in Hafnarfjörður could serve as a possible alternative because it is not much further from Hafnarfjörður to whaling grounds, or to the whale processing in Hvalfjörður.

Gunnar also noted that berthing space in the Sundahöfn harbour could soon become available as it appears likely that the now-defunct patrol ships Týr and Ægir would depart from the harbour soon. The patrol ships were constructed in 1975 and 1968 and were sold to the company Fagri last year. The berth will quickly be used for other purposes, however, with Gunnar observing that the aim is for Sundahöfn to be the future berthing site of tugboats of the Associated Icelandic Ports.

The only steam-powered vessels in Iceland

As noted by the article on Fiskifréttir, the upcoming summer whaling operations will utilise two ships, namely Hvalur 8 and Hvalur 9, both of which were constructed in Norway in 1948 and 1952, respectively. Within Hvalfjörður, there are two additional whaling vessels, Hvalur 5 and Hvalur 6, primarily used for spare parts. These four ships constitute the only registered vessels in the Icelandic fleet equipped with steam engines. The steam boilers on these ships are heated using oil, powering engines that generate approximately 2,000 horsepower.

As previously reported by Iceland Review, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir has stated that it is not possible to halt whaling this season, despite a report showing that the practice is not in line with legislation on animal welfare.

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