Over in the Faroe Islands, a new air cargo company is gearing up to get moving. The plan is to start operations sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. Unusually, the cargo airline belongs not to a forwarder, ocean carrier, government, or passenger airline operator, but to Faroe Island’s largest and the world’s eighth-biggest salmon farmer, Bakkafrost.
Not surprisingly, then, that its main commodity will be the transport of fresh fish – salmon, naturally – including from neighboring Scotland, where Bakkafrost acquired The Scottish Salmon Company Ltd., Scotland’s second largest salmon fishing farming company, in 2019, very quickly becoming sole owner in 2020, and changing the company’s name to Bakkafrost Scotland in 2022. So, serious fish business. And because ocean freight is not always plain sailing, Bakkafrost decided it was time to take to the air.
Swimming upstream since Summer 2021
Though the air cargo company was actually established on 07JUL21, things are only now beginning to move, starting with the public announcement of the company name last week: “FarCargo P/F”. Short and sweet. The airline will do what the name says – fly cargo long distances – hence the Far. However, that Far also ties in nicely with the fact that it is a Faroese cargo airline. The last year has been a challenging one in terms of arranging all the necessary paperwork such as flight permits, leases, operations planning, and employing staff – in particular, the search for pilots. Much of this responsibility lies with the Swedish air cargo logistics and leasing company, West Atlantic, working in cooperation with FarCargo. The main challenge, however, was finding the right aircraft.
Bakkafrost goes Boeing
Bakkafrost, which also operates its own fleet of ships, therefore spent that past year looking for a suitable Boeing freighter with which to launch its air cargo operations. That aircraft has now been sourced with the airline having signed a purchase agreement for a Boeing 757-200F with a range of 7,000 km. It is due for delivery in the next 2 to 3 months, once it has been “converted into a flying fridge capable of carrying 35 tons of fresh salmon, chilled to zero degrees, from the Faroe Isles, an archipelago midway between Scotland and Iceland, direct to an airport in New Jersey. Harvested that day, it would arrive in time to reach U.S. wholesalers and restaurants early the next morning,” a related article in UK newspaper, The Guardian, states. It will also receive a livery designed by Faroese artist, Anker Eli Petersen, who is best known for designing a series of postage stamps which often incorporate Norse mythology.
Filling a gap
FarCargo’s inaugural flight will go from Vágar island to New York, U.S. – a journey of just under 5,000 km, lasting around 6 hours. It will kick-off a new era since, until now, there have been no direct flights between the Faroe Islands and America. Any salmon travelling by air, has either been routed via Denmark’s Copenhagen Airport or nearby London-Heathrow, UK. Regin Jacobsen, Director of Bakkafrost and FarCargo Chairman underlined: “This is a new chapter in the history of Faroese exports, the goal of which is to provide fresh salmon of the best quality both in the USA, Israel, and other remote markets, one day after the fish has swum in Faroese fjords. Customers, both in Israel and in the American sushi market, demand fresh products, and we will take the shortest route to provide our customers with the freshest product on the market. We have for many years had some issues serving the American market, and this effort, together with our storage in New Jersey, gives us a good opportunity to provide the customer with the best service. In the future of transport to airfields in Europe, this new way of transport will ensure that our products will be fresher for more days when it comes to the market and we will save a lot on CO2 emissions.”
One-way fish, free-for-all return flight
On the occasion of the name and freighter purchase, FarCargo’s CEO, Birgir Nielsen articulated the following in the company newsletter: “This is a great day for us. We’re pleased to have reached this point and are now looking forward to starting actual operations. Also, this is an old dream which is now coming true - in particular for initiators, Heðin Krett, Hans Meinhard á Høgabóli, and Andrew Djurhuus.” He continued with an outlook to FarCargo’s future: “Our plan is that, in a few years, FarCargo will take over all freight and flight services to the Faroe Islands. Initially, 10 people will be permanently employed by the company. The company is looking in the media today [15AUG22] for captains and first officers to start as soon as possible.”
While the freighter is planned to be full of fish on its way out of Vágar, the airline will be selling return capacity to Faroese and other forwarding companies, to fill the flight back. The airline thus opens up new business opportunities for its local market.
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